THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
- 24: 3-8, HEBREWS 9: 11-15, MARK: 14:12-16, 22-26
There was a little old cleaning woman that went to the local church. When the invitation was given at the end of the service, she went forward wanting to become a member. The pastor listened as she told him how she had accepted Jesus and wanted to be baptized and become a member of the church. The pastor thought to himself, “oh my, she is so unkempt, even smells a little, and her fingernails are not clean. She picks up garbage, cleans toilets – what would the members think of her.” He told her that she needed to go home and pray about it and then decide. The following week, here she came again. She told the pastor that she had prayed about it and still wanted to be baptized. “I have passed this church for so long. It is so beautiful, and I truly want to become a member.” Again the pastor told her to go home and pray some more. A few weeks later while out eating at the restaurant, the pastor saw the little old lady. He did not want her to think that he was ignoring her so he approached her and said, “I have not seen you for a while. Is everything all right?” “Oh, yes,” she said. “I talked with Jesus, and he told me not to worry about becoming a member of your church.” “He did?” said the pastor. “Oh, yes” she replied. “He said even He hasn’t been able to get into your church yet, and He’s been trying for years.”
Today as a Church, we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus – Corpus Christi Sunday: a day that also causes us to pause and remember a moment in history of God’s relationship with his people – the Last Supper. In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we are reminded of Jesus’ command to do what he did the night before he died. “This bread is my body, which is for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.”
There is a difference, however, in our “remembering.” When we remember most events in life, they touch our hearts and minds profoundly but they remain in the past. When we remember what Jesus did at the Last Supper, however, a memory, through the power God, becomes real and present to us. “This IS my body, broken for you. This IS my blood poured forth for you.”
In the gift of the Eucharist, which we celebrate today and every day that we gather around the Lord’s Table, we are given nothing less than the very presence and life of Jesus. And we discover in the gift of the Eucharist the essence of who we are and what we are called to be as Christians.
In the simple gifts of bread and wine, we see Jesus and his gift of selfless love; a love for his creation that was so intense that he gave his life on the cross in order to give us the means to approach God in our brokenness and to find the way to salvation.
Today’s feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord is a reminder to us not to take this gift for granted; not to see it as a routine element of our worship – but to maintain a sense of wonder and awe at the gift of God’s presence – here – in the midst of our broken world; here – in the midst of our fragile lives; here – in this parish community.
“Do this in remembrance of me!” When God’s people assemble in faith as we do today, we are called to recreate the ritual meal of the Last Supper. But to simply recreate a ritual? Is that all that the Lord commands us to do? When he speaks of the Eucharist, St. Augustine says: “Become the mystery you celebrate.” Become the broken Christ whose life was poured forth for those that he loved. St. Paul says to those who fail to get along and respect one another – remember this: You who share the same bread and cup receive the same Christ in the Eucharist – and as such, you become ONE.
You become one with your husband/wife; one with your child; one with the neighbor you find intolerable; one with the person of color or ethnic background that you’d rather not accept; one with the poor.
Eucharist reminds me that we not only receive Christ but are called to something more. Early in his pontificate, Pope John Paul II wrote to the bishops of the world about the gift of the Eucharist. As he spoke of the sublime gift of God found in the sacramental presence of Jesus that we honor and receive this day, he also said this:
“The authentic sense of the Eucharist is that it becomes the school of active love for my neighbor. If authentically received, Eucharist MUST make us grow in awareness of one another.”
As we celebrate this great gift and revel in the mystery of God’s presence in our midst, may we also remember to embrace the total experience and command of the Lord Jesus at the Last Supper: TO RECEIVE CHRIST AND THEN TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST for one another.