The Most Holy Body and  Blood of Christ

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Gio, 11 Giu 20 Lectio Divina - Anno A

1 Cor 10; 16-17, Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16, Jh 6 : 51-58

Today's celebration of the Body and Blood of the Lord originated in the Diocese of Liege, in 1246 as the feast of Corpus Christi. In the reforms of Vatican II, Corpus Christi was joined with the feast of the Precious Blood to become the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord. We celebrate today Christ's gift to us of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as the Church.

"The Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the God-man are really, truly, substantially, and abidingly present together with his soul and divinity because of the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This takes place in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass."

The Book of Deuteronomy is the record of Moses’ final words to the people of Israel, given at the end of their long journey through the desert, just before entering the Promised Land. Moses asks the people to remember God’s faithfulness and reaffirms God’s continuing covenant with his people. Remember how the Lord your God led you in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

Remembering is important, and God modeled that for us. God remembered his covenant with Israel, and that led him to save Noah and the other inhabitants of the ark and to promise never again to destroy all flesh by floods and to redeem his people from slavery in Egypt and to show compassion and to provide food. In other words, remembrance goes beyond bringing something from the past to mind. Remembrance leads to action to the response. 

Now God calls Israel to remember all that God has done for them and promises to bless them if they do and to punish them if they do not. They have enhanced their remembrance by foregoing leavened bread during Passover. This was, in part, to ensure that “the teaching of the Lord may be on your lips”. They were to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” and were to forego work on the Sabbath as an aid to remembrance. God called the Israelites to wear a fringe on their garments “so that when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and not follow the lust of your own heart and your own eyes”

For the Israelites, the greatest temptation of prosperity is that they will become focused on material things and forget Yahweh, who made their prosperity possible. A moral lesson emanating from this reading is that we should not forget God.

 In the second reading, St. Paul tries to explain the meaning of the Eucharistic words of Jesus. At the annual Passover celebration of the Jews, unleavened bread was eaten and wine was drunk. Jesus too follows the same pattern for his last supper. In his retelling of the event, Paul begins with the cup of wine that the disciples drank. With the shedding of his blood on the cross, he gives a new meaning to the age-old tradition of celebrating the Passover. The fact that Christians partake of one loaf of the Lord’s Supper points to the fact that they all belong to Christ, that they are one body in Christ.

Today, we celebrate the solemn feast of Corpus Christi. It is three feasts in one: the feast of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the feast of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the feast of the Real Presence of Jesus in this Sacrament. Corpus Christi is a doctrinal feast established for three purposes: First and foremost it is to give God collective thanks for Christ’s abiding presence with us in the Eucharist and to honor Him there; secondly to instruct the people in the Mystery, Faith and devotion surrounding the Eucharist, and thirdly to teach us to appreciate and make use of the great gift of the Holy Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and as a sacrifice. On this solemn feast, we are called above all to faith in the fact that the Eucharist, the Holy Communion of which we partake, is a reception of the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, whole and entire, in His glorified state. We do not partake in a symbol. The Eucharist is not a metaphor; it is truly the Lord. Neither is it a “piece” of His flesh; it is Christ, whole and entire. Scripture attests to this in many places.

In the three-year cycle of the Sunday liturgy, there is a different theme each year for this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. This year the theme is the Eucharist as our food and drink. Although we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the Church wants to emphasize its importance by a special feast, formerly called “Corpus Christi.” It was Pope Urban IV who first extended the feast to the universal Church.

Certainly, this passage reveals much about the Most Holy Eucharist, but it also reveals the strength of Jesus to speak the truth with clarity and conviction. Jesus was facing opposition and criticism. Some were upset and challenging His words. Most of us, when we find ourselves under the scrutiny and wrath of others, will back down. We will be tempted to be overly concerned about what others say about us and about the truth, we may be criticized for. But Jesus did exactly the opposite. He did not give in to the criticism of others.

Grant us we pray so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruit of your redemption.