May 25: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Readings: Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; John 6:51-58
After celebrating the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity last Sunday focusing on the Trinity as a model of communion, this Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Sacrament of the Eucharist that signifies and brings about communion with Christ. The Solemnity originated in the diocese of Liege, Belgium in the 13th century at the request of Juliana of Liege, an Augustinian nun. On Corpus Christi, we celebrate our unity with Christ, who is the Body, and we his members. The Holy Eucharist by its very nature signifies the unity it is meant to bring about. We know that when there is unity in a family, there is a great sense of belonging and a sharing of life. Similarly, when there is harmony within a body, there is strength, joy and happiness. In the first reading of this Sunday, we are told of how God fed the Israelites with manna in the wilderness. The second reading speaks about the effects of sharing the Eucharist together. It brings about a communion with Christ and with one another. "The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in the one loaf". The Gospel reading focuses on the Eucharist as the bread of life. "Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world". Jesus is therefore our food and drink, giving us spiritual nourishment on our earthly journey. The Eucharist is a great sign of unity with Christ and with one another. We believe that in the Eucharist Jesus is truly present, body and soul. We also believe that by eating this heavenly food, we become one with Christ, sharing in his life, his purpose and mission. In the Eucharist we find true nourishment and source of eternal life. "Anyone who eats this bread will live forever".
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is much more remembered for its colorful procession of the Blessed Sacrament publicly proclaiming in song and prayer. The procession is a sacred moment of prayer and reflection on the mystery of Christ’s presence. Traditionally the procession at four different altars symbolizing the four corners of the world. At these altars, Benediction was offered. The procession then ended at the last altar. In Rome, the procession goes from the Basilica of Saint John Lateran to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, a distance of about one mile. This procession is a great sign of strength, as we openly express our faith in Christ's real presence among his people. In countries with oppressive regimes, the Church has sometimes used the Corpus Christi procession, as a sign of Christ's presence in the midst of his people in their struggle against injustice. The Eucharist thus becomes a real memorial of the sacrifice Christ has offered for the sins of many, and rose in order to bring hope to an oppressed people. The Eucharist empowers us to be prepared to offer ourselves for others after the example of Christ. The central message may be summed up in three points. 1) In the Eucharist, Christ reminds us of his enduring presence in our midst to strengthen us as we give witness to him; 2) The Eucharist is a great sign of unity with Christ and with one another, and thus we are sent to be instruments of that unity wherever we are; 3) In the Eucharist we become one with Christ, sharing in his life, his purpose and mission.
©2008 John M. Mbinda