Ask your presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) Yr A, June 8 or 11, 2023

Before the first reading:

Exiled in Babylon, the Jews needed to remember how God took care of their ancestors in equally difficult times. So the Book of Deuteronomy reminds them of the ancient Exodus, and a new kind of food that God provided.

After the psalm, before the second reading:

In a divided community of competitive people, Saint Paul insists that the Lord's Supper is a sign of unity.

Before the gospel acclamation:

Saint John again teaches how Jesus gives a gift that exceeds what God has given to the People in the past.

First Reading, Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a

The Historical Situation: Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt. For forty years they wandered the desert regions of Sinai. The setting of this reading is near the end of that journey, when the people are at last getting comfortable in their long-promised new homeland. Moses realizes that the sudden change from hardship to comfort and security may dull the people, and make them forgetful of the Lord on whom they are to depend. So he tells them "Remember," and "Do not forget ..."

The manna to which Moses refers was a kind of food that the Lord had miraculously provided to the hungry pilgrims many years earlier (see Exodus, chapter 16). Not only were the people fed by the manna, they were taught by the experience of receiving it. Whether they tried to gather too much or too little of the food, they had just enough. They were instructed to gather only a day's worth, and trust that the Lord would provide the next day's supply in due time; those who tried to amass a long-term supply found it spoiled promptly.

The Theological Background: The church chooses this reading for today because we see in the manna a prototype of the Eucharist, of course. But we never read directly from the manna narrative in Exodus 16 on the feast of Corpus Christi. Rather we're enjoined not to forget, and to remember. That's what we do when we celebrate the Eucharist. We remember Jesus' self-gift at the last supper and on the cross. God has endowed this act of remembering with the sacramental power to make the remembered events present to us again.

Proclaiming It: So when you read this to the assembly, make it memorable. That is, read it slowly, as if you are the aged Moses, giving one last instruction, summing up what God has made of this people through their journey.

Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The Historical Situation: Most of Saint Paul's letters contain early chapters where he discusses doctrinal issues and settles disputes. Then there follow some paragraphs or chapters about discipline within the community. The Corinithian Christians were pretty rowdy, and needed some lessons about manners at the celebration of the Lord's supper. Paul is also clearly distinguishing the Eucharist from the ritual meals of some pagan groups known to the Corinthians. And he's connecting the sharing of Christ's body with the notion that the church is a body; its head is Christ and we are its members. All of that is packed into these few lines.

Proclaiming It: This short reading calls for a slow and deliberate proclamation, especially in the phrase We, though many, are one body.


Links to other smart commentaries on this week's readings

Credit for the picture at the top:

Fronleichnamsprozession (Corpus Christi Procession) by Carl Emil Doepler, (1824 Warszawa or Schnepfenthal - 1905 Berlin). Interestingly, in addition to this apparently pious work, Doepler designed the costumes for the 1876 production of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (Ring Cycle) at Bayreuth.

Wikipedia says the image is in the public domain, and that this graphic file came from the website of Auktionhaus Michael Zeller. That's in Lindau, Bavaria, Germany. No works by Doepler are now (2017, 2020) in Zeller's online catalog, so we missed our chance to bid against each other for the original. The site suggests the full title of the work is Fronleichnamsprozession zieht aus einer gotischen Kathedrale in einer mittelalterlichen Stadt (Corpus Christi procession exits a Gothic cathedral in a medieval city). Artnet invites one to pay for access to past art-auction results; so if you really want the painting, ...

Click here for a larger version.

This page updated June 10, 2023