Scripture: Lectionary 169, Feast of Holy Body and Holy Blood of Christ–Corpus Christi, June 10, 2012: Exodus 24:3-8. Psalm 116:12-13.15-16.17-18. Hebrews 9:11-15. Mark 14:12-16:
We may wish to go back to the day we made our First Communion. Mine was in a church called St. William’s. It has changed its name and one elderly priest now continues to serve as pastor for Holy Cross which means both former St. William’s and St. Helen’s. They are only one block from each other and the Slovaks went to St. Helen’s a neo-gothic
structure and the rest of the Catholics went to St. William’s. The borough of East Pittsburgh consisted of about 5000 people; today there are no more than 2500 living there. We were only 28 boys and girls in our class and all of us made our First Communion together on the first Sunday in May, 1942. The boys dressed in blue suit and tie; the girls in white dresses and veils separated by the center aisle. I was very happy to be there with mom and dad nearby and also the moms and dads of my friends. We received gifts besides the Communion Books and rosaries we had be given by our parents. I remember that Mrs. Kollar, the mother of my friend Regie, gave me a good gift—money!
St. Mark takes us back to the First Communion ever where his twelve friends called apostles received their gift of Jesus present within them in what they celebrated as the Passover Feast. We return to that first Gospel scene given to us by Mark, the first writer of a Gospel.
This was probably written in 70 A.D. Mark is the Gospel that we read this year. We are fortunate to have his narrative on the Feast of Corpus Christi or as we name it today, “the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.” Mark sets the scene in the context of Jesus’ celebrating the Jewish feast of Passover (Pesach).
The background of Exodus helps us to understand it (our first reading Exodus 24:3-8). At the time in which Jesus and his apostles celebrated this festival both the Unleavened Bread and the Paschal Lamb sacrificed were joined together and continued for another eight days of joy, prayer, and worhip. It was one of the three great pilgrimage feasts (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles). This first Communion of the apostles is the Last Supper of Jesus with them before he dies. Jesus and his friends do eat the bread and drink several cups of wine before leaving for prayer. They do so singing a Psalm.
And our Psalm for the response is appropriate as we chant “How can I repay unto the Lord all his bountiful dealings toward me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:12-13). I had used this for my ordination card; and now on the sixtieth anniversary of my vows as a Marianist the same Psalm is used for all of us celebrating sixty years of Marianist life on the card I have chosen “Our vows to the Lord we fulfill before all God’s people.”( Psalm 116:14).
The Paschal meal is important in the partaking of the unleavened bread and the sacrificed lamb. Jesus transfers the meaning of these essential elements to the partaking of his own body (the bread) and blood (the wine). This is the center and sacred moment of our being united with Jesus Christ through our faith in the Eucharist and Holy Communion. The sacramental presence of Jesus is assured throughout these past two thousand years and now wherever the Lord’s Supper is re-enacted.
Our reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews is also well chosen. It tells us that “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself up unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” Seen in the light of the Resurrection we come to realize that we are partaking of the Bread of
Life and the Chalice of Salvation.
In some parishes and certainly in many countries in South and Central America and in Europe a procession honoring the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus takes place in public places. I had the occasion of doing this in Eastern Germany among the German-Slovakian parishes some ten years ago and remembered the careful preparations of the children and the men and women for this wonderful pilgrimage through the city. This also happened for me while on another occasion I was in Augsburg, Germany.
In our own participating in the liturgy of Corpus Christi we are led by the Scriptures to sing out as we prepare to hear the Gospel: “I am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread they will live forever.” (John 6:51-52). We join also with thanking God by recalling Thomas’s profession of faith, “My Lord and my God.” And by reflecting on Mary’s act of thanksgiving, her Magnficat: ”The Lord has done great things for me and holy is God’s Name.” Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.