When holy days and holidays coincide
On this feast of Corpus Christi, we commemorate the body and blood of Christ. Our readings highlight the physical and spiritual feasting that we encounter in the Eucharist. This religious feast coincides with Father’s Day and Juneteenth which can inspire new ways of thinking about this solemn occasion.
“Give them some food yourselves” (Lk 9:13).
What can you do to serve the physical and spiritual needs of others?
How does Jesus’ sacrifice inform your life?
What can you do to honor Father’s Day and Juneteenth?
The first reading from Genesis speaks of the priest Melchizedek whom we know from his brief interlude with Abram (Abraham’s earlier name) after Abram rescued his nephew Lot from abduction. Melchizedek presents bread and wine, shares these gifts and proclaims that Abram is blessed. While we do not know much about Melchizedek, his influence is great, as he is considered an eternal priest and Jesus is described as part of his priestly line.
The Gospel from Luke also highlights breaking bread, as we hear the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes with only five loaves and two fish. Jesus blesses the food and shares it until the community is satisfied. This well-known story has much to teach us about care for people in need, as Jesus highlights service and sustenance. Although Jesus looks to heaven, breaks the bread and offers a blessing, he instructs the disciples to distribute the food so that they participate in nourishing the crowd. Jesus charges his followers to “Give them some food yourselves” in response to their suggestion to disperse the people. On Corpus Christi, we are reminded to be attuned to the needs of the world, not only focusing on our own needs.
Reflecting on these texts on Father’s Day is fitting, as both Abram and Jesus show the kind of care for the needs of others for which we honor fathers. In Genesis, when he encounters Melchizedek, Abram was not yet a father although he would become a father of multitudes, which is what Abraham literally means. However, as an uncle, he intercedes on behalf of his nephew who was kidnapped during war, showing his devotion to his family. Jesus in the Gospel also shows characteristics that we associate with good fathers and important men in our lives. Jesus guides his disciples, critiquing their tendency to be self-absorbed and sharing blessings with others. On this Father’s Day, our readings remind us to be thankful for the fathers and men in our lives, and like the disciples, learn and grow from our experiences with them.
Thinking about the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ on Juneteenth invites additional reflections. Although Juneteenth is a new federal holiday, it has been celebrated by African Americans for generations, commemorating the day when the Emancipation Proclamation reached African Americans in Texas, more than two years after it had first been issued, and marking an end to slavery. Juneteenth is a community celebration that honors African American culture and heritage. And it is a reminder of the painful legacy of slavery and racism that we must acknowledge and correct in order to heal.
Although Juneteenth and Corpus Christi are largely joyful celebrations, they share in common physical suffering and loss of life. Millions of Africans who were enslaved, robbed of their bodies and blood, never saw the freedom that we celebrate today. Similarly, Jesus’ suffering on the cross, offering of body and blood, was needed in order that we might celebrate Corpus Christi today.
As we participate in the various celebrations of the day, we are reminded to focus on our community and world around us, drawing inspiration from Christ’s sacrifice and emulating his ministry throughout our lives.