Saint Vincent Archabbey
Body & Blood of Christ
The Body and Blood of Christ,
Mark 14: 12–16 and 22–26
The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, which we call the Eucharist, is not just one of the seven Sacraments. It is the supreme Christian Sacrament and it is presented as such in all the Gospels. Mark makes it clear that Jesus instituted this Sacrament during a Passover meal, which in turn re-enacts the central Exodus event in the history of Israel. For Jesus, this Sacrament interprets his own dying and rising as the definitive Exodus—the supreme act of liberation from bondage—now intended for all people and for all time. This represents for us, therefore, the ultimate liberation from sin and death … and therefore from the bondage of guilt and fear and despair.
In this profoundly symbolic action at the Last Supper, Jesus reveals to his disciples the meaning of his imminent death and resurrection. He will not be dying as a misguided idealist, who loses everything at the end and who is believed by some naïve persons to have been somehow victorious. Rather, he is one who freely gives his life for others and whose love leads directly to his resurrection, since God cannot ignore such generous and unselfish love.
The earlier readings in today's liturgy, taken from the Book of Exodus and the Letter to the Hebrews, make it clear that participation in this Sacrament implies a solemn covenant, by which we commit ourselves to the kind of unselfish love that we see in the life and death of Jesus.
It is important to take seriously the words of Jesus about the reality of his presence among us in the Eucharist. It is a mistake, however, to think that the profound symbolic meaning of this Sacrament is in any way incompatible with its reality as the very Body and Blood of the Lord. In fact, if the reality alone is emphasized, there is always the danger of a simplistic and magical understanding of this Sacrament.
When we truly appreciate the symbolic and universal meaning of the
Eucharist, we will see it, not only as the supreme example of the love of Jesus, but also as a claim on all who receive it to make that unselfish love the central feature of their own lives. In other words, we must by all means reverence this Sacrament and receive it with great devotion, but it is even more important to live its meaning when we return to our workaday lives. Receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord and continuing to be self-centered and insensitive at home or at work is clearly a serious contradiction.
It is very difficult, of course, to be truly and consistently dedicated to unselfish service. When we receive the Eucharist with profound awareness of its true meaning we experience the reality of God's love for us and, as that experience deepens, we become ever more free to be the kind of loving presence in our world that Jesus calls us to be.
The importance of all this becomes clear when we realize that our participation in the victory of Jesus will ultimately depend on how well we have lived his message of love and concern for others. In other words, in the end it will be the quality of our loving that will be decisive and not just the frequency of our reception of the Eucharist. It is precisely that dedication to unselfishness in all we do that will enable us to join Jesus in his glorious resurrection. Honoring and receiving the Eucharist will surely help us to live in that way, but it is our loving care and concern for others that will make the Eucharist victorious in our lives.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ,
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Two weeks ago we ended the Easter Season with the Solemnity of Pentecost, followed by the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, and today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. These three Solemnities provide us with the lens through which we gaze at Jesus as both human and Divine, the Second person of the Trinity, and as being truly present body and blood, soul and divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The Gospel for this weekend takes us back to the Upper Room and the Last Supper. It begins with the disciples asking Jesus where to celebrate the Passover. His response tells us quite a bit. First he sends two disciples into the city and tells them that they will meet a man who is carrying a water jar.
He goes on to tell us that had a plan and made arrangements. They are to follow the man carrying the water jar and he will take them to the pre-arranged place.
A man carrying a water jar was not a normal sight, fetching water was women's work and a man doing it would no doubt stand out. Jesus' plan was well thought out so the two disciples would be able to find the man and make the final preparations. Jesus has a well thought out plan for each of us to attain eternal life that involves following his instructions.
Finally the man will lead them to a house that has a "large Upper Room furnished and ready." It is in this room that Jesus has the Last Supper with his Apostles, and during this Supper he institutes the Eucharist by taking bread and wine and making it his Body and Blood.
The Catechism describes the Eucharist as "the source and summit of the Christian Life.” CCC 1324
This is what we celebrate in a special way on this Solemnity. It is the sacrifice of Jesus that is also a wonderful gift to us that nourishes us on our journey from life here to eternal life. Just as Jesus prepared the upper room for His Last Supper, we would do well to prepare ourselves for receiving the Eucharist. Taking the description from this Gospel our souls should be "large, furnished and ready.” Cleaning the clutter of sin and distraction makes room for the presence of Christ to work within us. We need a regular "house cleaning” to make sure that things in our life are in order and that we haven't pushed the Lord to some corner of our lives. Give the Lord a lot of room to work within us. We furnish the room with prayers, good works, being part of a Catholic Community, and study. These four elements help us to grow in holiness and are the right furnishings into which we receive the Eucharist. Finally, we should be ready. This involves being mindful of who it is we receive in the Eucharist and of preparing ourselves to welcome him. We are ready when we are attentive to his presence and humbly approach him in order to receive him. The Body and Blood of Christ is a gift we can receive almost every day, and because of this we can take the beauty and grandeur for granted. May we grow in mindfulness of the real presence of Christ in this most Blessed Sacrament.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.