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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

Being the Body of Christ

by Fr. David M. Knight

June 2, 2024

Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi Sunday)

Lectionary 168

Ex 24:3-8/Heb 9:11-15/Mk 14:12-16, 22-26


After Pentecost we celebrate Trinity Sunday. This reminds us that the Holy Spirit came to form us into a community which is in the image of the Trinity. We all share in the one divine life of God, and we are called to become one in understanding, love and desire as the Father, Son and Spirit are one. We are a Church called to be a spiritual community, one whose primary focus is on achieving union of mind and will and heart with God and with each other.

Then we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi. This reminds us that the Holy Spirit is sent to form us into a sacramental community, which means much more than just a community which gives and receives divine life through the seven sacraments.

Life given through a sacrament is always divine life given through a human action – a physical act of the Body of Christ on earth. God can give grace without using any human instrument, just by enlightening our minds with truth and moving our hearts by love. But when God gives grace through sacraments, it is always through the words and gestures of Christ's visible, human Body on earth. In the Church Jesus continues to speak with a human voice, to touch with human hands, to be present to us humanly, interacting in flesh and blood. To be a sacramental Church means to be the Body of Christ on earth and to accept what it means to be and to live as his Body.

The key to this and to all the sacraments is the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. All the other sacraments either prepare us to receive the Eucharist and its graces – as Baptism, Reconciliation, and Confirmation do or they strengthen us to live as Eucharist ourselves; that is, as the Body of Christ offered and given for the life of the world. Matrimony and Holy Orders empower us to "die to ourselves" in love by a committed sharing of all that we are, like bread that is broken, in the community of family or of Church. Anointing of the Sick empowers us to face the trials of sickness and death as Jesus himself did. The sacrament of the sick either overcomes sickness by healing it as Jesus did in his ministry or overcomes death by strengthening us to surrender to it in triumph as Jesus did on the cross.

The effect of the Eucharist is to "change us into what we receive" (Saint Leo the Great). And what we become is the Body of Christ specifically offered in love and sacrifice for the life of the world. Four times before Communion Jesus is presented to us in the Eucharist as the "Lamb of God," the victim offered to take away the sins of the world. It is this Jesus which we deliver ourselves to become when we receive him in Communion. The Eucharist "is daily before our eyes as a representation of the passion of Christ. We hold it in our hands, we receive it in our mouths, we accept it in our hearts" (Saint Gaudentius).

To be a Eucharistic Church is to be a Church of priests offering themselves in Christ and with Christ as victims for the life of the world. This is something we do, not just when we physically die, but every day, every time we die to our own gratification, our own preferences, our own desires, to give ourselves in love and service to others. More deeply, we "die to ourselves" when we die to our fears, our compulsions, to all that holds us back from the total sharing of ourselves with others in love. As the Body of Christ, sharing in his mission on earth as sharers in his divine life, we share with other people our faith, our gifts of ministry, our material resources. We give expression to the faith, the hope, the love that are within us by grace. We let Jesus continue to express himself humanly in and through our human actions. This is what it is to be the Body of Christ and to be offered as Eucharist for the life of the world.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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