Saturday, June 5, 2010

Corpus (et Sanguis) Christi

(Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, C)

Today we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, a day set apart to reflect upon and celebrate in a special way the Most Blessed Sacrament we receive here at Mass, and which we adore here in this church, and in all the tabernacles throughout the world.

The Catechism reminds us that it is incomplete to say that the Church celebrates the Eucharist; it is the Eucharist that makes the Church. (§1396) Here, at this moment and in this place, by his own sacrifice extended into our lives, Christ makes us into his Body, the Church.

Our birth as the Church of Jesus Christ begins at the Last Supper. In First Corinthians, one of the earliest books of the New Testament, St. Paul reports on this tradition. At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, Jesus blessed and broke bread, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body that is for you.” He then took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” By identifying that broken bread and that shared cup with his own body, soon to be broken on the Cross, and his own Blood, soon to be shed in his Passion, Jesus perpetuates through time the offering of his own one sacrifice. This is a tremendous gift for us; because Jesus has extended his one, perfect sacrifice to us in the Mass, we have an opportunity to share in it. We come here to offer our own sacrifice of praise, to offer our own joys and troubles on this altar, that we may be transformed into the Body of Christ in the world. This is what conscious and active participation in the Mass means: to come and offer ourselves as a spiritual sacrifice and consent to our own transformation in Christ.

At the Last Supper the apostles are given the gift and the command to continue to offer bread and wine—now identified with the Body and Blood of Christ. By the prayer and laying on of hands in ordination, the apostles handed over to their successors the office and power to offer this true memorial of Jesus’ sacrificial Passion. Thus, the Eucharist—the great ‘Thanksgiving’—has come down to us in the priesthood of our bishops, which they have also shared with their helper priests in the Order of Presbyter.

We see a picture of this process of Sacred Tradition in the gospel today: faced with the apostles’ anxiety for the hungry crowd, Jesus instructs the Twelve to “give them some food yourselves.” Jesus blesses and breaks the loaves, gives them to the Twelve, who in turn feed five thousand people. This is an image of Sacred Tradition; Jesus offers himself as the broken bread entrusted to the Twelve, the bread of life which multiplies in the hands of bishops and priests down through the ages until this very morning, when the holy Eucharist is celebrated all over the world.

Today, as every Sunday, we celebrate all these great mysteries. We give thanks to Jesus for giving us this memorial of his suffering and death. By his institution of the Eucharist, Jesus provides us with a way to join our own sacrifice to his here at Mass. By receiving his Body and Blood into our bodies and our lives, we become what we receive, and are built into the Church. In turn we are called to imitate the sacrifice we receive, to let our hearts be broken at the suffering of others, and to pour ourselves out for their salvation.


Greg said...

The Eucharist was so well captured for me in Scott Hahn's wonderful book, The Lamb's Supper.

The idea of Heaven come to earth in the Mass captures it for me.

blogmeister said...

There is so much to this Feast: we celebrate so many mysteries of what "the Body of Christ" is. Your beautiful reflection was unfortunately trumped for many by pigeons at the 9:45 Mass. You stayed focused, for which I am grateful.

4narnia said...

such an inspiring homily for the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Fr. C! thank you for sharing it! reflection and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a good thing to do and it was fitting that we had nocturnal adoration last night. while praying and adoring the Lord, we can learn and grow and "celebrate" God each and everyday by the way we live our Christian lives. PAX! ~tara t~

Anonymous said...

Great homily brother - I wish you were the one teaching my Eucharist class at Boston college instead of..well..never mind!

Brother Charles said...

Thank you all for your kind encouragement!