Happy Fathers’ Day to everyone reading this who has fathered physically, or in other ways the children of this world–thanks for all you do! We need you to keep doing it! (:
My friends, the feast of Corpus Christi can be a day that either leaves us “settled” in religious reverie or “unsettled” as we consider its true meaning, which is really all about taking it to the next level. Let me explain.
Corpus Christi, Latin for “Body of Christ” has been, in the past, all about worshipping the body and blood of the human Jesus as we receive him in communion. I think for too long, many in the Catholic church have been satisfied to simply “worship” this mystery and leave it at that, when really this feast calls us to so much more.
As we know, Jesus was always shaking things up, stretching his followers to be more, see more, understand more, see their lives as “gift” given to share, to make life better for all. Let’s look at what exegetes have to say.
Diane Bergant, scripture scholar, states that “blood symbolized life itself”—that the significance of the cup of wine is not in its material substance, but in its incorporation of the partakers in the blood of Christ—in other words, the sharing of it with the community is where the true goodness/the benefit lies. So, if the feast of Corpus Christi leaves us “settled” in simply, worshipping the body and blood, then perhaps we have missed the point of this feast. Jesus never asked us to worship him in the elements of bread and wine, but to care for his body in the world.
Exegetes continue, breaking bread with someone was looked at in the time of Jesus as a sign of forming community with them. Jesus raised that to a new level in saying that sharing Eucharistic bread forms us into the body of Christ.
In other words, when we eat regular food, we incorporate that food into our very selves. The opposite is true with the Eucharist, Bergant says. When we partake of Eucharistic bread; we are transformed into Eucharistic bread, meaning—we become Jesus’ body for the world. This is important, let me repeat that! So, you see, this is indeed another level—receiving communion is not just between us and God, but us—God (think Jesus) and our world. Receiving communion is a community action for the larger community.
In the Gospel from John, Bergant tells us that “flesh and blood,” on a literal level, was a common way of characterizing a human being—when applied to Jesus, speaking of Jesus’ flesh and blood is our proclamation of faith in the incarnation—the fact that Jesus became one of us to have a human experience, thus telling us how much we are loved by our God—that God in Jesus would go to that extent to make sure that we creatures know how important we are to the Creator. Jesus became one of us, flesh and blood through his entire life; not just when he gave us communion, but when we make conscious efforts to live as Jesus did for our world!
I think it would be good for us to try and put ourselves at Jesus’ last supper with his family and friends and really attempt to tap into all that was going on for him, in his humanity, all that was before him in his journey to be Christ. Most of us can only really get our heads around the human component—Jesus’ earthly family, his friends, his disciples. What was he truly thinking, feeling when he said, “Whenever you share this meal, the simple elements of bread and wine, think of me!” Remember, if you can, that when you take these elements, simple gifts from the earth; they are in effect my life-blood—my body, all that I have taught you, all that I have given you, by way of example, by way of my life among you. When you take all of this in and let it change your life, you do become my body—given to you that you then can continue my work in the world.
And friends, this is why Jesus could truly say, “You will do greater things than I!” He truly believed and trusted that his family and friends, his followers would continue his work in the world.
That’s where all of us come in. We can’t let what we do here at Mass end here—this is only the beginning. The only real purpose for the Eucharist, in the end, is that it be a launching pad for all that comes next. We are strengthened here by the love that the Eucharist signifies to go forth into our daily lives and make a difference.
This past weekend, as you know, Robert and I travelled to Cape Girardeau, Missouri for a family wedding. Our nephew, Matthew, my brother’s son married Amy. It was a wonderful family event, filled with joy for the new couple, wishes of love and all good for them, times to share what is going on in the individual lives of extended family members and promises to continue the love and communication, the life and fun that we all experienced at this event.
Just as Jesus, our brother, knew such events in his earthly life among us; he brought his very best to his last supper with all those he most cared about. On some level, that is what I felt our family brought to this event last weekend. For all that hasn’t gone right in my family of origin—on this weekend; we were willing to set that aside and be family in all the ways that we could. To me this is what Eucharist is all about!
When we do this my friends, within our families, within our city, on a national level to make our country better for all, on a global level for our world, we are truly Jesus’ body and blood in the world—and it all begins here each time we celebrate the Mass. Let it be so! Amen? Amen!