Twice during the year, our liturgical calendar calls us to celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ. The first time is Holy Thursday, when Christ offers Himself to His followers as nourishment for them. But during Holy Week, we are deeply involved in compelling events – the flow of Christ’s self- giving, culminating in His passion, death and resurrection. So we have a second feast of the Body and Blood of Christ two weeks after Pentecost.
It’s important to focus community mindfulness on the Body and Blood of Christ, because we, like every generation before us poses the question “How can this be”? The child, recently confiding to his grandmother on the day of his First Communion “How does Jesus get into the bread”? The befuddled people of Jesus’ time who heard Him say “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. The Bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” asked “How can this man give us His flesh to eat”? And recently a poll found that fully 45% of American Roman Catholics believe Jesus is symbolically, not really present in Holy Communion.
The Church has taught, from the beginning of Christianity, that Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist. The risen Jesus who walks invisibly among us, becomes our food – tangible in the Eucharist. We do not receive the Jesus of History, who preached, taught and healed as told in the Scriptures. We receive the Risen Lord – the Christ who, after the Resurrection would appear to people, talk with them and be gone.
Something or someone can be real without being physical. Electricity and courage, the sound of a voice or the convictions we treasure are real but not physical. So too, the Risen One is really and truly present in the Eucharist. What we receive is not a symbolic presence or a physical presence. It is the Risen Lord.
As we seek to treasure the Body and Blood of Christ we receive, here’s a thought to connect our everyday lives to the Body and Blood of Christ: At the level of everyday life we have the power to share our body and blood. We can hug, shake hands, nurse babies, make gestures of love toward one another…Medical technology enables us to give blood, donate parts of our bodies, breathe life through mouth to mouth resuscitation. Our bodies are energy sources, sources of nourishment for one another. We know and appreciate this in the daily order of things. Somehow, we don’t make the transition to understand that, as people gathered for Eucharist, we are the body of Christ. We are the blood of Christ. There is the consecrated bread and cup and the consecrated people. How will we be poured out for others? Where are we willing to spend our life’s energies?~ Sister Joan Sobala