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GOSPEL REFLECTION – CORPUS CHRISTI

Dear sisters and brothers,

As we celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi today – the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ – we celebrate Jesus’ great gift of himself to us.  That gift was given specifically on the Cross on Good Friday, but prophesied, as was the Resurrection, in the institution of the Eucharist the night before.  That Eucharist, ordinary bread and wine, transformed in the power of the Holy Spirit into His Body and Blood, are the means by which Jesus chooses to feed us.  We all need physical food and he knew that we need spiritual food as well, and what better spiritual food than the gift of himself.

As Catholics we have always accepted that, while we cannot understand the mystery, a miracle takes place at every Mass when bread and wine become his Body and Blood…because he said they would!  In today’s Gospel we hear him say that everyone who eats his Body and drinks his Blood will already have eternal life, sharing in his life as he shares in the life of the Father.  But a few verses later we also hear that many stopped following him on hearing this teaching.  Sadly, the Church is still riven in two by those who believe in the miracle and those who believe that it is purely symbolic.  But Jesus didn’t say, this is a symbol of my Body and Blood; he said “this is my Body…this is my Blood”.  This feast, therefore, also calls us to pray for ever greater healing of the brokenness of different denominations within the Church that Jesus founded.  As he prayed later in John’s Gospel: “that they may all be one”.

Alongside the nourishment that the first reading and Gospel highlight, today’s second reading also reminds us that when we receive the Eucharist – and hopefully we will be able to do so again soon – Jesus comes to live intimately within us, in ‘communion’.  Literally, he becomes one with us and we become one with him.  I’ve been particularly struck by the joyful mission and ministry of Jesus as I’ve watched the new series about his earthly life, ‘The Chosen’, which I’d strongly recommend (you can download the app or watch it on YouTube at https://youtu.be/K1-FoFj8Jbo, all for free).  Jesus was not necessarily a solemn character as he can so often be depicted, but an inspiring, joy filled and relational man, and as that person he chooses to make his home in us when we receive his Body and Blood.  As the Host and the Blood rest in our stomachs they are absorbed into the fabric of our own body, and Jesus becomes one with us. And because he is one with each of us, he makes us one with each other.  Why?  That we might be nourished, yes; but also because he chooses to continue his joyful mission and ministry through us.

St Augustine uses a helpful analogy. We, the Church, are like a loaf of bread.  Initially we were individual grains of flour, but in the water of Baptism the Holy Spirit needed us into one ball of dough, and in our Confirmation that dough was baked in the fire of the Holy Spirit into the loaf that the Church was made to be.  However, a loaf of bread isn’t just to be left on a shelf to go stale.  It is to be broken up and shared out that others might be fed, and that can be a painful process.  As Jesus gave the Bread of Life to his apostles at the last supper, and as we receive it today – when we can – in the Eucharist, and as Jesus allowed his Body to be broken upon the Cross, so he empowers us to allow ourselves to be broken as he continues to minister to the world through us.  That breaking may be in giving time that we’d rather not give, or in being ridiculed for witnessing to our faith, or in taking time to pray when we’d rather relax in front of the TV, or in a thousand and one other ways.  Whichever way it is, Jesus asks us to be willing to be broken for him, while always trusting that we are being broken ‘with’ him, that everyone in the world might know the great gift of his ever loving friendship and the fulness of life in him.

So as we return to the churches to pray in the coming weeks, let’s pray for a greater understanding of what it means to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and to be ever more willing to say yes to his call.

With every blessing.

Fr Simon