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Contents: Volume 2 - Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
June 6, 2021

 

BODY

&

BLOOD

(B)


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ 2021

Our second reading from the Book of Hebrews tells us that because Jesus died for us and is the mediator of the new covenant, "those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance." All of us have been called through Baptism. Our promised inheritance is redemption and life everlasting.

Most human beings need a bit of a reminder to keep on the straight and narrow in order to try to keep our part of this covenant as a response to the goodness of the Lord. That is true even if we look forward to this promised inheritance. I think our ultimate reminder is the Gift of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist instituted in our Gospel story.

In the Eucharist, we have the visible proof of that same Gift. We have the Real Presence of Jesus with us. All of our senses are engaged when we receive this Gift. It is perpetual, handed down from the Last Supper to the present and, hopefully, way into future generations. It is the on-going fulfillment of yet another promise of Jesus, that he would be with us always until the end of the age.

We are also part of the Body of Christ, the Church, with Christ as the head and we as the members. During this pandemic, receiving the Body and Blood of Christ has been limited to spiritual communion for many, if not most of us. During that time, remaining connected to the other members of our parishes as well as smaller and larger spiritual communities also took several twists and alternative attempts.

As we gradually return to a more normal version of worship and community, may we rejoice in being able to savor this Gift. May we acknowledge its essential place in our spiritual lives. May we join with our community to promote the importance of the Real Presence, in both the Eucharist and the real presence of we who are Christ's body on earth. Let us, as the body of Christ, use all that is within us to spread the Good News to others in as personal a way as is possible.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ June 6, 2021

Exodus 24:3-8; Responsorial Psalm 116; Hebrews 9:11-15; Sequence Lauda Sion; Gospel Acclamation John 6:51; Mark 14:12-16 & 22-26

The theme running through the three readings this Sunday of the Body and Blood of Christ is covenant. A covenant is an agreement between parties, a contract, if you will, that governs the relationships of the parties to each other. Such arrangements were often between rulers, typically authoritarian despots, and people of a nation and with people of conquered nations. Such contracts are pretty much one sided with allegiance and loyalty toward the ruler being at the center of the arrangement. In pagan religions there were also covenants. What makes the covenant between God and the Hebrew nation unique is that this covenant was initiated by God. Pagan gods were silent except in the myths and legends that presented them as gods. But for the Israelites, God spoke to Moses on Sinai and made the arrangement: "I will be you God and you will be my people." God commits to the people and remains present with them so long as they live according to God’s standards. That Law, that way of living, was meant to be how the people would live in peace, in prosperity, and in happiness. The Law was God’s way of instructing the people in proper relationships. Failing to live according to those standards would lead to disaster. Repeatedly in the life of the Israelite nation, the consequences of idolatry are evident.

That first covenant initiated by God with this people is narrated in the first reading. When Moses informed the people of God’s offer, they responded, all of them, "We will do everything that the Lord has told us." Again, at the end of this reading, the people answered the terms of the covenant Moses had read them, "All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do." Then Moses took the blood of the sacrifice of bullocks and sprinkled it on the altar and on the people. The altar table itself, erected on twelve pillars standing for the twelve tribes of Israelites, stands for God. The pillars make it possible for the altar table to be a table. So also, those twelve pillars made God present to the world and more especially to the life of the nation. Blood sprinkled on both the altar and on the people connected them with God through the source of life for all living beings, blood. Blood poured out is the symbol of commitment. It signifies the absolutely complete commitment of both parties to the covenant. The story does not end with this ritual. It continues in the Passover meal celebrated each year on the anniversary of the Israelite’s liberation from slavery. It speaks of freedom, it speaks of purpose, it speaks of the presence of God with his people. God committed to that presence for all time. This is the so-called Old Testament. If we think the New Testament, the subject of the Gospel reading from Mark this weekend, eliminated that first covenant, we are mistaken. The New Covenant was prepared for by the old. We understand this history as leading to the New Covenant. All hearts filled and minds enlightened by this history brings us to the upper room and the New Covenant sealed in the blood of the Cross.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews. The more we know and understand about temple worship, the more this letter will resound, enlighten, inspire, and inform us. The rituals described in this reading are central to Israelite worship. These rituals renew the first covenant presented by Moses. This selection ends with the words, "For this reason he is 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 goes beyond the first and moves those who accept it not to mere membership in a people favored by God. It moves us to an inheritance. Those who inherit are children. The right and hope of us children of the new covenant is membership in God’s family. We belong in the household of God. No longer merely a people chosen – we become sons and daughters of God through the blood of Christ which binds us to God through the eternal Spirit.

These thoughts are not simple. These words and their meaning achieve no foothold in our living until we individually and collectively experience the presence of God. God is truly present in the day-to-day living of all his children. The problem is our consciousness of his presence. What a difference our living takes on when we come to understand God’s promise to be with us through the end of all ages! It takes effort and prayer to achieve this consciousness. And for that effort, for food and drink for the journey to that presence we have the third reading this Sunday.

The gospel reading from Mark is actually from two separate parts of Mark’s chapter 14. The persons designing this liturgy thought it most important that we should remember the institution of the Eucharist in the context of that first covenant through Moses. It placed the Eucharist in the context of liberation, of freedom from slavery, of the hope for a new nation. This is a Kingdom which is established by the work of Jesus. This Passover celebrated by Jesus and his disciples was the beginning of the ratification of a new covenant that elevated a people chosen to the status of children, heirs of God. Did the disciples understand this at the moment? Things that hold unlimited meanings and purposes are rarely understood at their initiation. But here it is, in the context of a Passover meal that Jesus instituted a new covenant in his own blood. Just as the blood on the doorposts long ago in Egypt protected the Hebrew peoples, so also Jesus’ blood on the doorposts of the cross offered protection from tyranny, from leadership more interested in power, status, and wealth than in the welfare and vitality of the people. No matter what history, no matter what prophecy, no matter what the experience of the people – so many missed the meaning of the Last Supper, the trial, the torture, the walk to the hill of death, death on a cruel cross, and a resounding noise when death was defeated in the symbolism of an empty tomb.

The actions of Jesus at the summarizing meal of Passover that evening opened doors and windows onto the possibilities and probabilities of life lived more fully. The freedom this new covenant initiated, liberated men, women, and children when and if they walked in the way of this Jesus.

We call what happened at this last meal the Eucharist. And so it is. That word is from the Greek and means "thanksgiving." We, in this recurring meal move from supplication to gratitude, to thanksgiving for what has been and is being done for and through and with us.

At the offertory of our liturgies, there is a collection. Tradition has morphed that collection as the means of support for the church and its charities. However, there is an even more fundamental meaning for that collection that we have tended to overlook. The collection is from the results and efforts of our work, our living, and our relationships. Often this is symbolized by money. It should and must also be a gifting from our experiences of the week – the sorrows, the suffering, the conflicts, but even more so from the joys, the achievements, the blessed relationships of the week. These latter things are not as easily made visible as is money. But these are just as important to what is going to happen. The two prayers over the gifts – "blessed are you, O Lord our God, for the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands" – these two prayers over the bread uncorrupted by leaven, and wine pressed from fruit of the vine are lifted directly from the prayers at the Jewish Seder, the annual celebration of the Passover meal.

It is fitting and a demand of our participation that we offer our work, our efforts, our relationships – failed and successful – at this time of offertory. Typically, in the interest of time, the collection processional is cut short, and its symbolism lost. Yet its importance for the participation of the assembly is essential to what is about to happen. The Presider prays to the Holy Spirit in the lead up to the consecration of ALL these gifts. The Presider asks that Spirit to transform these gifts into the Body and Blood of the Lord. Through the agency of the Presider, the Spirit does come and transform our gifts into the Body and the Blood of the Lord. We give thanks that my ordinary living, my successes, and my failures become for me food and drink for my journey in the coming week. But there is more to this than just me eating and drinking for my nourishment and for my medicine. Gifts placed on the altar are consecrated and returned to me individually but also as collectively to the assembly gathered. In this collegiality we become bound to each other in the Love of God, the very energy of God’s life. We become one in the Body and Blood of the Lord. We become one body, one living blood for liberty, vitality, and sharing in the inheritance promised. By offering my living in cooperation with the offerings of all others in the assembly at the offertory procession, I share in the daily living of the assembly. We each and every one become ONE in the Body and Blood of the Lord. We are healed; we are nourished; we are joined together in bonds of blood-kinship. That is the reason we are encouraged to stand after we receive the Eucharist until all the rest of the Body of Christ has received and rejoined the assembly. It is a sign of our solidarity in the Body of the Lord.

That is the nature of our celebration. We go from covenantal relationship to a more intimate relationship as family. Recall, please, the last supper was a family meal when it first was celebrated and as it continues to be celebrated. We are the family of God. Let us give thanks always, raising our voices in a glad Alleluia.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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CALLED AND SENT AT EUCHARIST: CORPUS CHRISTI B

In all our Catholic churches, the main way we pray together is the Eucharist, the Mass. From start to finish, Jesus Christ is active and alive in us who are parts, indeed limbs and cells, of his risen body. The climax, the high point of our celebration, is when we receive him in Holy Communion. There he gives himself to us in love and nourishes our relationship with him. There he wants to set us ‘on fire’ with his ‘powerful love’ (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #10). So, from our intimate sharing with him in communion, we are meant to go back to our homes and neighborhoods with a new heart, a new spirit, and a new commitment. In other words, Jesus sends us out from his table to nourish others with our body and blood, i.e., with the gift of ourselves, our love, and our lives. He sends us out to bring to others a love like his – unselfish, caring, compassionate, forgiving, generous and constant.

At the end of Mass Jesus has one final word to say to us. Through our priest or deacon, he commands us in this or similar words: 'Go and announce the gospel of the Lord.’ His intention is ‘[that] each [of us] may go out [from his table] to do good works, praising and blessing God’ [General Instruction of the Roman Missal 2002, #90c].

We cannot, in fact, truly share the consecrated bread and wine without also sharing the daily bread of our personal, family and community resources of one kind or another. Communion with him is essentially defective, and even an empty sham, if we ignore or neglect him in our poor, needy, and struggling sisters and brothers.

St John Chrysostom had something to say about this that is particularly strong, sharp and challenging. Here are his words:

Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do you not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill clad. He who said: ‘This is my body,’ is the same who said: ‘You saw me hungry and gave me no food;’ and ‘Whatever you did to the least of my brothers [and sisters] you did also to me’ … What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother [or sister] is dying of hunger. Start by satisfying his [or her] hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.

In a nutshell, our Holy Communion with Christ requires us to identify with poor, suffering, troubled and afflicted persons all over the world: Did not Vatican II say: 'The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well?' [‘The Church in the Modern World’, #1]

Our whole Mass is a matter of remembering, celebrating and joining in Christ’s wonderful work of liberating and transforming human beings. So, our celebration is meant to send us out to liberate oppressed and struggling persons from all that is not of God, from all that crushes or inhibits their dignity as his sons and daughters. This is so true that until Jesus Christ comes back to the earth at the end of time, the strongest sign of his presence and self-giving in the Eucharist is our lifestyle afterwards. It’s meant to be a lifestyle of service, of binding up wounds, of reaching out to persons in need with caring, compassionate, unselfish, and generous love, in all the ways that Jesus himself reached out to others during his days and years on earth.

The Eucharist, then, means that we are people called and sent out on a mission, who find in the Bread that is Christ and the wine that is Christ our nourishment and strength to reach out to others. A beautiful ecumenical document known as the Lima Statement puts it this way: ‘The Eucharist is precious food for missionaries, bread and wine for pilgrims on their apostolic journey’ [Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, E26].

The truth is, that shared prayer and shared life before and after prayer go together. This is particularly true of the Eucharist. For it is there that we remember, celebrate and encounter the presence and person of Jesus Christ, giving himself in love to God the Father, and giving himself in love to human beings.

So, my message to you on this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, is that one of the quite special meanings of the Eucharist, but one that is too often overlooked or neglected, is that it is about ‘going out to make a better world’ (Christiane Brusselmans).

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year B: Corpus Christi

"This is my body."

You may or may not believe this – many people don’t – but I once read a book about preaching. Amongst other good advice, it said that absolutely the most foolish thing any preacher can do is preach about something of which he cannot possibly have any personal experience, such as what it is to be a mother. That is the rule, which, with suitable trepidation, I am going to break this morning and talk about motherhood. You can tell me at the end whether you think I got away with it or not.

This is the story of a good friend of mine who is a midwife. And, throughout her career, she has been a stout advocate of what is called "natural childbirth" – the idea that babies are best brought into this world with the absolute minimum of medical intervention that is consistent with safety. Or, as she would put it – "it’s my job to keep those nasty doctors away from a wonderful normal and completely natural experience."

Then, she had a baby of her own!

I was told by my mother that you should never, ever, no matter what the provocation, give away a lady’s age, so I’ll only tell you that she was 36 when she had her baby. In the last few weeks of pregnancy – the baby was found firstly to be very large and secondly to be in the breech position - that’s when the baby instead of having his head down pointing towards the exit, has his feet downward and will be born feet first. And that’s much more dangerous for the baby. So, despite being a convinced exponent of natural childbirth, she also felt a deep desire to do whatever was the best thing for her child. And, put in those terms, she felt there was no real choice - she had to do whatever was the best for the baby. This was a very big baby - she’s only a small woman - and it’s in the breech position - so there’s no real doubt that she needed to have a caesarean section - which is an operation in which the womb is opened and the baby taken out from the front. And so that’s what she had.

Soon after the baby had been born I rang her up in the hospital to congratulate her - the name’s Edmund by the way - after Edmund Campion - and he was 9lb 7oz. So I congratulated her and she said:

"Now I really know what those words mean: "This is my body which will be given up for you."

When I had the operation - I really felt that I was giving up my body for my child - it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, even though it was against everything I wanted for my delivery."

And those words will always remind me of it and what Jesus did for us on the Cross and does for us today and every day in the Eucharist.

Greater love hath no one - man or woman - than to give up your body for someone you love more than anything else.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in the Gift of God.

Paul O'Reilly, SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to jboll@lists.opsouth.org and jboll@opsouth.org. Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John Boll, OP


 

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