This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, but for those who remember their Latin, you might better recognize it as the feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ). The Feast was originally established in 1246 by Bishop Robert de Torete, of the Diocese of Liège, Belgium, but not without the 40 year effort of St. Julia of Liège, a Norbertine sister who had a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, who spent most of her life petitioning for this special feast day.
The Word for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a
Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
When Jesus established the Eucharist at the Last Supper, his use of bread and wine was deliberate and purposeful. They were the most ordinary of foods, yet represented what was necessary to sustain us. In Jewish ritual, bread and wine are an important part of the Passover meal, and have long been associated with their covenant with God. Our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, reminds us how God sustained his people during the Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert before reaching the Promised Land, during which time God provided them with manna and water. In our reading this week Moses urges the people to remember not only how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt, but how he sustained them in their journey. The praise we have for the Lord for this is echoed in our Psalm.
Our second reading is a very short passage from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians. In one of Paul’s more poetic moments, he reminds us that it is through the Eucharist, through the bread that is Christ’s body, through wine that is Christ’s blood, that makes us one body. In this very economic passage we are not only reminded of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, but it is that Eucharist that forms us into the Body of Christ.
Our Gospel for this feast day comes from John, where Jesus is preaching to the crowd about what we read in our first reading with Moses… How God provided them with “bread from heaven.” Jesus uses this opportunity to extend this idea to himself, explaining how his flesh and his blood are the true food and drink that provides eternal life. Those in the crowd, including the Apostles, have great difficulty with this teaching, as we read beyond this passage. In fact, after two millennia and volumes of writings from theologians, we still have difficulty with this teaching… that Jesus is real and present in the Eucharist… that we are in fact eating his body and drinking his blood. It requires a leap of faith. Jesus himself told us this, and it is our faith in him as Lord that allows us to accept this great Mystery of the Church. It is also through this same Eucharist, the most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, that binds us together as Church and makes us the people of God.