June 3rd 2018

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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading                     
A reading from the book of Exodus (24:3-8)

Moses went and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. In answer, all the people said with one voice, 'We will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed.' Moses put all the commands of the Lord into writing, and early next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve standing-stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he directed certain young Israelites to offer holocausts and to immolate bullocks to the Lord as communion sacrifices. Half of the blood Moses took up and put into basins, the other half he cast on the altar. And taking the Book of the Covenant he read it to the listening people, and they said, 'We will observe all that the Lord has decreed; we will obey.' Then Moses took the blood and cast it towards the people. This' he said 'is the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you, containing all these rules.'



Second Reading
A reading from the letter to the Hebrews (9:11-15)

Now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, which is better than the one made by men's hands because it is not of this created order; and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption for us. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer are sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement and they restore the holiness of their outward lives; how much more effectively the blood of Christ, who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God through the eternal Spirit, can purify our inner self from dead actions so that we do our service to the living God.

He brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant.


Gospel Reading
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (14:12-16.22-26) 

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, 'Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the passover?' So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, "The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples?" He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there,' The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.

And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. 'Take it,' he said 'this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, 'This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.'

After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.


Sunday Reflection Corpus Christi (03.06.18)

"Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread"

Do these familiar words slip almost unnoticed from our lips? Are they as rich a source for meditation as they should be? Do we understand them as comprehensively expressing our deepest desire? Might our appreciation of them be restricted to our reception of the Eucharist? Surely these words have a wider application?

'Corpus Christi' is ablaze with meaning and mystery. We may be, figuratively speaking, like Peter, James and John on the mountain as Jesus is Transfigured, bowing our heads and unsure of what to say.

For 'cradle' Catholics, Baptism at birth ensures that the day of First Holy Communion is well impressed on our young memory. Unfortunately, the personal Sacramental encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist can be lost in the panoply of dress, school discipline, family gatherings, photographs, and, nowadays, gifts and parties.

Not infrequently, the critical theological development that is absolutely necessary is either lacking entirely, inadequate or lacking in essential homelife/ family support. Many children's theological appreciation does not develop apace with their emerging adulthood and practice falls away.

To limit 'Give us this day our daily bread' to the reception of Holy Communion, as perceived by a child, could be compared to standing in the valley and looking up at the towering height of a snow-covered Mt. Everest and equating it with the making of snowballs. It's a very small part of much richer vein of understanding.

'Give us this day our daily bread' can be how we express our willingness to share in our Saviour's Cross-carrying redemptive mission. We recognise all too well that, without His feeding us, we would be unable to even attempt to walk in his footsteps. His redemptive mission reached, uninterruptedly, from his Conception to his Resurrection. By it, he made our Redemption possible. Though established, our Redemption is as yet not fully enacted since so many people in our world remain, up to the present moment, engrossed in a turmoil of flagrant disobedience to their Creator. The divisions that ravage our world are reflected, too, in our Church community. In his day too, St. Paul reproved his Corinthian community for their division:

"What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name." (1 Cor.1:12-15)

The continuing sinfulness of the world and of the Church is why the wounds on our Saviour's Risen Body remain open, as Thomas, and no doubt, other Apostles experienced in Jesus' post-Resurrection appearances. Jesus is still 'washing our feet' but perhaps we are not washing one another's?

The call we receive to the Banquet of Heaven involves our willing participation in a continuous journey/pilgrimage accompanying our Saviour. Each day will contain aspects of his life - his numerous rejections, his ascent of Calvary and how he learnt to die to self - spread over our lifetime, whether that be short or long.

'Give us this day our daily bread' can be how we learn to surrender our self-will to the will of Christ in order that we may become 'faith-nourishment' for others. Take for example, the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5: 1-15.

On three occasions, in this story, it is a nameless servant/slave who delivers a message of faith to the all-powerful Aramean Army-Commander, Naaman, who has leprosy. The first is a young Jewish female slave kidnapped during one of his army's raids into Israel. Then Elisha's own nameless servant delivers the prophet's message to Naaman who is outraged by the lack of respect being shown him. Finally, one of Naaman's own nameless servants implores his master to listen and follow the prophet's message.

Three times God works through the unexpected and the powerless to bring healing to Naaman. Are we willing to offer ourselves, nameless and unremarked on by the world, as a crumb of divine comfort in the faith-journey of others? In order to become that crumb we, first of all, must be nourished and made one with the Bread of Life who came not to be served but to serve.

'Give us this day our daily bread' may be our plea for spiritual insight. John is the only Evangelist to give us details of the foot washing purposefully undertaken by Jesus at the Last Supper (13:1-20)

In the Liturgy of Maundy Thursday, the celebrant temporally adopts a servant posture in order to identify himself as 'alter Christus'. But for St. John all present must be involved with the foot washing if they are to be one in Christ. For Jesus, his Washing of the Feet of his apostles was not an optional extra but an integral part of Communion.

Rituals are potent elements of our national and personal memories. Think, for example, of 'The Trooping of the Colour' in the UK. The historical procedure has to be correctly followed. The ritual of Jesus Washing the Feet of his apostles is less adhered to than the Institution of the Eucharist. Both occurred in the same celebration and in the same location. Notice that Jesus gives explicit instructions that both actions, the Foot Washing and the Eucharist, should be repeated by the disciples namely.

'Give us this day our daily bread' reminds us that, in the Eucharist, we are seeking to become one with God-made-Man who chose to be the servant, the one who washed the feet of his disciples. In approaching the Eucharistic we might well consider if and how often we wash the feet, perhaps metaphorically, of those we offend and whether we allow others to wash our feet. Jesus taught:

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-26)

We cannot truly be one with Christ in receiving Holy Communion if we are not one with others through a mutual 'washing of feet'. In other words, we make a firm commitment to be reconciled with God and with one another. Communion with the Lord presupposes reconciliation with him and with others. Jesus demonstrated this teaching in the Upper Room at the Last Supper. Have we explored how we 'Wash the Feet' of those in our care, be they physically close by or far away?

Can we truly ask for our daily bread if we are selective as to whom we are willing to share it with? Can we truly ask for our daily bread if we are selective as from whom we are prepared to receive it?

The Eucharist is a denominational 'conflict zone'. Foot Washing, though marginalized and neglected, is also a 'conflict zone' for different reasons.

No Catholic priest, anywhere in the world, will hesitate to preside at the Eucharist. There are not a few around the world, though, who would hesitate to preside at a Foot Washing because it is socially awkward. Could it be that until we have accepted and valued Jesus' call to copy his Foot Washing we will not find unity with Him and with one another in His Eucharist?

A few months from now The Archdiocese of Liverpool will host a national Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress lasting three days. This gathering of clergy, religious, catechists, schools, & chaplains takes place 7-9 September 2018. The programme is published. The Catholic community has been invited to prepare through prayer and liturgical events. So far, it would appear, that there is no place for 'Foot Washing'.

One might have thought that the opening of a Eucharistic Congress and Pilgrimage would be well served by a Liturgy of Foot Washing as the appropriate context in which to celebrate our worldwide unity as the visible Body of Christ on earth.

In the Catholic Church today are all manner of debates and acres of print about who may or may not be admitted to The Eucharist. There would appear to be less argument about who may or may not be admitted to Foot Washing, though issues of gender and status continue to rear their head in some parts.

The Evangelists Matthew (20:25-27), Mark (10:43-4) and Luke (12:25-26) each recall, in their own words, Jesus' teaching at The Foot Washing in the Upper Room:

"their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave …"

Far from being a one-off, Jesus' Foot Washing contains a core truth about our being the Body of Christ on earth.

Give us, Lord, our daily bread that we may learn how to receive and share your presence as you intended. For unless there is mutual forgiveness and a willingness to serve one another we cannot be one with you.