Corpus Christi Year B

Happy Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ Fara Wo Milan Corpus Christi Year B First Reading: Exodus 24:3-8 Moses went and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. In answer, all the people said with one voice, “We will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed”. Moses put all the commands of the Lord into writing, and early next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve standing-stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he directed certain young Israelites to offer holocausts and to immolate bullocks to the Lord as communion sacrifices. Half of the blood Moses took up and put into basins, the other half he cast on the altar. And taking the Book of the Covenant he read it to the listening people, and they said, “We will observe all that the Lord has decreed; we will obey”. Then Moses took the blood and cast it towards the people. This he said is the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you, containing all these rules. The Word of the Lord. Second Reading: Hebrews 9:11-15 Now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, which is better than one made by men's hands because it is not of this created order; and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption for us. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer are sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement and they restore the holiness of their outward lives; how much more effectively the blood of Christ, who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God through the eternal Spirit, can purify our inner self from dead actions so that we do our service to the living God. He brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant. The word of the Lord. Gospel: Mark 14:12-16.22-26 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, ‘The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there.” The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover. And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. “Take it,” he said “this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.” After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives. The Gospel of the Lord. Corpus Christi Year B Ex. 24:3-8; Heb. 9:11-15; Mk 14:12-16.22-26 Renewal of Eucharistic devotion Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. The covenant or pact is the almost compulsory point of reference of the liturgical texts we have just read. The Gospel makes it clear that the covenant sealed with the Blood of Christ is the heart of the worship and life of the Church: “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many”. These are the words of someone who is staring at death and we could say they are his will, his last words to his children. We take these words as serious as he meant them to be and as serious as we would take the last words of our mother or father before he or she closes his or her eyes; it is precisely the seriousness of these words that we are celebrating today in a special way and that we celebrate during every Mass. The covenant that these words refer to is prefigured in and gives a definitive character to the old covenant, sealed with the blood of bullocks. We see this in the first reading which says: “This is the blood of the covenant which Yahweh has made with you, entailing all these stipulations”. The covenant in the blood of Christ perpetuates the presence of God among us and purifies humankind from all its sins to worship the living God. This is the worship to which the second reading invites us. Augustinian nun Juliana of Liège had a vision in which a glistening full moon appeared to her. The moon was perfect but for some hollow dark spots which she was told represented the absence of a feast of the Eucharist. This led to the celebration of Corpus Christi which was introduced into the church calendar in 1264. Why do we need a feast of the Eucharist? A feast like this affords us the opportunity to give God collective thanks for Christ’s abiding presence with us which is made visible in the Eucharist. It is also an opportunity for us to seek a better understanding of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ and to order our attitude to it accordingly, since the Eucharist is a sacrament of life which, if misused, could bring about the opposite effect. The text of the first reading mentions some of the parts of the rite of the covenant, common to the Eastern people of the time. First of all, there is the reciprocal nature of the covenant: Yahweh on one side and the people on the other. Every covenant has to be enacted between two parties. Then it mentions the stipulations of the pact, which indicate the binding contents to which both God and the people are committed: the sacrifice of communion, which will culminate in a banquet; then there is the rite of the sprinkling of the blood on the parties to the pact, by means of which the pact is ratified. God’s indulgence with man goes to the extreme of a reciprocal pact! This pact speaks to us with great clarity of God’s love and of his eternal fidelity. In spite of the many infidelities to the pact on the part of Israel, in all of its historical vicissitudes this pact was always an unchallenged point of reference and an unequivocal sign of hope and permanent renewal. Little by little, in its long historical experience, Israel learned that God never abandons man, that his fidelity is ever-lasting. In seeing God’s faithfulness, Israel felt the attractive force of faithfulness, of responding to the pact with Yahweh with a sincere and definitive Amen. Then God extended this pact into a New Covenant, this time sealed with the blood of his Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ. Due to Israel’s constant infidelity to Yahweh, God revealed to the prophet Jeremiah the promise of a new covenant, a covenant written in the heart, which will bestow upon all the gift of the knowledge of God and of his merciful forgiveness (Jer. 31:31-34). This promise was definitively fulfilled in Jesus Christ, in the Paschal Supper that he had with his disciples on the night that he was going to be taken away, in the blood of the covenant, shed for all on the summit of Mount Calvary. The Jews recalled the Old Covenant each year with the Feast of the Passover; we Christians recall and re-live the New Covenant each day, but in a special way on Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration. For us, the feast of the covenant is not annual but daily, weekly. Let us not forget the reciprocal covenant of God with the Church and with each one of her children, and consequently, of the Church and each one of her children with God. As Christians, each and every one of us must value the beauty of the covenant with God in the Blood of Jesus Christ, and at once the seriousness and responsibility of a pact to which we have sworn our fidelity. This is the New Covenant that we celebrate just now and which has a special newness in it. The Gospel and the second reading present some features of this novelty. In Jesus Christ both the mediator of the covenant and the sacrificed victim with whose blood the covenant is sealed and ratified coincide. Instead in the Old Covenant the mediator was Moses and the victim was a bullock. The covenant in the Blood of Christ is not only with the people of Israel, but with all of humankind. This is why his Blood was shed for all, and we enjoy eternal redemption. The covenant that Christ makes between God and humankind is not only new, but also definitive. Thus, as revelation finds its fullness in Christ, so the covenant finds fullness. He does not seal the penultimate, but the absolutely final covenant. The covenant between God and man in Christ Jesus is present in history, with its definitive mark, and through this mark it is subjected to the different dimensions of space and time. This covenant will culminate and achieve its perfection at the end of all centuries, in eternity with God. This is why Jesus says to the disciples “I shall not drink wine again until the day I drink the new wine in the Kingdom of God”. This New Covenant comes with a new type of priesthood. It is destined to all men. Jesus Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant, needs mouths in order for the good news of this covenant to reach all. He needs mouths and hands to consecrate the bread and wine of the new covenant and to distribute them to the people. Both God and men need priests. It is necessary for the Christian community to be more aware of this need. If there are no priests, then who will make present in the world the mediation of Christ between God and men? If Christian families have no children, or have only one child, two at the most, or don’t want their children to join the priesthood, won’t the number of those that have been called by God to priesthood necessarily decrease? If people kill priests, are they not killing the New Covenant – the Eucharist? If the new couples live together without getting married, or get married only with a civil rite, or marry today and separate tomorrow, won’t it be almost impossible for their children, once they have them, to hear God’s call to a priestly vocation? Do these attitudes not lead to spiritual hunger? These are serious questions. All of the Christian community must ask itself these questions, and must cooperate, to the extent possible, to look for and offer valid answers. If there is no priest there is no Eucharist. The priest is not a public functionary, the priest is not a development officer, the priest is not someone who has a car, the priest is not an angel or a saint; the priest is Christian set apart for the purpose of mediating between man and God. He does his work, trying to be faithful, yet remains under the influence of sin just as any other person. When the lay faithful work hand in hand with their priest then their worship is enhanced greatly since the new priesthood of the New Covenant helps us to worship the living God. In the Eucharist Jesus Christ is present, true God and true man. This is why the Catholic Church has worshipped and continues to worship the Eucharist, not only during Mass, but also outside its celebration. And so never allow anything, whatsoever, to go in between yourself and the Eucharist, not even your sins; make sure they are taken away before you approach the altar. Don’t allow the dressing style of others to take your mind away – after all the line walking up for communion is not a fashion parade. Don’t even allow the sins of others make you judgemental- the Eucharist and the whole Mass is reconciliatory not condemnatory (though we have to judge but our own selves). The Mass is not a time for praying the rosary or for looking around but a time for concentrating on the Paschal Mystery and of brining our joys and troubles before the Lord. Why then do many of us who receive the Eucharist not experience more of this radical transformation? Maybe this story will throw more light on the question. A team of Russians and Americans were on a common expedition. Among their cabin foodstuff was Russian black bread. It was tasty but hard on the teeth. It happened during a meal that an American bit into a piece and snapped a tooth. He threw the bread overboard and growled: “Lousy Communist bread.” The Russian countered: “Is not lousy communist bread. Is rotten capitalist tooth.” If we do not experience the transforming power of the Eucharist it is probably not on account of a lousy Eucharist but on account of our rotten faith. Let us today approach the Eucharist with a more lively faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and we shall experience therein God’s saving power and transforming love. Pope John Paul II wrote, “The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never case” (cf. Also CCC 1380). There are those that attribute to the bustle of life the fact that they have no time for Eucharistic adoration, but let us be honest, they do have time to go to watch a football match either in the field or on TV with full devotion, to spend most of the night out dancing, to go and take a beer with friends – and we are never tired pointing to the counter for our choice to be brought no matter how many times or raising the elbow up and down. All of these things are good in themselves, but why not make some time, between these or other activities, to go to Mass or to go into church for a few minutes and worship the transubstantiated Jesus Christ? It may be a bipping or flashy visit, but from the little that we offer, God will do great things. May the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ re-install in us a sense of respect for the Blessed Sacrament. Be a light to the world and salt to the earth Fara wo Milan

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