A Reflection by Fr. Kingsley for the Solemnity Of The Body And Blood Of Christ (Year B).
Exodus 24:3-8 – Hebrews 9:11-15 – Mark 14:12-16, 22-26.
In his ‘Catechism Stories’, Fr Drinkwater relates one of Napoleon’s conversations with his generals. Napoleon was the military leader whose aspirations for empire led to a succession of victories across Europe. One day, Napoleon’s generals were discussing and comparing their leader’s great battles, and one of them ventured to ask him when the happiest day of his life was. Was it at the Bridge of Lodi when, as a young general in the Italian Army, he wrested Lombardy from the Austrians; or was it the day of the shattering victory as the ‘glorious sun’ of Austerlitz which made him master of Europe? The Emperor looked thoughtful. ‘The happiest day of my life?” he said. “That was the day I made my First Holy Communion. I was near to God, then.”
Real joy can only be found in one’s participation in the life of God, the life which God gives us through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist … Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. In today’s Solemnity, we pay homage to the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. We celebrate and ponder the mystery of His unique gift to us. In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ gives us Himself to consume so that when we eat His Body and drink His Blood as transubstantiated bread and wine, He is in us and we are in Him.
Let me stress that the sacrament is the gift of Jesus Himself to us. The gift is no merely a symbolic re-enaction of a one-off scenario 2000 years ago. No, it is the gift of Christ’s permanent palpable presence with us today and forevermore. When the priest consecrates the bread and the wine, he brings heaven down to earth on the altar. Christ, who was preparing for His Passion, wanted to give His disciples a perpetual gift of His love for them and all of humanity, and of His everlasting presence with them. This is what He did at the Last Supper when He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which gives His divine life to all who partake of it. Do you know how powerful the Body and Blood of Christ are? Read those words again and marvel: He divinises us whenever we bear His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity within us!
In the 1st reading, we read about the covenant of God with the people of Israel, the covenant which was sealed with the blood of oxen. If the shedding of the blood of an animal was formally accepted as a powerful sign of the covenantal relationship between God and His people, how much more powerful is the active covenant written in the actual Blood of Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
In the 2nd reading, the writer to the Hebrews tells us of the use of animal blood for the attempted purification of sinners. The blood of a sacrificial animal was merely a sign or symbol of the forgiveness of sin following true repentance. The Blood of Christ shed for us, however, is the Real Deal in being efficacious for the forgiveness of sin and in restoring us to a relationship with Him in His perfection. The Blood of Christ was shed willingly once and for all who will acknowledge Him as Lord. The Blood of Christ restores us to a covenantal relationship with God Himself.
In the Gospel reading, we heard about the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, where Jesus gave us His Body and Blood as the sacrament of His salvific sacrifice He was going to make for us. Wherever and whenever the Holy Eucharist is confected, we are not present at a secondary or distant sacrifice of symbolic ritual; rather, we are present at the actual sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ. We are at Calvary.
Always cling to the Holy Eucharist! It possesses the power to draw you closer and closer to God in an ever-deepening relationship. In the Holy Eucharist, we find forgiveness and purification to help us grow in the life of grace. When we partake of Him worthily, Christ gives us the grace of Holiness by enabling the power of the Holy Spirit to work effectively within us.
Whenever the Holy Mass is offered, we are gathered like The Twelve around the Lord, to eat His Body and drink His Blood, and to keep this as a perpetual memorial of Him. The word ‘memorial’ here is not to be understood in terms of a graveyard memorial or a tombstone. We treasure the memories of our loved ones who are departed, of course, but Our Lord is not dead. He is no distant memory. He is risen. He is present. The word in the original text translated as ‘memorial’ is ‘anamnesis’ which means ‘to make present’. In the Holy Eucharist, His sacrifice for us is ‘made present’. We are called to be in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Whenever we partake of the Eucharist, we become that which we eat – the Body of Christ.
As pilgrims on the road of life, we suffer from pangs of hunger for this and that, but the greatest hunger of all is the yearning to find the meaning of life. No earthly bread can satisfy those pangs, but the Holy Eucharist gives us the satisfaction that we can get nowhere else – the fulfilment of our lives and communion with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit through the re-presentation of the sacrifice of God the Son.
Our participation in the Holy Eucharist calls us to the mission of being in communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It calls us to the duty of forgiveness of others for His sake. When you do this (1Cor23ff) – when you partake in the Eucharistic sacrifice and live the Eucharistic life – Jesus says, do this in memory of me (Lk 22:19). Amen. God bless you.