A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Fr Kevin Head SM

Sunday 6 June

Vincent Donovan was a missionary in Africa, among the Maasai people. A member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, the Spiritans, he was ordained in 1952 and went to Tanzania in 1965. Part of his ministry was to go from village to village to celebrate the Eucharist. A rule that he and the people had agreed on was that if there were even one person in the town who was not at peace with everyone else, there would be no celebration of the Eucharist. In one place, there was no celebration of the Eucharist for three months because a father and son had argued, and they were not ready to make peace.

The celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, is a celebration about unity, peace and love in Christ. When we celebrate Mass, we aim to bring our whole selves, every aspect of our lives, to the altar of God -- sufferings, divisions, and sins, along with our joys and consolations. We unite every part of our being as best we can with Christ’s sacrifice. Putting love of God and one another before self, we become one with the Bread broken and the Wine spilt in memory of the Lord.

The earliest account of the Last Supper dates from 55 A.D., twenty years or so after Our Lord's death and resurrection, in St Paul's writing, in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, the second reading for the Mass of Holy Thursday evening. St Paul had been taking the Christians of Corinth to task for not sharing with the poor. In those days, a full meal accompanied the Eucharist. Paul pointed out that there were divisions in the community, and "when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start their own meal that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk" (1 Corinthians 11:21). Poor people who had little or no food to bring for the banquet were left feeling ashamed.

There's a sense in which the most important words said at Mass are those of the dismissal: "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life." Not because we can then buzz off home, but because the Lord sends us out to be the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation for the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, the lonely and the helpless, hopeless ones. And the Lord strengthens us to do so in Holy Communion, and blesses us for the ways in which we help others to the extent that we are able.   


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