With the warm Michigan weather upon us, I have begun my routine of early morning and evening walks. On most days I make the journey alone; although, on certain other days, I am successful in coaxing my wife or one of my daughters to join me.
Now in my small town, we have been blessed with miles of walking paths that pass by many small lakes. Not too many days ago, with my oldest daughter at my side, we caught sight of some Canadian Geese that had made their home in some deep grass beside one of the lakes. Always the courteous one, I decided to tip my hat toward one goose, when suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, he began to chase after me. Once her laughter had ended, my daughter’s only remark was “apparently, that goose doesn’t like permanent deacons!”
On this Feast of Corpus Christi, a day on which we celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we are taken on a journey through salvation history. With each reading set within the context of the Passover, the Old Testament reading from Exodus (24:3-8) transports us to a covenant moment celebrated at Sinai following the first Passover and the Exodus. As Moses sprinkled the blood of the covenant on the Israelites, a symbol of God’s desire to make them part of His “blood” relations came to rest upon them. Likewise, when fast-forwarding to St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews (9:11-15), the idea of covenant is also on the mind of the great Apostle. He reminds us that “when Christ came as high priest.. he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes.” Rather, this new covenant is entered into with Christ’s own blood. Our scriptural journey ends in Mark’s Gospel (14:12-16, 22-26), where we find ourselves, along with the disciples, in the Upper Room. There, we find Jesus saying the blessing, breaking the bread, and saying:
Take it; this is my body.
After this, He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them. After they had drank from it, Jesus said:
This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.
Having taken a detour with Moses, the journey of salvation had reached it’s final destination: Jesus Christ.
Did you know that each time we celebrate the Eucharist and receive Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion, we renew that covenant?
This past week, I found myself thinking about the Mass and especially, it’s many parts. From the Introductory Rites to the Eucharistic Prayer to the Dismissal, each has a special place within our liturgical worship of the Lord. Given our exposure to these many parts, over time, they have become part of us. Nonetheless, one phrase is repeated more than any other.
At the distribution of Holy Communion, the bishop, priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister, says the following words over and over: The Body of Christ. In the silence of our worship space, if we listen closely, these four words form a litany. If we allow them, they possess the capacity to penetrate our entire being. As they do, we might ask ourselves:
Why is it that these words are repeated again and again?
Do we need a continual reminder that we are not the source of life’s answers? Still yet, perhaps the answer to this question rests in the reality that these words are not just words. But rather, that these words signify the presence of some One. At the liturgy, that One is Jesus Christ. He is present. The eternal Word is in our midst. In the Eucharist, Jesus is fully present: body, blood, soul, and divinity. And His deepest desire is to give Himself to each of us in order that we might be more fully joined to His body. Once joined, we are forever changed and called to go forward, and be the Body of Christ for others. That is why that when we receive the Body of Christ, we should always boldenly say, Amen!
Yes, Lord, do with me as you will. My journey begins and ends with you.
Not long ago, I read an article that contained the testimony of a gentleman, John M. Haas, who spoke of how certain Catholic practices made such an impression on him when he was still a Protestant, especially the Catholic custom of bowing one’s head in honor of the Real Presence when passing a Catholic church. While many of us no longer subscribe to that tradition, perhaps in our increasingly secularized society, a return to such a practice may be worth considering.
This morning, I would like to end with a mathematical calculation provided in the June 2012 edition of The Word Among Us. In regard to the greatest “bailout” known to man, they write:
Recently, the world population passed the 7 billion mark. If we imagine that, on average, each person commits 10 sins a day, a total of 70 billion sins are committed each day. Now, multiply that by 365, and you get over 25 trillion sins every year. If you multiply 25 trillion by the current average life expectancy of 68, you come up with over 1.7 quadrillion. This figure does not include those 6 billion people who lived on the earth before us. Of course, there is no way of truly estimating how many sins are committed each day, but just looking at calculations like these gives us a sense of the immense number of sins committed against the Lord and other people.
Your sins. My sins. Our sins. All washed away in the blood of Jesus.