A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
B. Reflection & Dialogue: The Message of the Eucharist Today
A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings
First Reading (Genesis 14:18-20). The priest Melchizedek brought out bread and wine. The original setting of this brief text in a lengthy chapter in the book of Genesis speaks of the invasion of kings from the East who made war with kings the Western Dead Sea area, took spoils and then departed, also taking Lot, Abraham’s brother and his goods. Abraham is uncharacteristically presented not as a quiet semi-nomad but as a military hero. With chosen men he pursues the Eastern kings, brought back the goods, together with Lot and his property. On reaching Salem (probably Jerusalem is intended) Melchizedek, priest of the Canaanite God Most High, a god Abraham identifies by the God he himself served (14:22) brought out bread and wine. Abraham (the biblical text simply says “he”) gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything. Melchizedek in this original context is a mysterious figure. His person will later in the Bible be interpreted as referring to the Messiah (Ps 109:4) read as today’s responsorial psalm, and at length of Christ in Hebrews 7:1-17). He himself will be a figure of Christ the great High Priest and his gifts of bread and wine figures of the Eucharist.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 109). Your are a priest for ever, a priest like Melchizedek of old,
Second Reading (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death. The Last Supper, with the institution of the Eucharist, took place in 30 or 33 AD. Brief, even semi-creedal, accounts of the institution appear to have been put together at an early age. Paul, writing about 57 AD, possibly at Passover, gives us one of these which he says he himself has learned as going back to Christ himself (“received from the Lord”) and is just passing on to his readers. He got this tradition possibly from the Church in Jerusalem at his first visit there (possibly 36 AD), or later (49 AD) at Antioch. It is the oldest written account of the institution we have, older than that of Mark, the earliest Gospel, written about 70 AD. It contains the same elements as the other Gospel accounts (but is nearest that of Luke). The bread, which is his body, is “for you”, for those who receive his Body in the Eucharist for all time. It is the body crucified for salvation on Calvary. Reception of his body is to be a “memorial”, an event or rite that will call to mind (to participants, believers, possibly even to God the Father) the saving significance of his death, The “cup” is called the cup of the New Testament in Christ’s blood. The old covenant at Sinai was also confirmed with blood (Exodus 24:8). Each celebration of the Eucharist proclaims the Lord’s death (and its manifold significance) until the end of time.
Gospel (Luke 9:11-17). They all ate as much as they wanted. Since this year the institution narrative is given in the second reading (one close in part to Luke’s account), the lectionary has chosen a related text for its Gospel reading. The Last Supper was but the last of many meals which Jesus has with his own, with the marginalized and with others. All these remained significant. A central hope in Judaism was the fulfilment of a prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 25:6-8) of a divine banquet in the days to come “on this mountain”. The setting of the miracle of the multiplication of loaves the account of the crowds thronging to Jesus, who makes them welcome, talked to them about the kingdom of God and cured those in need of healing. Interest then shifts to the material: how feed this crowd of five thousand. The apostles bring the question to Jesus’ attention, and suggest sending the crowd home. For Jesus, feeding the hungry is also part of the message of the kingdom of God. He works this well-know miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Luke sees more in this that just a mere miracle. For him it leads to a further recognition by the Apostles of Jesus special mission as Messiah of God (Luke 9:18-22). By a skilful use of words and imagery Luke suggests a close link between the multiplication and the institution of the Eucharist. He has Jesus use the same actions and words over the loaves and fish to be multiplied. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven, said the blessing over them and handed them to the disciple for distribution.
After each consecration we are asked to proclaim the mystery of faith, the significance of the Eucharist. Christ has himself has asked us to celebrate the Eucharist as a memorial of himself, a reminder of what his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, stand for. The Eucharist proclaims Jesus’ concern for the crowds, for the hungry, the marginalized and many other things besides,