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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord

   On Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, This feast goes back to the thirteenth century when the belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was being questioned.  And guess what? It is still being questioned in some circles. With good reason the Church continues to affirm and defend that belief.  Nonetheless there are some other aspects of Catholic Eucharistic faith that I believe are not discussed often enough.  In highlighting these I think that some who question belief in the real presence would come to understand it better.

   One issue is that while we keep affirming Christ's presence in the Eucharist we don't often ask "What is He doing? How is He engaging us."  You see if one is really present to another there is some sort of involvement, engagement in the life of the other.  Here in our Diocese of St. Petersburg our bishop, Robert Lynch, had a wonderful 3 year catechesis a few years ago in which he underscored the 3 movements of Gathering, Nourishing and Sending that take place in the Mass. We, the People of God are gathered by the Lord, a gathering that begins when we go out the door of our home and continues up to our gathering as a congregation. In this He is already present among us, though not yet present in the Eucharistic bread and wine. The gathering continues until we are gathered into one by the Holy Spirit following the consecration. We affirm this at the greeting of peace, a gesture celebrating our union with Christ and through Him to each other.

   The nourishing is ultimately the reception of His Body and Blood in Holy Communion, but even before that we are nourished by the Word and then drawn into the mystery of His death and resurrection, the source of our nourishment.

   The sending results from our own consecration.  Many Catholics fail to realize that just as the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so too are we, the Church. The difference is that we are called to say yes to that truth.  For most of us that is a lifetime project. We sin. We fail. We resist being transformed, but insofar as we are transformed we are sent into the world at the end of Mass to bring to the world what we have celebrated at the altar.  Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life is my favorite form of the choices given for the dismissal rite at the end of Mass. The dismissal is a sending or missioning.

   With every Eucharist we grow more and more into the image of Christ. The Body of Christ then is the Blessed Sacrament, but it is also we, the Church. That's really something to celebrate.

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