Reflection for Sunday, June 6, 2010: Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
Alexander, Andy, S.J.
VP for University Ministry; Collaborative Ministry
Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
169. Year C, Ordinary Time.
169. Year C, Ordinary Time.
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For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. 1 Cor. 11 When I think of this great Solemnity, I remember the Eucharistic processions of my childhood and the extraordinary processions I have seen on this feast in other parts of the world. I also remember the International Eucharistic Congress, which was held here in the U.S., in Philadelphia, in 1976 - the Bi-centennial year - and brought together keynote speakers who were extraordinary advocates of the poor: Mother Teresa of Calcutta; Father Pedro Arrupe, the Jesuits' superior general; Brazilian Bishop Dom Helder Camara; and Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. The theme of the Congress was: "The Hungers of the Human Family." Fr. Arrupe said, "When people are hungry anywhere in the world, the Eucharist is incomplete." Mother Theresa said, Jesus dwells in the disguises of the faces of the poor. 'To turn our backs on them is to turn our back on Jesus." Bishop Camara (famous for saying: "When I go to the barrio and serve the poor, they say I am a saint; when I ask 'Why are there so many poor?' they say I am a Communist.") pleaded with his U.S. listeners to stand up for the rights of the very poor in Latin America, even if it meant criticizing our own government. Dorothy Day said: "Our Creator gave us life and the Eucharist to sustain our life. But we have in the world instruments of death of inconceivable magnitude." She reminded us that we must seek forgiveness for what we have done that is wrong before receiving the Eucharist worthily.That Eucharistic Congress nournish in me for many years the connection between the Eucharist and the love of our Lord for his people - his complete, gift of himself for all.I have been deeply moved by the Enclycical on the Eucharist, written by Pope Benedict XVI, entitled The Sacrament of Charity (Sacramentum Caritatis) after the Apostolic Synod on the Eucharist (2007). After reviewing the entire Mystery of the Eucharist, Pope Benedict gives us some powerful reflections, which can be blessed graces for us on this Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Here are but a few of his very special words from the last section of the Encyclical, "The Eucharist, a mystery to be offered to the world."Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become "bread that is broken" for others, and to work for the building of a more just and fraternal world. Keeping in mind the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, we need to realize that Christ continues today to exhort his disciples to become personally engaged: "You yourselves, give them something to eat" (Mt 14:16). Each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world. The union with Christ brought about by the Eucharist also brings a newness to our social relations: "this sacramental 'mysticism' is social in character." Indeed, "union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own."(241) The relationship between the eucharistic mystery and social commitment must be made explicit. The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion between brothers and sisters who allow themselves to be reconciled in Christ, who made of Jews and pagans one people, tearing down the wall of hostility which divided them (cf. Eph 2:14). Only this constant impulse towards reconciliation enables us to partake worthily of the Body and Blood of Christ (cf. Mt 5:23-24). (242) The recognition of this fact leads to a determination to transform unjust structures and to restore respect for the dignity of all men and women, created in God's image and likeness. Through the concrete fulfilment of this responsibility, the Eucharist becomes in life what it signifies in its celebration. As I have had occasion to say, it is not the proper task of the Church to engage in the political work of bringing about the most just society possible; nonetheless she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the struggle for justice. The Church "has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper." (244) In discussing the social responsibility of all Christians, the Synod Fathers noted that the sacrifice of Christ is a mystery of liberation that constantly and insistently challenges us. I therefore urge all the faithful to be true promoters of peace and justice: "All who partake of the Eucharist must commit themselves to peacemaking in our world scarred by violence and war, and today in particular, by terrorism, economic corruption and sexual exploitation." (245) All these problems give rise in turn to others no less troubling and disheartening. We know that there can be no superficial solutions to these issues. Precisely because of the mystery we celebrate, we must denounce situations contrary to human dignity, since Christ shed his blood for all, and at the same time affirm the inestimable value of each individual person. [89}We cannot remain passive before certain processes of globalization which not infrequently increase the gap between the rich and the poor worldwide. We must denounce those who squander the earth's riches, provoking inequalities that cry out to heaven (cf. Jas 5:4). For example, it is impossible to remain silent before the "distressing images of huge camps throughout the world of displaced persons and refugees, who are living in makeshift conditions in order to escape a worse fate, yet are still in dire need. Are these human beings not our brothers and sisters? Do their children not come into the world with the same legitimate expectations of happiness as other children?" (246) CONCLUSIONDear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is at the root of every form of holiness, and each of us is called to the fullness of life in the Holy Spirit. ... The celebration and worship of the Eucharist enable us to draw near to God's love and to persevere in that love until we are united with the Lord whom we love. The offering of our lives, our fellowship with the whole community of believers and our solidarity with all men and women are essential aspects of that logik and eacute; latre and iacute;a, spiritual worship, holy and pleasing to God (cf. Rom 12:1), which transforms every aspect of our human existence, to the glory of God. I therefore ask all pastors to spare no effort in promoting an authentically eucharistic Christian spirituality. Priests, deacons and all those who carry out a eucharistic ministry should always be able to find in this service, exercised with care and constant preparation, the strength and inspiration needed for their personal and communal path of sanctification. I exhort the lay faithful, and families in particular, to find ever anew in the sacrament of Christ's love the energy needed to make their lives an authentic sign of the presence of the risen Lord. I ask all consecrated men and women to show by their eucharistic lives the splendour and the beauty of belonging totally to the Lord. Dear Lord, you gave us your Body and Blood for our salvation, to put an end to sin and death's power over us. You gave your entire self for us and to us that we might continually be nourished by your example. Continue to feed us with your life and your love, O Lord. As we receive this gifted communion with you, Lord Jesus, may we grow in gratitude, in courage, in generosity in being broken and given for others. Let us love those closest to home first. Let there be healing and peace because you let us receive your own Body and Blood as a gift of healing and peace, for others. Let our receiving of your Body and Blood make us more compassionate to hear the cries of the poor. May our communion with you bind us to your loving heart for all your people. May we be a Eucharistic people who labor for justice and peace in our world, which can only come when there is no more hunger or need. We ask this, more readied to say "Amen" to the gift of your Body and Blood, for us and for our mission, in you.(241) Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25 December 2005)., 14.(242) During the Synod sessions we heard very moving and significant testimonies about the effectiveness of the Eucharist in peacemaking. In this regard, Propositio 49 states that: "Thanks to eucharistic celebrations, peoples engaged in conflict have been able to gather around the word of God, hear his prophetic message of reconciliation through gratuitous forgiveness, and receive the grace of conversion which allows them to share in the same bread and cup."(244) Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25 December 2005), 239(245) Propositio 48.(246) Benedict XVI, Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See (9 January 2006), 127.