The Wellspring of Hope
The Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). Fr John Farrell preaches on the meanings of ‘Body of Christ’.
In the Catholic Tradition we use the phrase ‘Body Of Christ’ in three distinct but interconnecting ways. The first and constant use is to refer to Jesus himself, stressing the full humanity of the Incarnate Son of God. He was formed in his mother’s womb, was born and grew. He bodily touched the untouchable leper. He walked through the villages and fields of his native land. He spoke God’s word in a human way. He ate and drank. He suffered, was tortured, murdered and was dead and bodily buried.
But he is no longer dead, but Risen and glorified in his body. He is no longer bound by time and space as we are, and he was in his earthly life. He is alive and with us. He is the Lord actively reigning in his own creation.
The second use of this phrase is to refer to the men and women and children who form the embodying of the life of Jesus in each and every generation. He, the living Lord, is the Head of his Body the Church. By baptism every Christian has the serious vocation of being the embodying of Jesus in the place, situation and time of their own lived life. Through their human bodies they are to make present his kingdom and reveal his presence. No Christian is to say ‘I am here in place of Christ’ but rather ‘In this place where I am, Christ is in this place’.
What is true of the individual is even more vibrantly true of the Body of Christians under the active Headship of the Risen Jesus. Every parish community, or other grouping of Christians, has the on-going duty of being an embodying of Jesus in this particular place and this particular time. It is the uniqueness of each Christian life that is essential in the building up of the Church and the fruitfulness of its mission
But how can we live up to such a calling unless we were constantly nourished by Jesus himself? Hence the third use of the phrase ‘The Body – and Blood – of Christ’ is to refer to the celebration of the Eucharist at the heart of every Christian community. ‘The Eucharist makes the Church, and the Church makes the Eucharist’. The Eucharist is medicinal and healing, it is also a power for mission. Whereas other food is eaten so that it becomes us, with this food which Jesus himself gives us we become him because it is him we are receiving.
So all three meanings come together. That same Jesus we read about in the gospel stories gives himself to us so that we might become him and members one of another in the holy communion and mission of his Church:
As I who am sent by the Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This communion and mission is itself embodied in history as the one holy catholic and apostolic church we proclaim in the Creed. We are not just in communion with those we see present in our chapel or work, but with men and women whom we will never meet, speaking languages we will never understand who are praying for us as we are praying for them in the one Body of Christ. And as Jesus is Lord of both the living and the dead, so the dead too form one Body with us.
At the heart of this communion is the sacrifice of Calvary, the broken body and shed blood of Christ’s love for the world. The sacrifice of Calvary cannot be repeated because it has not ceased in its power. It throbs through every atom of creation and every second of time. But Jesus’s priestly work continues. He is the Eternal Priest and the Everlasting Victim. In the sacrifice of the Mass we repeatedly re-enter into his self offering to the Father. In the prayers around the consecration we place our prayers of thanksgiving and of petition for the living and the dead into his one Calvary Prayer. Within our worship of the Body and Blood of the Lord present on the altar, we place our own self-offering of our Christian bodily life.
I appeal to you brethren by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom 12.1)
All our Christian activity is taken up into the Eucharist just as the Eucharist is at the same point the wellspring of our hope and our courage ‘until the Lord comes’. Our daily prayerfulness within Christ includes all creation as we prayer ‘in the name of every creature under heaven’ and as we pray