EUCHARIST, 16.06.22, Cor. 11.23-26 & John 6. 51-58
Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. It has dual meaning – on the one hand, the bread of the Last Supper and the Eucharist, and, on the other hand, the company of Christian people. Both the Body of Christi.
The gospel reading just now was from St John’s Gospel. Unlike the other three gospels, John’s gospel doesn’t describe the Last Supper itself. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, talks to his disciples and prays, but there’s no sharing of bread and wine or what we call the Institution of the Eucharist.
So today’s gospel reading is from earlier in John’s gospel. Jesus says:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
So the message is the same. It’s virtually an instruction to share in the bread, as occurred at the Last Supper in St Paul’s account which we have also just heard. That reading was from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, which is much earlier in date than any of the gospels. Either way, it’s in sharing the bread that we become the company of Christians, the Body of Christ in the second, community, sense.
The Holy Communion, someone once said, is not a canteen meal. A canteen meal is when people come and eat their individual meals and then go about their individual business. Holy Communion is different: it’s a social matter, a social occasion. Holy Communion is different. This is signified by the Peace in our liturgy, when we turn and recognise each other, strangers and friends alike, smile and speak to one another, shake hands in non-covid times.
It doesn’t matter where and when this happens, when and where we celebrate being the Body of Christ and share in eating the bread, Body of Christ. It can happen all over the place. Once, some years ago, during a hike with young people who had recently been confirmed, it was a trig. point on a hill-top that served as a perfect altar, which we all gathered round. The Eucharist is celebrated at all sorts of times of happiness and sadness, in houses and prisons and hospitals, at weddings and funerals, on ships and battlefields. In these and so many other community settings the presence of Christ becomes a reality through the shared faith of those who meet together.
And so, today, Corpus Christi, we celebrate the body and the blood of Christ for the sake of togetherness: togetherness with Jesus himself and togetherness with one another in the Body of Christ. Let it be so.