Home » Gospel Encouragement – Corpus Christi – 6th June 2021

Gospel Encouragement – Corpus Christi – 6th June 2021

Dear sisters and brothers,

When I was at seminary in Birmingham, each summer there was what was called ‘Schools’ Outreach’.  In fact, it was really ‘Schools’ Inreach’, because year 6 children from a number of schools came to the college for faith-based activities over a ten day period.  One of the workshops that we put on was to help the pupils reflect on the Mass and, even if I say so myself, the activity that we devised was quite good.  It involved helping them to see the connection between the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, and it involved a spear, which always went down well.

So, what is that connection?  In today’s readings – as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – it’s this connection that’s being highlighted, and the origins of it.  In the Old Testament there’s a lot of blood, a lot of sacrifice, and today’s first reading shows us some of that blood being used.  Remember, God had ordained the people of Israel as his chosen people to represent the whole world.  What they agreed to, they agreed to on behalf of the world, and in this passage from Exodus they agree to obeying the covenant that God has entered into with them.  In that covenant, he has promised to be their God if they agree to live by his guidelines, including the Ten Commandments.  And today, they agree to just that, and the deal is sealed by them being sprinkled with the blood of a sacrificed animal, basically saying that if they break the covenant, let what has happened to the animal happen to them: death!!!  Of course, they virtually immediately broke it, and over the next ten centuries or so animals kept being sacrificed, taking on that death penalty on behalf of the people as a whole.

Wind forward a thousand years to today’s Gospel and second reading and we see the need for that ongoing sacrifice.  As Israel represented the world, Jesus – as the Son of Man – chose to represent Israel, and therefore, by default, the world as well.  Rather than animals being sacrificed, he sacrificed himself, taking that death penalty upon himself.  He established a new covenant with the world, a covenant based on love.  His love for us, and our love for him in response, gives us the chance to be forgiven by simply ‘asking’ for that forgiveness, rather than having to sacrifice the blood of another creature to earn it.  Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice once, for all people and for all time.  Our participation in the Mass is our receiving that gift of his loving forgiveness here and now, today.

And that’s where the activity for the children fits in.  We’d get them to act out the Last Supper, with one of them being Jesus and taking the plate and the goblet – the paten and the chalice as they’ve come down to us – saying the words: this is my Body; this is my Blood.  And then, standing on his chair, this young Jesus would spread his arms as if on the Cross, while the plate and the goblet remained in front of him.  The Body of Christ on the paten, is his gift to us of his broken, sacrificed Body on the Cross. And the Blood of Christ, is his gift to us of his Precious Blood, spilling from his side after the spear – the lance – had pierced his broken body.   What he did at the Last Supper was a prophetic sign of what was to happen on Good Friday, his gift to us of the sacrifice that he chose to make of himself on our behalf.

And the third and final part of the activity with the children was to sit down at the same table again, but this time to see it as the table at the inn in Emmaus.  It’s Easter Sunday, two disciples fleeing Jerusalem have encountered a stranger who has explained to them all about Jesus as the Messiah and, we are told, they finally recognise that the stranger is Jesus “in the breaking of bread”.  That which he does at the Last Supper he continues to do into the Resurrection, bringing the fruits of Good Friday and Easter Sunday into every celebration of the Mass.

So, as we celebrate Corpus Christi this weekend – and as we receive his Body and Blood – let’s recognise this greatest of gifts that Jesus gives to us.  The gift of himself, dead and risen, broken and restored, as the ultimate expression of loving forgiveness that anyone could ever give.  And let’s choose to respond, by seeking to increase in our love for him more and more each day.

With every blessing.