Sunday, June 03, 2018
Sunday word, 03 Jun 18
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (B) (03 Jun 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus provides us with a liturgical coda before we resume the numbered Sundays of the Year. In music a coda concludes a movement and adds to the basic musical structure. This solemnity is like a coda: it urges us to give ourselves to the One whose suffering, dying, rising and exaltation to share the very life of God we’ve celebrated in the Lent-Easter season; our Messiah Jesus’ Body and Blood has shaped us and will continue to shape us differently and anew in our futures. This year our scripture selections invite us to ponder Jesus’ Eucharist by noting covenant and remembering.
Very briefly about covenant: an ancient Middle East covenant was a relationship of unequals, the greater provided for the lesser partner. In return for protection or for use of water of an oasis, say, the one who offered privileges expected loyalty as well as tribute in return. That’s the covenant-significance of the people’s acclamation to Moses, All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.
Jesus’ entire ministry prepared and shaped his disciples to live their covenant with God more wholeheartedly. Loving God and loving others summarized covenant-living. Two phrases that challenge us all.
At the end of his life, dining at their most sacred meal, Jesus transformed covenant by giving his disciples himself: he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
His phrase, blood of the covenant, would not have sounded at all strange to his disciples. Biblical covenants were ratified in blood. Blood readily evokes death in our minds, but not to the Semitic mind, to Jesus’ mind! Jesus offered his disciples himself! Jesus, who transformed the covenant, asked his followers to remember him each time they broke bread and shared a blessing cup of wine.
Ancient Middle Eastern remembering was much richer than recall. Recall retrieves a fact, a face, a phone number: in short, recall retrieves data. Our liturgical remembering is not data-recall. Our remembering here makes present an event that has occurred.
Our liturgical remembering keeps Jesus present in our midst and within us. Our liturgical remembering dissolves distance between us and Jesus and his first disciples: we eat with those who ate with Jesus at his last Passover meal. As we eat with them the new covenant ratified in Jesus’ blood emerges for us. It invites us to imitate his pattern of living; more wholeheartedly and more freely to honour God and respect and care for creation, for all people, especially those in need.
The new covenant ratified in Jesus’ blood, his very life we drink at his altar, invites us to that action. Our longings to act and to enjoy partners who act as Jesus are gracious gifts of our Creator and Redeemer! We’re well aware our graced longings clash with other longings: to live more conveniently; not to be bothered; desiring to be the centre of our universes. When that clash exists, when we feel it inside, when we’d rather not do the Christian thing because we’ll stand out or look odd: we will love God and others when we choose to do what may go against the culture’s tide.
When Jesus sent two of his disciples to ready their Passover meal and said to them, Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him, they would not have missed him. Why? In his culture women ordinarily drew water and carried it in jugs from wells.1 Will loving God and others always make us stand out like that human landmark for the disciples? No, but at times it will. Will we usually feel it will make us stand out? Yes; that feeling hints our new covenant is drawing us and reshaping us. When we give ourselves to our new covenant ratified in Jesus’ blood—following Jesus’ lead and remembering him—we join his real presence wherever we are. I call it water-jar living: to live as human landmarks so others notice the gospel.
To help your water-jar living give Jesus 15 minutes daily this week. Rest in the love of our Triune God. Ask the disciples who prepared the Passover to present you to Jesus. Chat with him: tell Jesus what moves you most about sharing his Body and Blood; tell him how you desire to witness to his new covenant. Ask his grace to live your desire with courage. Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. When we say it we more than recall God’s love and Jesus’ counsel about praising and forgiving. Each time we pray it we let Jesus refashion us into Jesus’ presence where we live, work and play.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise