The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
2017 – Cycle A
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58
What does it mean to participate in the blood of Christ? …to participate in the body of Christ?
Does not participation in anything mean that we are actively engaged? To participate in a discussion involves speaking and listening, reacting and responding, agreeing and being given reason to rethink a position. To participate in a birthday party involves attending, bringing a gift or a card, singing the “birthday” song, sharing a piece of the cake. To participate in baseball is to be part of the team. It means cooperating with other players, keeping your eye on the ball, having team spirit and exhibiting good sportsmanship whether you win or lose.
To participate in anything is a communal experience not a solo performance. Participation presumes the involvement of others; of being part of something greater than ourselves. How then does this relate to participation in the blood and body of Christ?
If participation is action, consider, Jesus’ body was a place of action. In his body, Jesus healed people, fed the hungry, forgave the sinner, challenged the self-righteous, called people to be disciples and taught them about the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ body nailed to the cross experienced our human suffering and through his blood washed away our sins. When we renew our Baptismal promises we profess that we believe in the “resurrection of the body”. And so in Jesus’ resurrected body, through the mystery of death, life is offered to each of us. The human body is the central place of God’s action in the world.
Today’s Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ was promoted by Saint Juliana of Liège in the 13th century. What is important to note is that the medieval nuns of Liège coupled Eucharistic adoration with a robust commitment to the works of mercy. Adoration of the Body and Blood of Christ led to participation in the Blood and Body of Christ doing what Jesus did in the body. Their love of Christ’s Body made of their own bodies a place through which God could act in love. Adoration needs to lead to engagement, engagement must be rejuvenated in worship and adoration.
When Jesus teaches that whoever eats this bread will live forever, it is not a living for one’s self but for others. That is what it means to remain in Jesus and for Jesus to remain in us. The two of us, Jesus and ourselves become united and one. In turn the bread is broken and the cup poured that all of us may become one body joined together just as the Father and Jesus are one. Thus in the words of Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not.” Our belief in the “real presence”, our eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood, our participation in the experience of blood and body, that of Christ’s and other people, have consequences for us and them.
As you are waiting to approach to receive Holy Communion, have you ever watched the procession? …its movement, the various people that form our parish, the ‘regulars’ and visitors, children, seniors, college students, families, young adults. Do you ever look at people’s faces communicating what may be going on in their lives as they approach? What do you observe and sense?
If you are close enough to hear the Eucharistic minister repeat continuously “The Body of Christ” – “The Blood of Christ” and the people responding, “Amen.” “Amen.” “Amen.” As person after person extend a hand to receive the Eucharist bread and take up the cup. The Body of Christ …The Blood of Christ … Amen …Amen. Christ the bread, Christ the wine, Christ in each person, Christ forever in the Church – all the Body of Christ.
For me, I notice the face and hands.
The face – some smiling, others marked by the lines of age, some with eyes bright just starting on the spiritual journey while others have eyes averted because the mind is burdened by a deep concern. There is worry in some faces and disinterest from routine in others. The Body of Christ …The Blood of Christ … Amen …Amen.
Then there is the hands into which the bread is placed, the cup is given. Hands – large and small. Hands calloused and others smooth and supple, hands disfigured by arthritis and some marked by hard manual labour, the oil and dirt engrained in the palms and under the nails. Hands held firm and confident, others shaking from age or disability unable to be stopped. Hands reaching out like newborn hatchlings in a nest when the mother flies in with food. The Body of Christ …The Blood of Christ … Amen …Amen.
The hands in a particular way speak to me of participation in the blood and body of Christ.
What does it mean to participate in the blood and the body of Christ? Many of you know.