Feast of God’s Friendship

Feast of God’s Friendship

The Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). Fr Richard Conrad preaches on how divine friendship is extended to us in the holy eucharist.

Last Christmas, we recalled how God the Father sent us his Son. By his words and deeds, above all by his death for his friends, Jesus revealed his Father’s mercy. In his resurrection Jesus revealed what his Father has in store for us.

We speak of ourselves and our plans to our friends. In Jesus his Word, God the Father spoke to us of himself and his plans — and so made himself our friend.

We speak with our friends out of love and to extend love. God the Father spoke to us out of the personal, divine Love, the Holy Spirit — it was by the Spirit that Jesus was conceived. And because God spoke his Word into the world, the Holy Spirit was ‘extended’ to us as another Paraclete, another friend — Pentecost is the result of Good Friday and Easter.

We have just summarised all this by keeping the feast of the Holy Trinity. God always is friendship; when the Father spoke his Word into the world, when the Word became our kin, when the Spirit came as Paraclete, this was the divine friendship ‘unfolding’ to us.

Now it is time to keep the feast of the holy eucharist, the sacrament in which this ‘unfolding’ of the divine friendship is brought home to us. Out of love, God the Father keeps on giving us his Son to dwell among us: Jesus’ presence is renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The consecration of the bread and wine shows us Jesus’ handing over his flesh for the life of the world, shows us his shedding his blood as the new covenant, the pledge of divine loyalty. The sacrifice made two-thousand years ago is still effective: we who are nourished by Jesus’ body and blood are filled with the Holy Spirit. All that happened then, happens among us day by day.

In his resurrection Jesus revealed our future. We journey towards that future, not strengthened by the old manna but by the living Bread who will raise us up on the last day. The essence of that future is shown us in the eucharist: the appearances of bread and wine show us Jesus coming to us as Food and Source of Joy.

Jesus who feeds us now, will feed us then: the Father will speak his Word to us to show us what he is — in that vision we shall truly live. Jesus who fills us now with the Holy Spirit to ‘form’ us in love, will give us the same Spirit to ‘shape’ us in divine joy.

That joy will be a common rejoicing: our delight in each other’s glory will reflect the friendship that God the Holy Trinity is. Of that, too, the eucharist is a foretaste: Christ the one Bread gives us the Spirit to make us one body, one spirit in him. We are caught up in the reconciling sacrifice which inspires us to honour each other as members of one body.

The Son and the Spirit came from the Father to bring us back to the Father. The eucharist perpetuates that coming. They will be given us in the Kingdom to make us able to commune with the Father. Of that communion the eucharist is ‘down-payment’. Already, on behalf of all creation, we offer every honour and glory to God the Father, with, through and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

The risen Jesus told his disciples,

As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.

Daily, he is again among us, again commissioning us. At the end of mass we are sent forth in the strength of what we have received, sent to imitate what we have celebrated.

We have seen Jesus’ self-giving, we have been shown how to give ourselves. Pentecost has been renewed, the commission can be fulfilled: the Spirit who formed Jesus’ body in Mary’s womb, and made it present on the altar, forms us into what we have received. We can be Christ’s hands and voice, can extend his care and truth to those we converse with.

In the holy eucharist the Holy Trinity comes to us; further, we are caught up in the unfolding of the divine friendship.

Readings: Deut 8:2-3,14-16 | 1 Cor 10:16-17 | John 6:51-58

fr. Richard Conrad teaches dogmatic and sacramental theology at Blackfriars, Oxford.