The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Exodus 24:3-8 Psalm 116 Hebrews 9: 11-15 Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
“Behold what we are: May we become what we receive.”
In this COVID time, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ has greater meaning and cause to celebrate than usual.
After months of watching Mass through a live stream and fasting from the Eucharist, I was happy to return to in-person Mass. It was daily Mass, and there were a few people in the church, and with all the protocols it felt a bit awkward. The priest was distributing communion with a gadget that looked like a coin dispenser. It was all a bit surreal, but I appreciated that he was trying to do all he could to keep people safe and comfortable. As I received Communion, I was overwhelmed with emotion and began to cry. I was surprised by my spontaneous response. I felt the presence of Christ in a renewed way, both in the reception of the Eucharist and in the small community gathered. I felt more like myself that morning than I had for more than a year.
In the episode described in today’s Gospel passage, Jesus gathered the disciples in an upper room. It was an intimate setting—human beings in close contact physically and spiritually. They had a meal, and Jesus blessed, broke, and gave them the Bread of Life. It was a physical experience that spiritually transformed their whole beings—they became a bit more of their true selves that day, a bit more the Body of Christ.
In some Protestant churches, after the Lord's Prayer is recited, the minister breaks the bread and says, “Behold what you are,” and the people reply, “May we become what we receive.” These words come from a sermon on the Holy Eucharist by St. Augustine. In this sermon, St Augustine states what he calls “one of the deep truths of Christian faith: through our participation in the sacraments, we are transformed into the Body of Christ, given for the world.” In broken bread and wine outpoured, we glimpse Christ’s broken body on the cross and come to know the depth of God’s unconditional love for us. I experienced Christ through the Word and spiritual communion when I participated in live-streamed Mass, but it is not the same thing as being physically together with others and receiving Christ in Holy Communion.
Henri Nouwen writes that the words “taken,” “blessed,” “broken,” and “given” summarize our lives as Christians because, as Christians, we are called to become bread for the world: bread that is taken, blessed, broken, and given.
As you gather for in-person Mass and come forward to receive Communion, behold what you are—and as you return to your pew pray, “May I become what I have received.”
Sr. Terry Rickard, OP