The Most Holy Body and Blood
of Jesus Christ (Corpus Christi)
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
We are connected through God in ways we do not understand and cannot comprehend. St. Paul tried to explain that to the Corinthians in eloquent letters comparing our inter-connection to an actual human body, but I wonder whether the message sunk in then or whether it has yet sunk in 2000 years later.
WE are the Body and Blood of Christ. Therefore, when we receive communion we receive Christ and we also become more deeply a member of Christ’s Body and Blood, which includes everyone else – living and dead, whatever ethnicity, class, gender, age, or status, whatever degree of sinfulness or grace. We visibly remember and enact the understanding that everyone God created and loves is integral to our very body and flows with our very lifeblood. And when Mass ends we are sent out to live in the world as if we actually believe it.
The sacrificial blood that sealed the first covenant pales in comparison to the sacrificial blood that seals the everlasting covenant. The first covenant was one of obedience; the everlasting covenant is one of self-sacrificial love. The first covenant drew boundaries and cast unbelievers out; the everlasting covenant draws people in, serving and forgiving everyone. The first covenant embodied the letter of the law; the everlasting covenant embodies the Spirit.
We too often live under the first covenant. For instance, Jesus was never one for strict purity, yet we have turned the consecrated elements into strictly pure objects that can only be received by those in a state of grace. Did Jesus’ life model that for us, or did his words, actions, and sacrifice of his own body and blood indicate that God’s desire for purity is an unending desire for pure love? At the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist we celebrate, there was no litmus test for a state of grace or worthiness to receive. Jesus offered his precious Body and Blood to Judas who betrayed him, Peter who denied him, Thomas who doubted him, Matthew the publicly despised tax collector, and James and John who were sometimes far more interested in their own status in the heavenly kingdom than in bringing God’s reign to earth. In fact, the early church taught that receiving the Eucharist was an opportunity to be cleansed of offenses and a means of healing the soul (a belief we proclaim at every Mass before we come to the table).
God’s passion is for inclusion, for reaching out to the margins, the broken, the impure, and those whom the powerful deem unimportant. To use Jesus’ images, God longs to gather her chicks under her wings like a mother hen, bring every sheep into the fold, drop the first stone before throwing it, and extend profound compassion and forgiveness without condition. Our highest calling as members of the Body and Blood of Christ is to live the self-sacrificial love that membership entails. For it is love that saves, love that redeems, love that unifies, and love that defines us as disciples of Jesus Christ. We only imperfectly participate in the sacrifices that Jesus’ brand of love demands.
Jesus asked his disciples whether they were willing to drink of the cup from which he drinks. In trembling and fear, I fall on my knees and admit that too often, I am not. May God increase my capacity for pure love, my vision to see all people in the communion I receive, and the courage to go live it out despite the cost it will inevitably exact.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.