Today we celebrate the awesome feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is our Catholic belief that Jesus Christ is truly present in the bread and the wine we receive in Holy Communion. This belief is shared by all the Orthodox churches, the High Anglicans and many of the Protestant churches that sprung from the Reformation. We believe that Jesus Christ is present, body, blood, soul and divinity in the host we receive and we make that our act of faith with our ‘Amen’ as we receive the host.
At Christmas we acknowledged Jesus in the poor and homeless child in the stable in Bethlehem. At each Mass we acknowledge Jesus in a simple piece of bread but we believe that bread is more than bread, wine is more than wine, they are the body and blood of Jesus.
Jesus told the people of Carpharum, I am the living bread come down from heaven. Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you cannot have life in you. The people’s reaction to His words were,’ this is a hard saying and who can take it and we are told many of his followers walked with him no more.’
We believe Jesus is the bread of life without which we cannot survive as His followers.
I read somewhere about a situation in Germany after the second world war. It was a refugee camp for children who were completely lost – no mother or father, no family, no home, no country – they were just set adrift in the chaos of the time. In this camp good people tried to help them thru this trauma and restore them to physical and mental health. Most of these children suffered from nightmares, they would wake up screaming and shaking. One doctor came up with an idea. Before they went to bed they were given a good meal and then they were tucked into bed and each child was given a large piece of bread – they were told to save it until the next morning. The children began to sleep soundly after that because, after so many years of hunger and uncertainty as to their next meal, they finally had the assurance of food for the next day.
In a way this is what Jesus does for us as he offers us his flesh to eat, his blood to drink. This is how he answers the very prayer he taught us,’ give us this day our daily bread ‘He assures us that the nourishment we need when life becomes burdensome, when we worry and fret over important decisions, when we face family or personal conflicts, when we stumble and fall thru our own weaknesses, that nourishment will be there for us. Jesus gives himself totally to us but we might ask ourselves, do we give ourselves totally to him?
I celebrated a funeral for a long time parishioner. His sons and daughters were not much into the church and were looking at the possibility of skipping a funeral Mass and having a service at a funeral parlour. The choice was made for his children when the eldest son, while going through his father’s wallet found this prayer card. It read,’ dear master what a lesson for me. Even though the Mass is a re-offering of the sacrifice of the Cross, for me to please you at Mass I must offer it ‘in spirit and in truth’. The Mass must be my gift, my outward way of telling you of my love, otherwise I am bystander at Mass. I am like those people on Calvary who just watched it all out of curiosity. They stood there, my King, at that supreme moment in history and yet came away unaffected, unchanged, because they were only bystanders, not offerers. They didn’t worship in spirit and in truth. Lord the Mass is a beautiful act of love on your part to the Father. Let me make it my act of love too.
This prayer expresses a basic truth. The Mass involves an exchange of gifts. Take and eat, this is my body, take and drink, this is my blood. Our response is ‘Lord receive my gift to you – my total being, with all the blessing with which I have been blessed and all my self-inflicted wounds. As you give yourself to me I give myself to you. This must be our mindset, otherwise we are just bored, distracted bystanders uninvolved in the great exchange we celebrate.
As we continue to celebrate this feast of the body and blood of Christ we pray for ourselves and for each other that we be graced with the desire to give ourselves totally to Christ as he gives himself totally to us as he says ‘take and eat’ may our response be ‘this is my body, this is my life, I give it totally to you.