Corpus Christi

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
2015 – Cycle B
Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

people 1 people 2 people 3

“[Jesus] took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them,
and said, “….this is my body.”   Then he took a cup [of wine], gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.   [Jesus] said to them, this is my blood of the covenant…”” [Mark 14:22-24]

The scene and the words are familiar.

“This is my body,” as Jesus tears the matzo and looking at those sitting around the table hands the torn pieces of bread to them. “This is my blood,” as the disciples are drinking.

In both instances what is Jesus referring to? …who is he referring to?

I am reminded of the scene in which Jesus was speaking to the crowd. “Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.” But [Jesus] said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”[Matthew 12:46-50]

There is always more going on when Jesus acts and speaks. He opens pathways for us to enter beyond the obvious, beyond the familiar, beyond our expectations or what is comfortable to us. To be a member of Jesus’ family has little to do with who gave him physical birth or whose blood lines he shares.

“This is my body.” “This is my blood,” Surely Jesus is referring to the bread and the wine in the cup but as he looks into the eyes of each disciple is he not drawing them and us into a more profound meaning?

Is it not intriguing then and do you not find it curious that, “This is my body.” “This is my blood.” are not the words we use at the distribution of Holy Communion? Consider what is proclaimed to each of you as the Eucharistic Minister looks at you as you present yourself for Holy Communion. The ministers proclaims not “This is the body of Christ” but rather “The body of Christ.” “The blood of Christ.”  The absence of, “This is…” makes the phrase ambiguous.  What is being referred to in each instance?

Is the declaration referring solely to the consecrated bread and wine(?); or is the minister declaring that you are the body, the blood of Christ?  And if you are the body of Christ and if the bread is the body of Christ, then is not also the minister declaring you and the bread, the body of Christ? This is what Paul proclaimed in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. “ [1 Corinthians 12:27]

Consider also, if you will, the phrase, Holy Communion. We regularly say: I went to Communion. I received Holy Communion. I made my first Holy Communion. We speak about this experience as if it were an object outside of us or some mechanical-like exchange quite devoid of relationship.

What if we rethought how we express this experience? What if we said: We approach to enter into a holy communion. We are received into a holy communion. I began my union with Jesus.  Note the similarity with “”Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.””

All of a sudden the distribution and reception of the body and blood of Jesus is about relationship – a holy union with, a communion not only with Jesus but with each other. What we have so often understood as a private experience between ourselves and Jesus is revealed as a public and communal experience with every person gathered here. And relationship entails responsibilities to each other in service. The Feast of Corpus Christi is not about processing the Blessed Sacrament through the streets in a golden monstrance as part of our Catholic identity but rather an awareness that we are the body and blood of Christ to be imbedded in the life of our streets, neighborhoods, work places, schools and world. To be body and blood of Christ is to allow ourselves to be consumed by the world for the sake of the world.

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