First Reading – Gen 14:18-20
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 110: 1, 2, 3, 4
Second Reading – 1 Cor 11:23-26
Sequence – Lauda Sion
Gospel – Luke 9:11B-17
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi celebrates the body of Christ, which Jesus offers to the Father for the salvation of the world. In this sense, it is a celebration of Christ who is both victim and priest in the Eucharist.
Several of today’s readings refer to the office of king, as well as priest.
Melchizedek is called the “King of Salem,” which is traditionally understood to refer to Jerusalem. His name literally means “King of Righteousness.” He is an early type of Christ in three important respects: he is simultaneously king and priest; he offers bread and wine to God; he does not belong to the tribe of Levi, and so he receives his priesthood directly from God, with no intermediary.
The Responsorial Psalm is a royal psalm, likely composed to commemorate a military victory. The Lord invites the Israelite king to sit at his right hand, which is the place of honor. At his coronation, an Israelite king was considered to be enthroned at the right hand of the invisible, but always present, Lord. Like a priest, the king is an intercessor, representing the people before God as a corporate personality.
Christ, as King and Priest, offers Himself for His people. The Lauda Sion, composed c. 1264 by St. Thomas Aquinas for use at Mass on the then relatively new feast of Corpus Christi, makes references to Christ’s role as King/leader of His people: “Here the new law's new oblation, By the new king's revelation, Ends the form of ancient rite” (verse 7). This verse argues that, in the Eucharist, three things are made new: law, sacrifice, and kingship. The novelty of Christ’s kingship is expressed well in the self-sacrificial and eschatological dimensions of the Eucharist.
Called to Participate in the Mission of Jesus Christ
In baptism, Christians are incorporated into Christ’s body, and through the Eucharist, the baptized participate in Christ’s self-offering for the whole world. This Solemnity’s celebration of the body of Christ calls the Church to deeper participation in the mission of Christ. Christ desires to reign in the minds, wills, and hearts of all people (see Quas primas, 7). Through our worthy reception of Holy Communion, we become instruments through which Christ extends His reign in time and space, offering hope to a world in need of His saving power.
In the gospel passage, Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom is accompanied with works of healing and feeding. These signs allude to the Eucharist and to the anointing of the sick, and at the same time, they remind the Church that our witness to the Gospel is accompanied by actions. The kingdom of God is not concerned only with what lies beyond the here and now. There is a close, practical relationship between the kingdom of God and our actions in this life. The Catholic Church in the United States has for decades sought to participate in Christ’s ministry to the sick and hungry by serving in health care and social services.
The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity teaches that all members of the Church share in the mission of advancing the kingdom of God in every sphere of human activity: “The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption, and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ. All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate, which the Church carries on in various ways through all her members" (Apostolicam actuositatem, 2).
The laity play a special role in sanctifying the world by acting to promote the kingdom of Christ in the temporal sphere. “They are consecrated for the royal priesthood and the holy people (see 1 Pet 2:4-10) not only that they may offer spiritual sacrifices in everything they do but also that they may witness to Christ throughout the world” (Apostolicam actuositatem, 3).
On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, as the Church venerates the Lord who is both Priest and King, the Decree on the Laity speaks to all of us:
Only by the light of faith and by meditation on the word of God can one always and everywhere recognize God in Whom ‘we live, and move, and have our being’ ( Acts 17:28), seek His will in every event, see Christ in everyone whether he be a relative or a stranger, and make correct judgments about the true meaning and value of temporal things both in themselves and in their relation to man's final goal. They who have this faith live in the hope of the revelation of the sons of God and keep in mind the cross and resurrection of the Lord. In the pilgrimage of this life … they aspire to those riches which remain forever and generously dedicate themselves wholly to the advancement of the kingdom of God and to the reform and improvement of the temporal order in a Christian spirit. Among the trials of this life they find strength in hope, convinced that ‘the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us’ (Rom. 8:18) (Apostolicam actuositatem, 4).