June 14: The Body and Blood of Christ Year B
Readings: Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9: 11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The solemnity is also known in Latin as Corpus Christi to underline our unity (communion) with Christ - the Body, and we - his members. The Eucharistic celebration is the source of communion that finds its summit in the Holy Communion. While the Body and Blood of Christ nourish us spiritually, there is a tendency to forget and neglect the social justice dimension of the Eucharist. The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is an appropriate occasion to recall that aspect. On the Occasion of the Year of the Eucharist (October 2004 to October 2005), Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine said: “Can we not make this Year of the Eucharist an occasion for diocesan and parish communities to commit themselves in a particular way to responding to one of the many forms of poverty present in our world?” He cautioned us that “The criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged will be our mutual love and in particular our concern for those in need”. The Apostle Paul says that it is “unworthy” of a Christian community to partake of the Lord’s Supper amid division and indifference towards the poor (1 Cor 11:17-22, 27-34). Our Catechism (1397) tells us: “To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren”. Reflect on the number of times that we say the words “peace’” “unity” and “love” during Mass. The Eucharist sustains us as the body of Christ in the world following the mission of Jesus to the poor, to captives and to the oppressed to bring good news and a time of great favor (Luke 4: 16-19). The Eucharistic meal is shared equally by the faithful. There is no division. Yet we often leave this “meal” and divide/discriminate against our brothers and sisters according to the social categories in which we place them. Continued injustice, discrimination and other forms of structural injustices reflect either a lack of understanding of the social dimensions of the Eucharist or a lack of willingness to act on the social imperatives of the Eucharist. Our celebration of the Eucharist cannot be divorced from the injustices around us. “The Eucharist commits us to the poor” (Catechism, 1397). The US Catholic Bishops said in 2003, the Eucharist challenges us “to seek a place at the table of life for all God’s children”.
The Scriptures offer us a deeper understanding of the close relation between the Eucharist and this universal mission of the Church. Christ, "the living bread that came down from heaven" (Jn 6: 51; cf. Gospel Acclamation), is the only one who can satisfy the hunger of human beings of every time and in every corner of the earth. The miracle of the multiplication of loaves is a symbol of Christ’s compassion and love renewed every day at Holy Mass: through the ordained ministers, Christ gives his Body and his Blood for the life of humanity. And all those who receive the Eucharist with dignity become living instruments of the presence of God’s compassion, love, mercy and peace. The Gospel passage from Mark shows Jesus and his disciples at the last supper. “While they were eating” Jesus took bread and said, "Take it; this is my Body... This is my blood of the covenant", and gave them to eat and to drink. In this act Jesus sealed God’s covenant with his own blood, not only to give us an example, but also to be our food and our drink on our journey of faith to the Father. The Eucharist is therefore a great sign of unity and communion with Christ and with one another. We believe that in the Eucharist Jesus is truly present, body and soul. We believe that by eating this heavenly food, we become one with him, sharing in his life, his strength, his purpose and mission. Corpus Christi is much more remembered for its colourful procession. But this too is a great sign of the social justice dimension of the Eucharist. During the apartheid regime in Namibia, the Church there used the Corpus Christi procession, as a sign of Christ's presence in the midst of his people in their struggle against injustice. What message do we take home? 1) The Eucharist is a real memorial of the sacrifice Christ offered for the liberation of everything that oppresses human beings, but above all liberation from sin. 2) In situations of oppression, the Corpus Christi procession is seen by oppressive regimes as a symbol of threat to security, and thus those in power try to prevent it from taking place. 3) Our Sunday celebration of the Eucharist cannot be divorced from the injustices around us because at its very heart, the Eucharist is a proclamation of social justice.
©2009 John M. Mbinda