The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
14th June 2020
Year A – Psalter week 3
The feast of Corpus Christ is a celebration of the gift of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. As paragraph 1328 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, the celebration of the Mass “is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein and eulogein recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God’s works: creation, redemption and sanctification.” So each time we celebrate the Mass and the Body and Blood of Christ is made present, we are giving thanks to God for all his wonderful works.
In the sacrifice of the Mass we “remember” all that Jesus has done for us. This remembering is not simply a thinking back to events that are now ancient history, but rather, as the Jewish people understood the celebration of the Passover, is an “anamnesis”, a making present of those events to us now. So while the Mass is indeed a sacrifice, Jesus is not being sacrificed over and over again, but rather, his crucifixion, and all the graces that flowed from the sacrifice of his life and death, are made present to us here and now. As it explains in the Letter to the Hebrews, “…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Indeed, when the Mass is celebrated, all the graces of the Paschal Mystery, that is, Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven and sending of the Holy Spirit are made present to us in our own day.
Particularly painful for many of you at this time is the fact that you cannot get to Mass in person. This is of no surprise, considering the level of intimacy with the Lord that is involved when receiving Holy Communion. In the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant, communion with God was established when the sacrifice was eaten. In effect, the eating of that which had been offered completed the sacrifice. Similarly, the sacrifice of Jesus’ life and death, and the graces offered to us through it, are only completed and received in our own lives when we consume of the sacrifice. This is why Jesus, at the Last Supper, is so keen to emphasise to his disciples, the fact that “This is my body” and “This is my blood,” and to “Do this in memory of me.” Similarly, in the gospel today from John, Jesus is emphatic that, “Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.” Of course, a living faith in Jesus is essential and by eating of his body and of his blood we are called to imitate him in our own lives, but the strength to do this we draw from the Eucharist where we are brought into full communion with God and with one another.
One image I have found helpful in understanding this mystery is us being in the womb of our mother the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ. In this image, we are conceived through baptism where the new life of Christ is imparted to us. But in order to grow, we need to receive nourishment, and as a child in the womb receives sustenance from its mother’s body and blood, so we receive nourishment to grow through consuming the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. In fact, as I understand it, the union of mother and child in the womb is so profound, that the child has no perception that he or she is separate from his or her mother. The union with Jesus when receiving Communion is even more profound, when we become one body and one spirit with him.
As the reception of communion brings about such a deep intimacy with the Lord, it is no wonder that having to abstain at present is extremely painful for so many. In the meantime, the faithful are being asked to focus more upon “spiritual communion” with the Lord, where each person recognises that they are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and a spiritual dwelling place for God. This is an incredibly important truth that we can forget when we go about our daily lives, so this is certainly a time to grow in awareness and strength of this spiritual reality. And yet, because we are not purely spirit like the angels, but body also, we know that as human beings we desire the spiritual “food” that is the Eucharist, a desire which is good and healthy. That desire may be growing stronger during this time of abstinence, and through God’s grace is also increasing our desire for the things of God and for Holy Communion, so that when everyone can receive again there will be a deeper level of “thanksgiving” within our community.
On Saturdays between 10am and 1pm, beginning on 20th June, we do hope to open Holy Family Church for a time of Eucharistic Adoration. While there will not yet be the opportunity to receive Holy Communion, the church does encourage us to continue in our spiritual communion, and there will be an opportunity to do this in the presence of the Eucharist for those who would like to and are able to at this time. I leave you with the teaching of the Catechism on Adoration, which quotes Pope St. Paul VI: “Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honoured with the worship of adoration. ‘To visit the Blessed Sacrament is… a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord’ (Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei 66)” (CCC 1418).
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16
That there is only one loaf means that, though we are many, we form one body
Sunday Message and Look
Download this weeks Sunday Message and Look (for our younger parishioners) by clicking on the images, for all the readings for this week, as well as the prayers during mass and the usual weekly thoughts and reflections.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven, says the Lord. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. Alleluia!