Feast of Corpus Christi

Mon, 08/14/2006 - 10:05

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. There are the obvious and most literal meanings to today’s readings and there are other, more hidden maybe, but still full of meaning for me and hopefully for you.

In the ancient Jewish tradition sacrifice was always important. Abraham almost sacrificed his son for God but usually it involved the sacrifice of an animal. The Aztec Indians built a culture around blood sacrifices. Sometimes this involved the human sacrifice of virgins and/or children – someone untainted. Why? Because human beings were trying to bond with the divine and blood connects everything to life. There has always been a human response to the Divine that wants to “give back” to God, to give something of life back to a living God.

In the Hebrew faith, only a High Priest could perform the sacrifice to God. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies; only the High Priest had the courage to stand before God for all the people.

Under the Old Covenant, the High Priest sprinkled the blood of a slain animal on the people after offering the animal to God. Under the New Covenant, Christ has become the High Priest and also the sacrifice, offering himself to God for the people, and then sharing his life – his body and blood, with the people, with us.

God became flesh in Jesus – the Word took on our flesh and our humanity is now a part of God. The night before Christ died, he gave his body and blood during the Passover, and we partake of his body and blood during every Eucharist. The Body of Christ died on the Cross, his heart was pierced, and his blood was shed. Humanity and each of us went from Death to Life, from prison to freedom. We are one with God, his Son, and the Spirit.

That is the more obvious meaning of these readings but I think there are others. I believe that God became flesh to show his love for us, to share his life, to show us how to share this life with one another. When we have a self-giving love for another person, life is not always wonderful, exciting, or fulfilling. Love is often difficult and takes effort. Love asks for sacrifice and compromise. It demands that we show mercy toward the other – accepting the other’s habits, needs, quirks, etc. And yet, when we love someone else with a self-giving love, we want to make these sacrifices. We want to give our lives to the other. Christ does this also. He shares his life with each of us, and did it even unto death.

And what is our response to such great love? Do we ever thank God for his gifts to us – our lives, partners, friends, family, jobs, and the beauty of creation? Do we ever thank God for the greatest gift of all – Jesus in the Eucharist? Here we are mystically united to God and our lives become part of God’s life.

We take Christ into ourselves and participate in the awesome mystery of living Christ in everything. We become the Body of Christ for each other; the other becomes the Body of Christ for us. The Eucharist should help us to be more aware of Christ in those we love and in those we have difficulty with. It may be the drag queen, the leather honcho man, the Bishop, the homeless beggar, and we can all fill in the blanks after that. By participation in the Eucharist, we become that which we celebrate. Christ has entrusted himself to us so that we can care for Him in one another. Everyone and everything is sacred. When we recognize this and live it, we witness to the love and power of God in our lives and in the world.