Feast of Corpus Christi

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Mass at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Albion

“This is my body… This is my blood.”  We have just heard these words in Saint Mark’s account of the Last Supper.  With these words, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. At every Mass, we hear the priest repeat these words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper. These words resonate with special power today as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. They lead us in spirit to the Upper Room on that first Holy Thursday night when, celebrating Passover with His disciples, Jesus mystically anticipated the sacrifice that was to be consummated the next day on the cross when His body would be broken and His blood poured out. 

By making the bread into His body and the wine into His blood, Jesus was anticipating His death. It was going to be a very brutal death – crucifixion. Jesus accepted this in His heart and He transformed what was going to happen into an action of love. What on the outside would be simply brutal violence, the crucifixion, from within Jesus became an act of total self-giving love. Jesus would love us to the end. He showed this when He instituted the Holy Eucharist and gave His Body and Blood to the Apostles at the Last Supper. He transformed hatred and violence into love. He transformed death into life. He made what was going to happen the next day a gift of Himself, of His Body and Blood.  He gave Himself to death to accomplish our redemption. The sacrifice of Jesus is an event we must never forget, which is why we have the Mass, so that we never forget. We do this in memory of Jesus. His sacrifice becomes present on the altar. The bread and wine are transformed into His Body and Blood. Jesus becomes present in our midst and we receive Him in Holy Communion. 

On the cross, Jesus established a new covenant with humanity. Notice that the words Jesus said over the cup at the Last Supper were essentially the same words Moses said in our first reading from the Book of Exodus. When Moses sprinkled the blood of the young bulls over the people, he said: “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you.” At the Last Supper, Jesus said: “This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.”  In the old covenant of Mount Sinai, with the sacrifice and sprinkling of the blood of the animals, the people became God’s people, the people of the covenant. In the new covenant, with the sacrifice and shedding of the blood of Jesus, the disciples became the new people of God, the Church. There is a continuity between the two covenants, but also a great difference, as we heard in the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews. No longer is the blood of goats and calves offered, but the blood of Jesus. The sacrifice of Jesus is infinitely more efficacious! We are saved by the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. At Mass, we share in this sacrifice of Jesus and we gain its fruits. The Eucharist is the sacrifice and the banquet of the new covenant. 

We don’t just receive Holy Communion and that’s the end. Jesus’ Body and Body is given to us so that we will be transformed, like the bread and wine was transformed. Christ’s dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outward to others by our living what we receive, by our living Eucharistic lives, lives of self-giving love. That’s what the Eucharist strengthens us to do. It’s the center of our lives as disciples of Jesus. It is nourishment for our Christian lives. The Eucharist educates us to love. To live a Eucharistic life is to love one another as Christ has loved us. The Eucharist teaches us to be sensitive to the needs of others, to be generous to the poor and needy, to be self-giving.  The Eucharist nourishes us to live the Gospel of Jesus. It gives us the grace we need to live as true disciples of Jesus. This leads to another transformation – the transformation of the world. When we live the Eucharist, we are participating in the mission of Jesus, overcoming evil with good. Christians fed by the Body and Blood of Jesus can transform the world if we live what we receive. 

It’s important to remember that at Mass, we celebrate not only the passion and death of Jesus, but also His Resurrection. The Eucharist is the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection. After all, since the beginning, Christians gathered to celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Death is mortally wounded by the Resurrection. The bread Jesus gives us at Mass is the bread of life. Jesus promises that He who eats this bread will live forever and He will raise Him up on the last day. The Eucharist is, in fact, an anticipation of the glory of heaven. It unites us, even now, to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints.

Through the Eucharist, Jesus is our constant companion in the journey of our life. We worship and adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. We receive him in Holy Communion. Transformed by Him, we go forth to give our lives in love, to be the Body of Christ in the world.