Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Fr. Rick Sherman June 6, 2021
Ex 24:3-8; 116:12-18; Heb 9:11-15; Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
“If you do not find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Jesus in the Chalice.” St. John Chrysostum, Bishop of Constantinople, 5th Century. This profound statement reminds us that the Eucharist is not just a private affair for the pious but includes a sending forth.
The Church offers us this series of Solemnities right after Easter Time in order to help us stay connected with the transcendent experience the Resurrection has called us to. Welcome to the world where Jesus is the Good Shephard and the King. God’s world; not Satan’s world.
Way back in First Communion class we learned that the Eucharist is the real and Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Transubstantiation was the big word used: The real body and blood, but still in the form of bread and wine. Another mystery, like the Trinity from last week, to be accepted even if it does not make sense to the rational mind. Faith was the key.
Sadly, as recent polls have indicated, only about a third of American Catholics actually believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist. The mystery is apparently just too much to accept without some tangible proof. So how do we learn to explain this great mystery credibly before we lose our whole Church, especially our young?
For one thing mysteries CANNOT be explained adequately, that’s what makes it a mystery. However, we can EXPERIENCE a mystery. Recall that in the Eucharistic prayers at Mass we are called into an act of becoming. Today’s prayer (# III) reads “Grant that we who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.” We are called into a state of oneness with God and each other in a way that was not possible before the coming of Christ and the institution of the Eucharist. As we enter more deeply into this state of oneness as the Body of Christ, we begin to take on the mind, heart, will and soul of God. We will be able to ‘see with the eyes of our hearts’ as St. Paul reminded us last week in Ephesians. We will be like Adam and Eve before eating of the Tree of Knowledge. We will see each other like God sees us, naked without shame and without fear of God or each other. Who would not want that? Maybe we should all take about three or four consecrated hosts each week or each day. Bring on the oneness and the happiness!!
Unfortunately, there is a severe sacrifice that must be made before we can tap into this new life; this new reality. It’s called drinking from the cup of Christ. Drinking of the cup of Christ’s blood. We must share in the sacrifice of Christ which requires us to give our will completely over to the Father as Jesus did. To be completely obedient as was Jesus to all that the Father told Him. When the disciples were asking about the seating chart in Heaven, Jesus included in His answer a question. “Can you drink from the cup of which I drink?” “Yep, we can,” said the disciples. Just like today in the first reading from Exodus when Moses explains the demands of the covenant, the Israelites declare, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.” … Well, at least for a while.
In today’s gospel Jesus states, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” To be in covenant with God requires us to make the same sacrifice of ourselves as Jesus made. The first and second readings today from Exodus and Hebrews recalls the blood covenant made between God and the Israelites. Under such a covenant, the one who breaks it must die. The Father did not want His children, whom He created totally out of love in His own image and likeness, to die so He sent Jesus to sacrifice His life for us. To ransom us from the sure destiny of eternal confusion and hell. God sees the big picture that He created. We see the distorted and disordered world that humans have fabricated.
The Eucharist is given to us as spiritual food to sustain us on our perilous journey through the Kingdom of Satan. The Eucharist is also the journey to oneness with God and each other that ultimately will overcome the false promises and confusion of the devil. Becoming ONE actually requires Catholics to get to know ourselves and each other on a profoundly deep level. Putting the consecrated host in our mouths at roughly the same time at Mass will not be enough. But even then, what is finally the practical application of this mystery out in the world?
An example: This is Pride Week in Utah, or at least Salt Lake County. On Monday, Governor Cox issued an order declaring June 2021 as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in Utah. He states, “We must encourage relevant and vital conversations about what it means to love each other, understand our differences, and support our LGBTQ+ friends and family members.” This is the very first statement of its kind issued by a governor in this very ‘red’ state. It will be interesting to see how this very challenging and even ‘biblical’ proclamation is received in such a religious state. The whole subject of identity and conjugal love is quite mysterious and not without well-established controversy. “What it means to love each other” is a very biblical issue. This is all about becoming ONE!
What a great opportunity for people of the Eucharist who are trained to see things and other people like God sees them. Surely those of us who have drank from the cup of Christ’s blood will not shrink from the complexity and controversy of such a timely issue. Remember last week that in the gospel Jesus
invited COMMANDED us to go forth and teach the nations. We’re talkin’ here outside the front doors of the church.
Pride Week or Pride Month is a rather curious name to apply to a group’s relational preferences. I don’t ever remember there being a celebration for those choosing heterosexual relationships. As we all know that through the ages people with same sex attractions or even the suspicion of such have been the subject of countless jokes and prejudices. To live under such a cloud about one’s very identity, or at least human imposed identity, would likely require a very concerted effort to feel accepted and even proud. I think Gov. Cox, a rural Utahn from a very religious and very red state shows a lot of wisdom and probably courage to publicly declare the need for some serious in-depth conversation.
This will require some real suffering, some drinking of the cup, because a genuinely empathic conversation is going to require a closer look at everyone’s individual relational history. We will have to revisit the last half century’s social promise of women’s liberation through pharmaceuticals even as we figure out how to fund childcare for the nation’s poorest children, 80 percent of whom are living with their single mother. This will be indeed, very interesting in such a red and religious state. I hope Catholics can drink of the cup that Jesus hands on to us and pull our part of the conversation.
Over the past few months I have recommended a look-see at a number of Eucharistic and Theology of the Body virtual conferences and webinars in order to prepare us for the type of conversations which Governor Cox is suggesting. God has been preparing us to go forth and teach. Society has thrown us a softball. I hope our Church throughout our state will jump enthusiastically into this long-needed dialogue.
In the meantime, let us now proceed more deeply into our act of becoming one body, one spirit in Christ….