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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel Gifford

Discerning the Body

This weekend, we come to the great celebration of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ). It is striking that the term “Body of Christ” applies on multiple levels. In one sense, it refers to the Holy Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, which we receive in Holy Communion at Mass. Yet, in another sense, it refers to the People of God, the Bride of Christ, the Church. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul spoke of the

Church as One Body, with many parts. You may have noticed (because I bring it up a fair amount) that this 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians is probably one of my favorite chapters of Scripture. Simply taking time to meditate on this one chapter alone is a wonderful way to spend a bit of time on any given day. It reminds us, not only that each of us has a unique, important and irreplaceable role in the Body of Christ, but also that God’s plan is complex, beautiful and glorious. It is amazing how each unique member of the Body of Christ plays a part in God’s plan of salvation, which even brings good from tragedy and trials. We see a glimpse of this in the classic painting of the Last Supper (front cover, found in our Atrium hallway), which features the diversity of personalities, even among the Apostles alone, gathered into one by Christ in the Eucharist. The preaching series on vocations, which is being given a kind of “post script” this weekend, is meant to help us better appreciate this diversity in the Church, encompassing a variety of different vocations, as we gather as one around the altar. It is clear to see that Saint Paul wants us to understand the Body of Christ as the Church. Yet, one of the most striking elements of the 12th chapter is how it flows out of the 10th and 11th chapters (which flow out of the first nine, of course). These chapters are very clearly teaching us about the Eucharist and the importance of not introducing division into the Eucharistic celebration. In fact, the whole letter addresses the unity of the Church and the importance of avoiding and overcoming division as one of its clear themes and concerns. But, at the centerpiece of this letter are these two chapters which present the Eucharist as the source of our unity, which must not become defiled or corrupted. The 11th chapter even includes the earliest written account of Christ’s words of institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper (this weekend’s second reading). After reminding us of what the Eucharist is, he then challenges the Corinthians (and us) to remember what it means to approach the Eucharist with worthy and disposed hearts. In no uncertain terms, he tells us we must not receive the Eucharist without “discerning the body.” When I was in the seminary, I had the opportunity to devote my semester term paper, for our course on Paul’s letters, to these verses in the 11th chapter. I found a bit of controversy among scholars, yet it was not difficult to recognize the biases which created this controversy. Those who did not want to acknowledge that the Eucharist is truly the Body of Christ (rather than being merely a symbol) insisted that the “body” Paul was referring to was the Church, the community, the People of God. Others, who simply wanted to argue against these decenters, insisted that Paul was referring exclusively to the Eucharistic species itself (the “one loaf”) as “the body.” Yet, those who seemed to be really paying attention to the full context of the letter in order to understand what Paul was really saying, rather than making him say what they want him to say, seemed to see more clearly that it is not a matter of either/or. Paul is referring to BOTH the Church and the Eucharist as the “Body,” which must be discerned thoughtfully before receiving. He wants us to understand and embrace the Eucharist as the Source, Summit and Center of our unity as a people, which must be respected and preserved. Indeed, we are many parts, gathered into One Body, around His altar, where we receive His Body and united to that same Body.

MY VACATION: As a reminder of what I mentioned last weekend, this summer, I have a number of different periods of time when I will be away. I leave this Wednesday (6/26), after the morning Mass for vacation. I will be away through next weekend and into the coming week. Most of these times, a priest will cover for me. However, there are a few weekdays when I was unable to find coverage for daily Mass (all Sundays are covered), when Deacon John has generously agreed to offer a Communion Service at the usual Mass time. He will offer Communion Services, in place of Mass, on Thursday, June 27th (preceded by Holy Hour and Benediction, but NO Confessions), Friday, June 28th, and Friday, July 5th. I want to thank Deacon John for his generosity in offering these Communion Services and in all that he does for Saint Louis Parish!

PRAYERS FOR ALIVE IN YOU: In the Youth Discipleship section, you should find an invitation and request for prayers for the youth and chaperones on Alive in You (our summer mission trip). Last summer, when the youth went to the Steubenville Youth Conference, many parishioners were supporting them in prayer, including a significant number signed up on a schedule to pray for the trip. This year, we may need even more sign-ups, since this year’s trip is a full week long! However, Caylee has a plan to indicate key times when we are asking for prayer, rather than asking for 24 hours each day, for the whole week. You can find the sign-up on the table outside of Harkrader Hall. Thank you in advance for ALL of your prayers and support.

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Gifford

St. Louis, pray for us!

Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!

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