Reflections on the Readings
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 10, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
His Own Blood
He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)
"You are what you eat!" someone says with a wink. And we politely nod in agreement. Except the last time some version of that saying came up I thought I heard it thunder. It was my doctor saying, "You've got to lose this!" as he methodically reviewed my weight history with a slightly concerned wrinkle above his eyes at my last visit a few weeks ago.
With my defenses down I responded with that semi intelligent query, "How?" Without missing a beat my doctor said, "Starve yourself!"
And then he began to explain what should be in my diet and what should not be entering my mouth. Agreeing with his assessment and warning I then hoped for a 'bone' tossed to me as I bravely asked, "Can I have sweet tea?" "You might as well drink cool aid!" the doctor retorted. "Water! You can have all the fruits and vegetables you want. And water!"
The doctor did not like what I was becoming. And I was becoming what too many deserts and portions that are too large and what not enough exercise create. The bubble in the middle of my body was not the sign of a balanced life.
So I left the doctor's office with much to think about. I felt somewhat inspired that I could follow my doctor's timely advice. So now there is more stuff in my diet that grows in a garden somewhere and whole fruits and grains. And water. Lots of water. I hear this eating better and exercise will help me lose weight. Anyway I already like what I'm becoming because of what I'm eating now!
Today we reflect a little deeper on the memorial of our redemption. It's a Christian meal that helps us to become more like Jesus. When we eat this bread and drink this cup we receive into ourselves the body and blood of him who loved us and gave himself for us. I marvel at the oldest among us at Mass. The reverence they bring to their worship and reception of the Holy Sacrifice is nothing less than inspirational. Their posture and demeanor reflect an awe of that which is holy. Their approach reflects years of growing in grace and in the knowledge of their Lord and Savior; of him who with his own body and blood secured for them and us and for as many who call upon his name eternal redemption.
Under the old covenant it was the blood of calves and goats; not the blood of a holy person. That covenant and those rituals that ratified it were temporary - not eternal. Such sacrifices were repeated and did nothing to bring an interior change of heart. The purification wrought by the blood sacrifices of bulls and goats made the people under the Old Covenant able to stand outside the Tent. In that covenant God made a promise of coming even closer to his people. Through Moses and the prophets of Israel came the promise of a new heart and the help of the Holy Spirit in the depths of our humanness; Christ in us!
In the second reading we hear the contrast between the Old Testament rites and the New Covenant mediated by Christ himself. The writer captures the intensity of Christ's own death that procures for us an inheritance 'his own blood' makes possible; an inheritance that the Old Covenant could only foreshadow. And then this crescendo: 'How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.'
The word 'transubstantiation' offers a way to look at the mystery of the Eucharist. It describes that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. St. John Chrysostom said, "It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself." St. Ambrose asks, "Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature."
This feast of Corpus Christi let us embrace the purification this Eucharist offers us. It is Christ himself who invites us into the redemption he won by his own Body and Blood. We are summoned here today to participate in the good things of our inheritance in Christ and the redemption he gives us. At the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) the priest will pray: Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood, of our Lord Jesus, Christ.
Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You bet we do. In this Holy Feast and Memorial of our Redemption is the 'source and summit' of our faith. St. Theresa of Avila believed that the good Jesus is with us now in the Holy Sacrament. She reflected that if, while He went about in the world, the sick were healed by merely touching His clothes, how can we doubt that He will work miracles within us, if we have faith, or that He will give us what we ask of Him since He is in our House? "His Majesty," she said, "is not accustomed to paying poorly for His lodging if the hospitality is good."
What should we do after receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord? St. Theresa of Avila said, "Since you have the Person Himself present, strive to close the eyes of the body and open those of the soul and look into your own heart."
In this Holy Communion, Jesus is near, even at the door of our heart.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com