THEME: THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
READINGS: Deut. 8:2-3, 14-16/ 1 Cor. 10:16-17/ John 6:51-58
Solemnity of Corpus Christi
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, so much goes into disinfecting the interior of a church building as well as its external environment before we could congregate for worship. In addition, we have to wash our hands with soap under running water, sanitize our hands, wear facemasks and observe social distancing. All these protocols are to be observed so that we are not infected by the coronavirus.
Beloved, if we put into so much effort and investment in order to prevent ourselves from that which is detriment to our physical health, then we should put in much more effort to prepare our hearts and minds to receive Holy Communion which gives us inestimable spiritual benefits.
Furthermore, though we cannot see the virus with our naked eyes, we do so much to avoid its infection. Similarly, though we may not see the Lord whom we receive in Holy Communion, let us put in a lot of effort to get our hearts and minds sanitized before receiving Him.
Again, only under the appropriate microscope can we see the coronavirus. Similarly, only under the microscope of faith can we appreciate the body and blood of Christ received in Holy Communion. This is a key lesson of the Solemn Feast of Corpus Christi which we celebrate today. The Latin term ‘Corpus Christi’ means the body of Christ; and it is short form of the expression, ‘the body and blood of Christ’.
Beloved, in Holy Communion, we received not just blessed bread and blessed wine nor simply symbolic bread and wine, but the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. To appreciate what we receive under the microscope of faith, let us begin with John Chapter 6, from which we took today’s gospel reading.
John 6 tells us that the day after the multiplication of loaves to feed the 5,000 men, Jesus told the crowd that they should look not for the food that perishes but for that which gives eternal life. Then, when the people requested for this bread of life, Jesus told them that He is the bread of life that has come down from heaven. They then started grumbling. But Jesus’ further statements were to shock the people the more: ‘If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. The bread that I will give him is my flesh, which I give so that the world may live. This started an angry argument among them. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked. Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves.… For my flesh is real food and blood is real drink”’ (John 6:51-55). Consequently, many of His followers left Him.
Now if Jesus did not mean what He was saying (that He will give us His flesh and blood), or if He was using a mere figure of speech, He would have called the deserting followers back to clarify His teaching. Rather, He turned to the twelve apostles and asked them if they also wished to leave Him. Peter, then, responded: ‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. And now we believe and know that you are the Holy One who has come from God’ (John 6:68-69).
Now, it was at the Last Supper that Jesus gave us the sacrament of His body and blood. At the Last Supper, Jesus did not say: ‘Take and eat, this is like my body’; neither did He say: ‘…this represents my body’; nor did He say: ‘…this is a symbol of my body.’ He simply said: ‘…this is my body.’ Likewise, with the cup of wine, He did not use the words like/represents/ symbol; rather, He simply said: ‘This is my blood …’ (Matt. 26:26-30). We, therefore, believe that in Holy Communion, we receive the body of Christ in the form of bread and His blood in the form of wine.
Let me illustrate the above point with something which happened in 2012 during the Arab Spring in Libya. The Libyan authorities had prohibited the use of camera and audio recorders by people visiting the prisons. Now, four members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) visited a prison with a camera in the form of a pen and a recorder in the form of a wristwatch; and they were arrested. Would they have been arrested for possessing an ordinary pen and a wristwatch? No! They were arrested because they possessed a camera (though in the form of pen) and a recorder (though in the form of a wristwatch).
Similarly, in Holy Communion, though the form is bread it is truly the body of Christ; though the form is wine, it is truly the blood of Christ! That is why St. Paul asked those whose appreciation of the Eucharist was limited by the forms of bread and wine: ‘Is the bread we break not a communion in the body of Christ? Is the cup we drink not a communion in the blood?’ (1 Cor. 10:16). Subsequently, he stated categorically: ‘It follows that if anyone eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from this cup in a way unworthy of Him, he is guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood’ (1 Cor. 11:27). It is clear that St. Paul does not say the person sins against the blessed bread and blessed wine, nor simply against the bread and wine, but against the Lord’s body and blood.
Finally, beloved, before the reception of Holy Communion, may we always prepare our hearts and minds by observing sin-distancing, wearing the masks of love, and washing in the living streams of the Holy Spirit. Thus, sanitized by the grace of God and made worthy to receive the body and blood of Christ, may God grant us eternal blessings. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis