• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ - Corpus Christi (B)

“This is My Body. This is My Blood.”

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 81(80):17 — “He fed them with the finest wheat and satisfied them with honey from the rock.”

First Reading: Ex 24:3-8 — “This is the blood fo the covenant that the Lord has made with you.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18 — “I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.”

Second Reading: Heb 9:11-15 — “The blood of Christ will cleanse our consciences.”

Sequence: Lauda Sion“Laud, O Zion, your salvation … Laud with hymns of exultation, Christ your King and Shepherd true …”

Alleluia: Jn 6:51 — “Alleluia, alleluia. I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord; whoever eats this bread will live forever. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Mk 14:12-16, 22-26 —“This is My Body. This is My Blood.”

Communion Antiphon: Jn 6:57 — “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in me and I in him, says the Lord.”

George Gamow, a Russian-born scientist, was a well-known physicist who came to live in the United States in 1983. He worked on the Manhattan Project ... on the atomic and hydrogen bombs ... and on quantum theory ... as a fellow priest and good friend used to say ... he was a rather bright fellow. He won the Nobel Prize. But he was not as bright as could have been. Once he recorded in his biography that he once took a consecrated Host to a laboratory. He wanted to see whether the bread had been really changed into the Body of Christ. After performing his tests, he did not see a physical change at all ... it seemed to be the same to him and so he gave up all of his religious belief and practice. He is just one of the many Catholic Christians I could cite, who in the course of their lifetimes, have abandoned belief in the Real Presence. And of course, that’s a tragedy.

Flannery O’Connor, the noted Catholic writer of the mid-twentieth century, tells a different story. She took a Protestant lady friend with her to Mass a few times and after a short time, the Protestant lady decided to become a Catholic. Asked why she reached this decision, the lady answered, “Well, the sermons were so terrible, I knew there must be something to make them want to come back.”

In many places today, there are processions with the Blessed Sacrament. Fourteen years ago, I was trying to learn Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico and from Trinity Sunday, last weekend, to Corpus Christi, today there was continuous Eucharistic Adoration in the cathedral … 24/7. During the Vigil for Corpus Christi, there was a procession of the Blessed Sacrament around the cathedral and the town, followed by Benediction, began the Mass. And as I recall there were thousands of people in attendance all carrying red gladiolas and when I went to the cathedral often that week, there were at least 100 people at all different times in the pews during that week of Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

For us who believe, this power of the Eucharist to attract people is justification enough to believe in the Real Presence. In fact, the Eucharistic power is as real to us as is the power of gravity for physicists. The Church is and should continue to be our laboratory of faith.

When we focus our eyes and ears on the Consecration ... we bow our heads in adoration and reverence ... or at least we should. It’s not a time for movement ... it’s not a time to decide you need to go to the restrooms or to be looking at the bulletin. And as I say that, consider this: there is another consecration and transformation after those words are spoken. It’s the transformation of the congregation. In the Third Eucharistic Prayer, which I’ll use today, the priest prays these words right after the Memorial Acclamation ... “Grant that we who are nourished by His Body and Blood may be filled with the Holy Spirit and become One Body, One Spirit in Christ.” … the other Eucharistic prayers essentially say the same thing using similar words.

This second transformation and consecration expresses the ultimate reason and purpose for the first. The whole purpose of the consecration that takes place on the altar is for the sake of the consecration in the pews. Saint Thomas Aquinas, who composed the lovely hymn in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, “Lauda Sion,” which comes after the second reading, expresses it concisely in these words, “The purpose of the Sacrament of the Eucharist is to achieve unity among the members of the Body of Christ.”

In other words, the Body on the Altar is for the sake of the Body in the Pews ... wasn’t that what Christ did on the cross? ... He didn’t do it for Himself ... He did it for US. We are told by St. Paul that the bread on the altar is food for the one body of Christ … we are that body. Food of course is the whole theme of this feast. I have another retired priest friend not too far from here who regularly preached, “It’s all about the food.” The first reading takes us back to Moses … who offered sacrifice and sprinkled the people with it … establishing a covenant with them … it is one of the first and many foreshadowings of the Eucharist in the Old Testament.

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. We should feel great joy for the privilege of receiving Christ at every Eucharist and we are invited to consider what this feast means to us. Here is the heart of our identity as Catholics. We are a Eucharistic people, fed by the Real Presence of Jesus who poured Himself out for us at the Last Supper. St. Angela of Foligno observes that whenever we attentively consider what goes on in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ’s love for us “transforms the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.” Today on this Feast of Corpus Christi my question to you is this ... Does it really?

The fire of love and gratitude is kindled in the eucharistic community. Saint Mark’s Gospel recounts the Last Supper. Jesus makes a new covenant sealed with His own Body and Blood. The unleavened bread and wine traditionally shared during the Passover meal were transformed into His Body, which would be broken, and His Blood, which would be shed for many. Jesus makes His Real Presence available to His friends before He passes over to his Father. We are the descendants of that first Christian community gathered at table to share in this new covenant that binds us together.

Practicing the compassion of Christ kindles the fire of love and gratitude. When Jesus gave Himself to all who believed in Him ... He revealed the depth of His compassion. He would lay down His life out of love for us. He would hold nothing back, but offered himself completely so that His life became ours and we became part of one another. What does that mean to you? To practice Christ’s compassion is to be acutely aware of how we are involved with one another. How do we do that? Today we can show our gratitude for the Eucharist by being compassionate toward those who especially attracted the compassion of Jesus ... the dejected poor ... the lonely sick ... the long-term prisoner ... the blind or deaf or disabled ... and those who are victimized by hatred or bullying. We can recognize that we ... and they ... are already one ... in Christ.

The fire of love and gratitude is kindled in our reception of Holy Communion. The Oblate priest-author Ronald Rolheiser reminds us, “It’s important that you receive Eucharist ... you don’t take it.” Think about it ... Gifts are intended to be gratefully received, not assertively grabbed ... So, it is my hope that today on the Feast of Corpus Christi ... the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ … that we who are about to receive that Body and Blood of Christ should give thanks that we are one in the community of faith. Our hearts should desire his coming ... both now and in the final Passover of heaven.

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