The first reading from Genesis (14:18-20) is an isolated anecdote in the story of Abraham, which may have indicated belief in a universal god outwith the race and descendants of Abraham. There is also reference to this ‘king of the most high’ in psalm 110 celebrating the kingship of David over the Jews. The idea of a god over all the people of the world and over all creation was used in the New Testament book called Hebrews (6:18-7:22) and applied to the priesthood of Jesus as understood by Christians.
The second reading is from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians. (11:23-26). This passage is about what Paul learnt from the early Christian community when he joined one group for a communal meal together. We learn from the gospels, written later than this, that Jesus had shared in meals with friends and others who invited him – he was living the very best way a human can – sharing and befriending all. This was how He just gave His life for others! Not only were there those Jews who were annoyed by what He was doing and saying – upsetting their authority, but also many of His followers easily misunderstood him: some thought of Him as a potential leader against the occupying Romans, some in addition that He might be the longed-for leader who would raise the Jewish nation to great height in the world, bringing God’s plan for them (as they saw it) to completion. It was these attitudes that would lead to His death. When Christian groups came together later, they wanted to emulate the life of Jesus. Like all like-minded groups among both the Jewish world and the wider, so-called, pagan empire, they met together and had a meal. At such meetings Paul learnt how the shared bread and wine were thought of as the life and death of Jesus both given for others. He was now reminding the Corinthian Church of this, because they were somewhat missing the point of the shared meals.
The gospel comes from Luke: most of 9:11-17. It is about the feeding of a huge crowd. This is appropriate today so that we don’t think that Jesus’ last supper was the only time he thanked God and broke food with His ‘fans’ and friends. More than the others, Luke tells of Jesus’ meals with all sorts of different persons: a banquet in the house of Levi with tax-collectors and sinners, dinner at Simon’s place including Pharisees and a ‘sinful’ woman, at the home of Martha and Mary and invited by Pharisees and lawyers. Luke portrays Jesus as a friend of everyone, sharing Himself with them and showing them the love of God. On this feast when we celebrate the ‘last supper’, we must not think of it as like a mass, but rather as a get-together giving thanks to God (which is what ‘blessing’ the bread and cup means) and showing His true self as living and willing to die for others – for all kinds of others.
See Jeff’s Jottings on Corpus Christi (as it used to be called). And a comment on last week’s sermon by Fr Benedict