By Kevin Perrotta Catholic News Service
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
1) Gn 14:18-20
2) 1 Cor 11:23-26
Gospel: Lk 9:11-17
If you were a man in his 70s and had just completed a 300-mile donkey ride, how do you think you would feel? If you are not immediately sure how to answer this question, allow me to offer an opinion. Being a man in my 70s, I can say for sure, you would be prostrate.
This tells us something about Abraham (still going under his original name of Abram) in our first reading. He got word that his nephew Lot and family had been kidnapped — probably to be sold as slaves.
Abram instantly saddled up with 318 dudes in his employ (that must have been quite a picture) and rode off in pursuit. They caught up with the attackers and crushed them in a night battle. Abram rode back triumphantly with Lot and his family — arriving in the episode in our reading in some state of exhaustion no doubt.
Cue Melchizedek of Salem. As Abram passes by his city (usually called Jerusalem) Melchizedek, not only king but also local priest, comes out to meet him with a thank you for walloping the marauders.
He brings a little refreshment, basically bread and wine, and offers Abram congratulations: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand.”
God has given Abram victory. In a spirit of friendliness, Abram gives Melchizedek a tenth of the spoil he seized from the kidnappers.
This rousing glimpse of our father in faith is perhaps an encouragement to the older among us to get off the couch and let God strengthen us for whatever challenges we face. But while that is a good message, it isn’t the reason this episode is slated for today.
Today we celebrate the gift of God in holy Communion. In the Eucharist, under the appearances of bread and wine, Jesus gives us all that he is as God and man. Melchizedek’s gift to Abram is a mysterious foreshadowing of this greater gift.
The links between Melchizedek and Jesus are complicated (see Heb 5-7). But one simple connection stands out. Jesus gives himself to us in our weariness. By receiving Communion, we respond to his invitation: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). And we do find rest in him.
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.