Today, we in the U.S. celebrate Father’s Day. But also in the Church we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. We know very well why we celebrate Father’s Day. We want to honor the fathers in our lives, those who provided guidance and good example for us.
But let’s take a look at why we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ. Simply put, the Body and Blood of Christ represents the sacrifice that Jesus made for our salvation. His Body and Blood were poured out for us! It is just as Jesus says in our Gospel reading from John: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Jesus has given us His all out of love for us.
When we celebrate the Eucharist, we believe that we take that total gift of Jesus into ourselves in a special way, because we believe that Jesus’ Body and Blood is really present in the bread and wine we share. And so this day reminds us of Jesus’ gift of Himself and His Presence to us.
So what are we to do with Jesus’ gift? First, we give thanks. There is no way we can earn or pay back what Jesus has done for us! And no matter what may have been taken from us, neither no one nor no thing can take that away from us! The next thing we do is to give what we have been given in return. Jesus has given us Himself, and in turn we are to share the love of God we have in Jesus Christ, to the point of giving of ourselves. Is it not the gift of self that we note on Father’s or Mother’s Day? And as we grow in sharing the love of Jesus, we begin to see others with different eyes. In our second reading from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul writes: “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” The gift of Jesus is not only given for our individual redemption, it also ties us together.
Recognizing our connection with each other calls to mind the other aspect we mentioned above: Presence. Very often, when someone confesses that he or she has missed Mass, the penance I give is for the person to spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament, thank Jesus for His presence in his or her life, and ask Jesus how she or he is called to be present to Him and to others.
To be gift and to be present is our call in response to Jesus’ Body and Blood poured out for us. If we believe Jesus’ words that sharing in His Body and Blood give us life, we are called to help others see the gifts of their lives. Can we see how receiving this intimate gift of Jesus into ourselves compels us to go outside of ourselves? Jesus’ sacrifice is not made present for us just so we can savor the moment of experiencing His love, but to respond to it by getting other people to get in touch with how much Jesus loves them! Many of the people who heard Jesus may have recoiled at the thought of eating someone’s flesh and drinking his blood, but perhaps others recoiled at the thought of someone loving them so much to give His life for them! Fed by Jesus’ gift of Himself, may we bring others to His love and presence.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.