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June brings with it a warmer season and this is reason enough to give thanks. The chirping of birds and the scent of blooms for the month are further reasons to rejoice. Corpus Christi, the liturgical solemnity celebrated today, includes a psalm of thanksgiving that helps to set the tone for today’s readings. 

This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. (Mt 14:24)

Liturgical day
Corpus Christi (B)
Ex 24:3-8, Ps 116, Heb 9:11-15, Mk 14:12-26

Can you recall the last time you praised someone in a public setting?

Can you recall the last time you gave thanks to God in public?

How can you give God praise in your community this week?

This Sunday’s responsorial psalm evokes ancient sacrifices of praise. “I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” (Ps 116:13). What does it mean to lift the cup of salvation? Think of giving a toast for the bride or groom at a June wedding where the banquet hall is filled with guests. You raise a glass of champagne as a declarative public gesture and it serves as a signal for all the guests in attendance to provide their own seal of approval. Whatever other meanings this ancient gesture may have had, raising the cup of salvation was a public act of thanksgiving to God for a service rendered in the past. As such, the act serves as a public acknowledgement that a faithful person had reached a point of despair but also that God responded to this lament. 

“I was caught by the cords of death; the snares of Sheol had seized me” (Ps 116:3). Returning praise to God suggests in this psalm a prior brush with physical harm or spiritual death. In retrospect, once the traveler has a sense that God was still present and active, the journey continues. “I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps 116:9). This roller coaster of past hardship and miraculous salvation is the context for the public confession and gesture of thanksgiving in this psalm, the raising up of a “cup of salvation.”

The early Christian community recognized the “cup of praise” as the eucharistic celebration. Thanksgiving, which is what “Eucharist” means, is better understood as a shared public act rather than a private affair. This sheds a new light to the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel. After Jesus takes the cup during the Passover meal with his disciples, he indicates that it is his blood of the covenant shed for many. “Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it” (Mt 14:23). They all drank from the cup, a public shared gesture of thanks.

In the month of June, may the readings help us to recognize moments of death where God labored to bring us back to the land of the living. Whether we discover this sojourn in private prayer or a shared eucharistic meal, it merits a public response, a “raising of the cup” in thanksgiving before a community of believers. “I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people” (Ps 116:14).

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