The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
May 29, 2016
Gen 14: 18-20,
1 Cor 11: 23-26
Lk 9: 11b-17
Mass Readings: Text |Audio
The Lord’s body
Today, we celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi, a feast dedicated to and highlighting the centrality of the Eucharist in our life. It was Pope Urban IV, who made it a feast for the entire Latin Rite in 1264, based on the visions of Juliana of Liège, an Augustinian nun. This feast gives us an opportunity to focus our attention on the Eucharist, which is essential and fundamental to Catholic faith and life, and to explore its deeper meanings. What is the Eucharist? The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistia which means thankfulness, thanksgiving, or gratitude. Therefore, literally this feast can be understood as the opportunity to thank God collectively for Christ’s abiding presence amidst us in the form of consecrated bread and wine.
Beyond this literal, plain and tangible understanding of the Eucharist, are there any deeper or better perceptive of the Corpus Christi? St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “All who eat and drink in an unworthy manner, without discerning the Lord’s body; eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1Cor 11:29-30). According to St Paul, the Eucharist, being a life giving sacrament instituted by Jesus, if misused, could bring about the opposite effect. Therefore, to “discern” and arrive at the proper understanding of “the Lord’s body” we need to ask what Jesus meant by his body and blood in the first place. As St Paul says, this is something indispensable for our spiritual strength, heath and life everlasting. A closer reading of the Eucharistic discourse in John 6 will provide us some useful hints. There are two main reasons behind the institution of the Eucharist: (1) the intention of Jesus to be with us even after his death and resurrection until the end of time (Mt 28:20). Jesus has clearly indicated that, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (2) Jesus said that he came that we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53).
If we approach the Eucharist with a materialistic mentality we may lose sight of the mind and the spirit of Jesus. Using various metaphors Jesus tried to make his disciples understand how he wished them to participate in his life so that they can be his messengers to the ends of the world. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (Jn 15:5). By projecting Christ as the head of the body (Col 1:18) St Paul uses another powerful analogy to remind Christians of their oneness with Christ. In a community, like parts of a body, the constituent individuals allow themselves to be governed by their leader to attain a common end. Likewise, the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ, is guided and governed by Christ the head. St. Paul makes this clear and explicit in his letter to Ephesians 4:4-13. The idea of this Eucharistic communion or the mystical body can be summarized as follows:
The members of the Church are bound together by a supernatural life communicated to them by the Spirit of Christ (Jn 15:5). Christ is the centre and source of life to whom all are united. It is he who endows each one with gifts fitting to his or her position in the body (Jn 15:7-12). As and when the individuals make use of their God-given talents and blessings the Church grows and spreads far and wide. Through self-realization the individual Christians achieve their God-realization and advance in their likeness of Christ (Jn 15:13-15). On account of this union the Church is the fullness or complement (pleroma) of Christ (Eph 1:23). It forms one whole with him. As a result of his encounter with the risen Lord on his way to Damascus (Act 9:5) St Paul even speaks of the Church as “Christ” (1Cor 12:12). He was awakened to the amazing realization that torturing the Church is torturing Christ. This union between head and members is conserved and nourished by the Holy Eucharist. Through this “communion” our incorporation into the Body of Christ is outwardly symbolized as well as inwardly actualized. St Paul makes it very clear, “We being many are one bread, one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (1Cor 10:17). Therefore, our daily lives must reflect and proclaim the Eucharist we partake. The divine mission of salvation is not to be concluded with the death of Jesus on the Cross, but has to continue until the end of time. St Paul wrote to Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings” (Col. 1:24). Each day, through our self-sacrifice; pouring out our lives in service and in love of others we too have to fill-in what Christ has left for us as our share in his saving ministry. Then only our Eucharistic celebration will turn out to be a vivid expression of our Catholic belief and a fundamental trait of our Catholic life.
Dr. Kurian Perumpallikunnel CMI