Today’s morning Mass marks the beginning of the parish’s 40 Hour Devotion – and as such today’s readings are taken from the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
There are lots of odd names that appear in the Old Testament. One of them is Melchizedek, king of Salem. The name literally translates as “king of righteousness.” Melchizedek appears pretty much out of nowhere in the storyline of Abraham. Melchizedek hands Abraham the gifts of bread and wine and Abraham gives Melchizedek 1/10th of everything he has. These are very covenantal actions.
In the second reading, St. Paul offers the people of Corinth the gifts of bread and wine in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist: “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.” Again covenantal actions.
In the gospel, we have the miraculous account of Jesus multiplying bread for the people: “looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.” And all were fed with 12 wicker baskets left over. This is the only miracle that is told in each one of the four gospels. It prefigures the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday when Jesus: “took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” Again, covenantal actions.
Covenant is one of the key ideas that comes about in Sacred Scripture, the Bible. Some would say it is the unifying theme of all scripture: the making of covenant and the handing on of the blessings of God. And it is not a figurative, ceremonial handing on – it is a quite literal handing on. This handing on is the most sacred of traditions. Traditio in Latin literally means “handing on.” From the days of Melchizedek and Abraham, through the years to the Last Supper, and up until now, the gifts of bread and wine have been handed on from the “king of righteousness.” The chain of the People of God to the Son of God in whom the new, everlasting covenant is made. It has been handed on since Holy Thursday by the Church – the sign and blessing of covenant.
Today, when you come to receive the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, you take your place in that chain of faith, hope, and covenant that stretches back to God in the beginning. And the question then becomes to whom and how will you pass on this covenant blessing. And as Jesus said – “Give them some food yourselves.” You have received the blessings of the covenant – pay it forward.