The Body and Blood of Christ
Today we focus in on the Eucharist. This is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.
“The Body of Christ.” We have heard the priest, deacon or Eucharistic Minister say that to us ever since we first started receiving communion. But what exactly does it mean? It means more than flesh and blood, bones and sinews, veins and arteries. After all, when the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, became flesh, but he didn’t simply become five to six feet of sheer matter, organic chemicals. He became a person. He was like us in all things but sin, as the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer proclaims.
When Jesus walked the roads of Palestine, he was not a Middle Eastern robot, triggered by a remote control located in heaven. Jesus was a real human being. He learned by experience how to shape an idea, how to talk in Aramaic. He learned by living when anger was justified and when it was not justified. He wept over the Holy City Jerusalem that had become anything but holy. He wept over the death of his friend, Lazarus. He knew what it was like to become hungry and tired, to be called a madman by his relatives, to have no place to rest his head. And when he died, he did not pass away serenely with caring relatives praying as he drifted off into heaven. He died in agony, one so terrible that the mere thought of it changed his sweat to blood the night before.
Simply enough, when we say “the Body of Christ,” we mean a human being, intelligent, sensitive emotional and loving. When we say “the Body of Christ,” we mean someone so like us that for at least thirty years his own townspeople saw nothing special about him. That “body” came out of a mother’s body, “grew in wisdom and years,” preached his Father’s word and died on the cross, all for one reason. Never in his thirty-three years of life was there ever a moment when he could not have declared, “This Body is given for you.”
That is what the Incarnation of the Son of God, Christmas, is about. Jesus’ body and his blood are given for you, and given for me. But why? St. Paul says the answer is easy: “He loved me and gave himself up for me.” He loves you and gives himself up for you. He loved us so much that he was willing to be born as we are born, grow as we grow, die as we will die, although with a far greater agony than we would ever wish on anyone. Jesus loves us so much when he left us, he left his risen body with us under the appearance of bread and wine. This is the body that we celebrate today, the sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, Jesus Christ, hidden indeed but remarkably real, for in the Eucharist we receive the Lord, body and blood, soul and divinity.
The Body and Blood are given for us. He is there and will be there till there is no more time in the world. But why? Pope Pius XII, the Pope of the 1940's and 50's put it this way: When we receive worthily, we are what we receive. We are transformed into Christ.
This is the love that we cannot fathom, “his body is given up for us, from Bethlehem to Calvary, from a stable to a cross, his body is for us. Even now, in high heaven or in a host, his body is for us.
“The Body of Christ,” “Amen.” “The Blood of Christ.” “Amen.” Jesus, the One from the Father, enters our bodies in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
The mission of the Christian, the reason for our being, yours and mine, is to make the presence of Christ a reality to the world. We cannot do this on our own. Life is too complicated. We are too complicated. I pods and X games, computers of every shape and size, cell phones that have removed peace from our lives, cars and bars, we are hostages to the society we have created. We run around with no time. How can we bring the Gospel, the Good News, to the world? The Good News can only flow through us when we become the one we are proclaiming. That is why he gave his body and blood for us. We are transformed into Christ because the world needs its Savior.
We have got to fight against the spiritual laziness that relegates the Eucharist to a sacramental, as though taking communion is on the same level as making the sign of the cross with Holy Water. We have to prepare to receive the Lord, not just in the prayers we say moments before Mass but in the life we lead the week before Mass. We have to celebrate the Presence within us, not just in the pews after communion but in the way we treat others, with the Kindness of the Lord.
We have to be mystics in a concrete world, for we have received the mystical to sanctify the world.
May the Eucharistic Gift, the Body and Blood of Christ, continue to feed us and lead us.