SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI (THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST) YEAR B ON JUNE 6, 2021 (R. 1: Exodus 24: 3- 8; Psalm 116: 12-13, 15-16, 17-18; R. 2: Hebrews 9: 11- 15; Gospel: Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
A very stingy man spent the night drinking. At dawn, he was drunk and he tried to find his way home. While he was walking home along the river, he slipped and fell into the water and was drowning. Some men quickly gathered and began to make a chain holding each other’s hands. The one closest to him called out, “Bob, give me your hand, give me your hand!” But Bob who was gasping for air responded, “I can’t, I can’t!” Fortunately, his wife arrived and said, “You don’t know my husband well. If you say ‘Give me your hand,’ he will never hear you; let me show you what to say.” She then extended her hand to her husband and said, “Bob, take my hand!” Immediately, Bob reached out to take the hand of his wife and both were pulled to safety.
My dearly beloved in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ truly and really present under the appearances of Bread and Wine, the Holy Eucharist. Last Sunday, Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, we did say that God has no beginning and that God does not change. We also added that what changes or grows is God’s revelation of himself and our understanding of the revelation. God reveals himself to humanity in a historical context, which we call the history of salvation. We may want to ask, “What place has the Eucharist in the history of salvation?” or “Where should we place it along the line?” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap, preacher to the papal household gives a great answer to this question in his book, “The Eucharist: Our Sanctification.” He explains that the Eucharist has no particular place in the history of salvation, it is the whole thing. The entire history of salvation is present in the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is present in the entire history of salvation. He further adds that this presence of the Eucharist in the history of salvation is in three different ways, and at three different times or stages in the history of salvation. They include: in the Old Testament as a figure, in the New Testament as an event, and in our time, the time of the Church, as a sacrament.These three, though distinct, are closely related. The figure anticipates and prepares the event, while the sacrament “prolongs” the event and actualizes it.
I. THE EUCHARIST AS FIGURE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: The entire Old Testament was a preparation of the Lord’s Supper. We have many figures in the Old Testament that point to the Eucharist. One of them that Christ made reference to was the manna (cf. Exodus 16: 4ff; John 6: 31ff.). Another was the sacrifice of bread and wine offered by the priest Melchizedech (cf. Genesis 14:18; Psalm 110: 4; Hebrews 7: 1ff.). The sacrifice of Isaac was also another figure. Of all the figures of the Eucharist in the Old Testament, there is one that is more than a “figure,” namely the Passover. From the Passover, the Eucharist takes its name and its aspect of the Lord’s Supper.
II. THE EUCHARIST AS AN EVENT: In the New Testament, at the fullness of time, God spoke His Word, which became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Here, the Eucharist is no longer present simply as a figure, it has become a reality.
III. THE EUCHARIST AS A SACRAMENT: The third part of the history of salvation is the time of the Church in which we live. At this stage, the Eucharist is present as a sacrament, in the signs of bread and wine, instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper with the words: DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME. None of us here was present at the Upper Room when Jesus instituted this Sacrament. None of us here was at the foot of the Cross at Calvary when he died for us. But it was out of no fault of ours. The event that took place from the Upper Room up to Calvary was for all human beings of all generations and of all races and nations. But how can we connect to the benefits of the event since we were not there? What makes us equal to Peter, James, John and others who were at the event? Sacrament has made it possible for us to have the same benefits the apostles had. Sacrament is like our television sets. The signal is sent from the studio and it remains in the air. In order to get what is being transmitted from the studio, you need to have your television connected to the source of power, switched on and tuned to the right channel. Similarly, what Jesus did once and for all is for all peoples of all generations, races and nations. The Sacrament (e.g. the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist) is what connects us to Calvary and the Upper Room.
When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist as a Sacrament, we call it HOLY MASS. The celebration takes its name Mass (Missa) from the Dismissal Rite. The deacon or the priest says “ite missa est.” The word Mass (Missa) is from the Latin missio, which reminds us of the English Mission. At the end of the Mass, the “ite missa est” is sending us to go proclaim what we have received from the Mass. Each time we celebrate the Mass, we are gathered as Missionaries in training. At the Mass, Jesus says, “Take and eat… Take and Drink” and at the end of the Mass, Jesus says, “Give to others!” At the Mass, Jesus forgives us and at the end of the Mass, he wants us to forgive others. At the Mass, Jesus washes our feet, and at the end of the Mass, he wants us to go and wash the feet of others. At the Mass, Jesus gives us good news, at the end of the Mass, he wants us to go and be good news to others. If we are able to hear the “Take” that Jesus says to us at Mass, we must be ready to hear the “Give” that he says to us at the end of Mass. As we do that, may the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ bring us to everlasting life. Amen.