For the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of being one of multiple teachers that prepare the grade twos of the parish for First Communion. Without a doubt, this is one of my favourite sacraments to teach, because I can share my joy of the Eucharist with the children. Every year, I take the children on a tour of the church, and one of the first places is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Their jaws drop in amazement when I describe to them what is contained within the tabernacle. The kids may not fully understand the full extent of transubstantiation but they do know, and are amazed that Jesus is in that tabernacle.
I can remember one of the first times I heard of the feast of Corpus Christi when I was a kid. I was sitting down in a pew of the church with my family and the parish priest at the time had come forward to me and said, “ Hi Michael, do you know what feast day it is today?” I replied, “No” and the priest had replied, “ It is a feast called Corpus Christi. It is the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.” Now of course there was more to that conversation and it was said so the child me could understand. As a child (and still) I was (and am) totally obsessed with everything church related, and from that moment I instantly became interested in the feast day and even more interested in the Body and Blood of Christ.
Today we celebrate the amazing, jaw dropping feast day of Corpus Christi. “Corpus” latin for “body” and “Christi” which is latin for “Christ.” So today we celebrate the feast of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Todays feast day was instituted officially in 1264 when Pope Urban the IV issued a papal bull called "Transiturus” which made the Feast of Corpus Christi an official Feast day, that is to be celebrated by the Universal church.
After reading through todays readings, each one speaks of blood. In the First reading, we are described of a scene where oxen and burnt offering were sacrificed to God on behalf of the people, and their conversion to God. We hear that Moses had taken the blood from the oxen and sprinkled it upon the people. This was to mark the people spiritually clean and to mark as a sign of the eternal sign between God and Israel. Over time, for the Jewish people, this had become known as” the blood of the covenant.”
In the New Testament readings that are proclaimed we hear that “Christ is the mediator of the new covenant” ( Heb 9:15) Christ has died once and for all, so that we no longer need to sacrifice an animal or food. He is the ultimate sacrifice; the sacrificial lamb that we slain. He died so that, we might have life. In dying, Christ set a new covenant for everyone that believes in him. With his blood he has stained our lives. With his blood he has released us from our sins and marked us clean.
Before Christ left the earth, he instituted the Holy Eucharist in our lives. He himself did not introduce a new meal that should be celebrated. But rather he redefined what was already known to the people. The Gospel of Mark states that “ On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed…” (Mk 14:12). This was the beginning of the Passover meal that the Jews had celebrated. But ever since Jesus’ last super, the Jewish Passover was never celebrated with the same meaning, for those who believed in Christ. Christ had redefined the meaning and significance of the Passover meal, because he had come to institute a new way of living, and he completed it, by sharing is Body and Blood at the last supper.
One of my favourite images that St Paul paints is in 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 when he describes that there are many parts to a body, and each part relies on each other. If one part is missing, or hurt, so is the rest of the body. St Paul goes on to describe that we are all part of Christs’ body and we are all one in him. We as Catholics are united, through our common baptism, to Christ. Like the Physical host at Mass is made to be easily broken, however it is with the appearance of multiple pieces of bread united in one. This is the church visible. We are all united in Christ, even though we are all different people. When we participate in Mass, we as a gathered people, lose our individualism and our earthly identities and take on a new identity, the identity of the Body of Christ.
To fully participate in this identity and mystery, we must have our own relationship with Christ. Our relationship with him was started on his accord, when he died on the cross. His relationship with us started when he called us, and we answered his call in our life. Through the waters of baptism we are given a stamp on our soul of this relationship. Our relationship with Christ is a relationship that is built and strengthened at Mass and is lived and made evident in our daily lives. It is a relationship of conversion; a daily conversion on our part. It is a conversion where we continuously return to the Lord and accept the ways of the Lord, and not the ways of sin.
In the Eucharist we are fed. In the receiving of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ we are given strength, a new identity, and the assurance of our faith. The Body and blood of Christ is the food our souls that lead us to the heavenly banquet. The Bread and wine we receive is only a taste of the heavenly feast that is to come in heaven. It is through our acceptance, belief and response that we are able to fully receive the taste here on earth; and to enjoy it to the maximum. The Body and Blood of Christ, is the food which builds our relationship with Him and His Father.
On this feast of Corpus Christi may we come to the Altar of God, and experience the true joy and awesomeness that is contained within the Mass. May we come with an open heart to accept Christ in our lives, and to accept the unity that only he can offer. May we come to the Passover meal which Christ once and for all completed upon the cross so that we might have life. May we come, and while we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, respond with a heart filled “Amen” so has to truly share with Christ our response to His free gift to us- His Body and Blood!
Have a great Sunday!