Corpus Christi: dinner is served

Today’s readings: Exodus 24: 3-8; Hebrews 9: 11-15; Mark 14.12-16.22-26

Eat lovely food! Simply put, it is one of the most tangible leitmotifs in the entire Bible. Fascinating books like A Taste of History – The Food of the Knights of Malta (Pamela Parkinson-Large) have their parallel versions that address numerous accounts in the Bible that talk about food, from frugal meals to the tastiest dishes, which are offered in abundance for satisfied guests.

The Bible expresses the joy of table fellowship in innumerable ways. To name just a few: God rains quail from heaven on the Israelites and feeds them with manna in the desert (Exodus 16); he promises all peoples a feast with abundant food (Isaiah 25); the father of the prodigal son has the fattened calf prepared and throws him a feast (Luke 15); Jesus feeds the four thousand (Mark 8) and the five thousand (Matthew 14); the shepherd finds his lost sheep and then celebrates with his friends (Luke 15); God the Shepherd leads his sheep to green pastures and flowing waters (Psalm 23); a king prepares a wedding feast for his son (Matthew 22); After the resurrection, Jesus prepares breakfast for the disciples (Jn 21).

In a stereotypical manner, which is typical of a strict division of roles between the sexes, it is assumed, jokingly of course, that Jesus may have been a woman, since he “ate a crowd in a moment when there was no food”. The one who miraculously turned water into wine and fed thousands would now push the boundaries of comprehension even more radically as he drove the image of food intake to creepy heights. He himself was to become food in the bread and wine that he wanted to share! The standard pagan belief in the religions of the Ancient Near East that the gods created people to offer them food was turned on its head by Jesus. In him God did not come to serve of mankind, but to serve us and to give himself to nourish the believers.

If you don’t just want to be ostentatious and impressive, the honor a host shows guests is all the more evident the more sumptuous the food and the more generous the hospitality. The Holy Eucharist is meant to exalt men in awe of the mystery of the humanity and divinity of Christ that it is. However, they should be no less fascinated by their own worth, which is the logical consequence of this miraculous bestowal. The Eucharist speaks both of Christ and of his esteem for us.

In a 1972 interview with Carl Stern, eminent Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel claimed that the greatest message in the entire Hebrew Bible is that God takes mankind seriously. As a Jew, Heschel did not include the unfathomable mysteries of the Incarnation and the Eucharist. One can only imagine what he would have said about the Bible if he had believed that God became man and that he had also given his flesh for the life of the world. We see this truth in the words of the humble pastor of Ars, Jean Vianney, whose holiness and passionate preaching touched the lives of countless people: he said that it was impossible to surpass God in the inventions of love (cf. ).

Sadly and ironically, the statement, “This is my body,” which is the basic slogan with which people choose to defend their right to take life away, is exactly the same statement that our Lord Jesus Christ used that he used the most sublime imparted gift of his own body in the greatest act of generosity sealed when he gave his life on the cross.

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