THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI)
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord. This feast is the final celebration of the Easter mystery in the liturgical cycle. Here Jesus invites us to participate in the meal where he himself is the food and drink. At the Last Supper he gave bread to the disciples and said, this is my body and the cup of wine he shared saying, this is my blood. Jesus also says that unless we eat his body and drink his blood we will not have life in him. In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to God as the Creator of all. Melchizedek, who was a priest and a king, offered sacrifice of bread and wine to God. When the Israelites wandered without food in the wilderness, God gave them manna, the bread from heaven to keep them alive. This miracle is often recalled by the people of Israel that their very soul and life depended on the bread of the Word of God. St Paul in the second reading tells us that the cup of blessing is the participation in the blood of Christ and the bread we break is the participation in the Body of Christ. We have the words of Jesus in the Gospel where he says that he is the Bread of Life.
Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfil what he had announced at Capernaum, namely, that he would give his disciples his own body and blood which is a sacrificial meal, to deliver them from eternal death and destruction. The new Passover of Jesus’ passing over to his Father through his death and resurrection, is anticipated in the Passover Meal, Last Supper. This event fulfils the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the church in the glory of God’s kingdom at the end of times. During this meal Jesus invites his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood that is his invitation to accept his life into the very centre of their being. That life which he offers is the life of God himself.
Let us spend a while reflecting on today’s Gospel. Jesus tells the Jews that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have eternal life and he will raise them up on the last day. Then he adds: “for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood will abide in me, and I in them.” In other words there is a new mystical bond that will take place. The Jews understood this concept well. Normally in the temples food was offered to the deity and then was shared by all with the belief that they participated in the divinity. Therefore when Jesus said in similar words to partake, they knew that he spoke of his divinity and asked them to participate in it. This was a call to assimilate totally into their very being all that he teaches, his vision, his values, his understanding and purpose of life. St Paul understood this to say that it not I but Christ lives in me. Again he tells the Philippians’ church, let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus”
Eucharist is a communal sacrificial meal, shared in faith by the community of believers, in remembrance of Jesus. The sharing of the meal is done in the community of believers where Jesus is truly present. It is a sacrifice offered as a memorial, to remind God the good things done in us by Jesus. Today, the Body of the Risen Jesus also includes all his followers united in Christian communities all over the world. And we only truly belong to Christ when we are consciously and actively participating members of that Body, loving, serving and caring for each other. Eucharist is shared in the community and it is the sharing of one bread and one cup. It is given in the form of a communal meal and all called on to share in it. In our social life, we end every celebration with a meal shared as a sign of our togetherness. This meal is a meal of gratitude and shared in his memory. For Jesus the meal at the Last Supper was a Blessing and Thanksgiving. Blessing as it includes the divine presence and thanksgiving to God for all the good things he has done in us through him, namely, through his life, his teaching, his suffering, death and resurrection. But we also remember and give thanks for all the personal experiences of being touched by God’s love in our lives.
The Mass, by itself, does not make a community. It presupposes a community already existing. It is the celebration and the strengthening of that community that takes place during the mass. Where there is no real community there can be no real Eucharist. The church reminds us that Mass is not just praying; it is a time for celebrating community. That cannot be done in isolation; it can only be done by being together as a community.
Community means healing and reconciliation as prescribed by Jesus. He does it by washing the feet of the disciples. He shows it to them with the greeting of peace: a gesture of friendship, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Then we can approach the table of unity and togetherness. In the Sermon on the Mount he says: “If you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar and go at once to make peace with your brother; then come back and offer your gift to God. Reconciliation is more important than sacrifice.
Eucharist for us emphasises the prime event namely that it is a shared experience. We begin the Communion liturgy by saying together the Lord’s Prayer, where we speak to God as our Father, where we ask him for our daily bread, where we ask for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation, where we join hands together. And this is followed by the greeting of peace: a gesture of friendship, reconciliation, and forgiveness for all those around us before we approach the table of unity and togetherness. The Eucharist is truly a sign. A good Eucharist is the sign of a living community. A boring Eucharist is the sign of a dead one. The more we become aware of Christ living and acting in and through us as his Body, the more meaningful will be our gathering around his table.
Anecdote: Love Symbol of Eucharist
A person had a friend who grew to be very close to him. Once when they were sitting at the edge of a swimming pool, she filled the palm of her hand with some water and held it before him and said: “You see this water carefully contained on my hand? It symbolizes Love.” As long as you keep your hand caringly open and allow it to remain there, it will always be there. However, if you attempt to close your fingers round it and try to posses it, it will spill through the first cracks it finds. This is the greatest mistake that people do when they meet love…they try to posses it, they demand, they expect… and just like the water spilling out of your hand, love will retrieve from you .For love is meant to be free, you cannot change its nature. If there are people you love, allow them to be free beings. Give and don’t expect. Advise, but don’t order. Ask, but never demand. It might sound simple, but it is a lesson that may take a lifetime to truly practice. It is the secret to true love. To truly practice it, you must sincerely feel no expectations from those who you love, and yet an unconditional caring.” Remember: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take; but by the moments that take our breath away…..