June 7, 2015 – The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ; more commonly called Corpus Christi in the Church. The full Latin name of this feast is Corpus et Sanguis Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. We have celebrated the feast for almost 800 years. The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament was originally established in 1246 by Bishop Robert deThorte of Liege, Belgium, at the suggestion of St. Juliana of Mont Carvillon. Pope Urban extended it to the Universal Church in 1264. One of the special aspects of it is that St. Thomas Aquinas composed the office.
At the center of all our Masses is the Eucharist. Naturally the readings on this Sunday focus on the importance of and the centrality of the Eucharist in the Church. The first reading from the Book of Exodus speaks of the people’s Covenant with God. As Moses is the defining force behind this covenant, it is most often called the Mosaic Covenant. However, having a covenant with the Lord is not quite enough. Although the people agreed to it, it required more from them than simple agreement. Each of us has a Covenant with the Lord also. However, living out that covenant can be a challenge for us. We often speak of stewardship, and indeed that commitment to stewardship is a real indication of our covenant with God. Nevertheless, we must live it out through actions for it to be fully effective.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, our second reading, refers to a new covenant. “For this reason he (Jesus Christ) is the mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.” This new covenant comes to us through Christ’s sacrifice for us. Paul refers to Jesus’ sacrifice as being “unblemished” or perfect. It is this perfect sacrifice which brings us salvation and which we commemorate through the Eucharist at every Mass. It is perfect in the sense that it was voluntary, rational, and completely motivated by love. As we approach the Eucharist, we need to think of all of this, and in humility we receive the real body and blood of Christ. Then we are expected to take that gift and live it out among those in our families, our communities, and our workplaces with the same love that motivated it.
Our Gospel reading from Mark recounts the Last Supper, which was also their Passover meal. At the Passover meal it was traditional for the head of the family (in this case Jesus) to lift the bread and to say something to the effect “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let everyone who hungers come and eat; let everyone who is needy come and eat the Passover meal.” Jesus, in the act of establishing the Eucharist, takes that tradition and passes it entirely through Himself, the Lamb of God. He gives everything a new meaning, the meaning that we recognize on this Feast of Corpus Christi. Jesus says “Take it; this is my body.” The Eucharist is not forced upon us; it is something we freely “take” but it is also something that we must receive and we must act upon our reception of it. Jesus calls us to eat of His Body and Blood as a sign of our new Covenant with God. As Catholics we need to never forget that according to our Catechism “the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.” (#1324)