Note: the next homily will be posted on Sunday June 13, 2010.
BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST C – June 6, 2010
Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:1-4, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Luke 9:11b-17
For the longest time now researchers have worked to find ways to build new organs to replace damaged livers, blood vessels and other body parts. Overcoming various obstacles (scientific and ethical ones) it appears that scientists at MIT and Harvard have found a way to grow cells by breaking down tissues that hold them together. Once they are free the cells can be assembled, like building blocks or Legos, into new organisms and potentially new body parts. 
In recent weeks we listened to scriptures describe who we are as members of one body, blessed with many gifts and working with one Spirit. Today the church celebrates the body and blood of Christ. To use time honored theological terms it can be a celebration of the church, the people of God, you and me, who comprise the mystical body of Christ. In this sense today is a celebration of our body and our blood.
Each one of us knows that when we have a head ache, a heart attack; or need a hip replacement or a blood transfusion, the rest of our body suffers. Because of its resilience however the body, along with a determined mind and positive a spirit, can mend itself. Medicine and surgical advancements are helpful in this healing process. Could the same be true of the people who make up the church?
The first passage from Genesis this morning tells of an indigenous royal priest called Melchizedek who, by blessing Abram, sets the stage for the development of the priestly people of God. That’s how the faith tradition of Jews and, eventually Christians, got its start. The psalm affirms Melchizedek’s role as an ambassador of God.
In the second reading we heard how Paul recounted what happened at that final meal when Jesus, using familiar Jewish blessings, shared bread and wine, calling it his body and blood. He gave new meaning to the food and drink. The gospel tells the popular story of how Jesus blessed food which the disciples then shared with the multitude of people. Similarly you and I are called to serve others. That event on the mountain was a foretaste of the meal in the upper room and of the never ending heavenly banquet. 
We Christians build our entire faith tradition around these actions. When we gather at one table to share the Word of God and the sacramental bread and wine we continue to build up the body of Christ. It’s like building up new cells in an organism. We breathe new Spirit into the blood stream of the Church. Each one of us is important in this action. All of us are invited to embrace the mission set forth by Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus was asking when he said, “Do this in my memory.” His words are not merely references to the Eucharistic meal but an invitation to take on the weight of the cross caused by poverty, oppression, injustice, war. We carry on his mission not alone but in communion with one another. No one can do it alone.
To welcome and include all of God’s creatures into his household Jesus was famous for breaking down cultural taboos and even religious rules and regulations. He did not say take and eat, take and drink only if you are straight, white, male and Jewish. As they moved through the crowd with bread and fish the disciples did not ask for identification cards or whether someone was rich or poor, Jew or Gentile.
We cannot overlook the tensions in the world and in our Church caused by prejudice, power and arrogance. These symptoms plague the body of Christ; they clog the arteries of the Church. What happens in Rome, Italy or Phoenix, Arizona does not stay there. The news about the way the pope handles the pedophile crisis or how a bishop excommunicates a highly respected health care provider, without due process, affects all people of God. One human suffers, everyone suffers.
When something bothers us physically and mentally our first reaction is not to cut off a limb or tear out a heart or tap into a brain. Those are last resorts after other measures have been exhausted and after long and sometimes difficult discussions with family, friends and medical professionals.
Like any human body our church is imperfect. However, when it breaks down it too can be built back up again because of the care and love of God. This divine healing process requires our participation, the faith and hope, of every member of the Church, clergy and laity alike. There is no room for spectators in this action.
Today’s scriptures are less about a royal priesthood and more about the priestly people of God. These texts are not only about sharing abundant gifts of life but also about treating one another in a respectful and hospitable way.
Scientific and medical advancements may eventually alleviate many sufferings we humans have. A good dose of regenerative medicine in our ecclesial society could also bring hope for God’s people including those who believe we make up the body and blood of Christ.
1 “Building Organs Block by Block” in Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100513112813.htm
2 Fuller, Reginald. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today
(The Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition) pp. 444-446, 59.