Body and Blood of Christ Sunday B
June 6, 2021
Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
By Rev. John Tran
On the cover of the paperback edition of Fr. Peter Van Bremen’s book, As Bread that is Broken, we read: “You eat a piece of bread. The bread ceases to be bread and becomes part of you. it rises to new life...we (like bread) are consumed in the gift of ourselves to our fellow men and women. We die in order to rise to new life.” To me, this quotation sums up what this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ means for us.
What we celebrate is Jesus’ gift to us at what we know as the Last Supper. Just how this meal was to be eaten, was expected to follow a certain pattern. It was a very ritual Passover meal that followed a prescribed and expected script and ritual. In fact, we see in today’s gospel, Jesus gave precise instructions as to how this meal was to be prepared for. There is a particular room to be gotten from a particular person; there is an unblemished lamb to be purchased; there is the bread and wine needed; there are the bitter herbs and so on. The disciples saw the lamb as a reminder of the past; Jesus saw the lamb as a sign of the very near future. At the end of the meal, Jesus brings in something new. He tells his disciples that the bread he breaks with them is in fact his very body; and the wine they drink is his very blood. Jesus gives this gift in anticipation that the meal will be concluded the next day, by his sacrifice on the Cross. Jesus becomes the new lamb. The Last Supper is summit and culmination of what self-emptying is. And all of this is a gift for the disciples to take notice of and to do again.
This bread that is broken nourishes the life of Christ in us until he comes. It is startling that Jesus gave this gift to his disciples once; It is beyond our comprehension that he gives this gift of his very self to us again and again. But the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive is not just for the moment in which it is received. No, just like the Last Supper, it finishes after we have eaten body broken and blood spilt.
We must return to our quote at the beginning. When we eat a piece of bread, it ceased to be just bread, but becomes part of us. It brings us to new life. But there is more than ordinary bread here. The Body and Blood we receives makes us part of Jesus himself and moves us on to take part in his self-emptying. We cannot just selfishly keep Jesus inside ourselves; instead, we must bring him with our words and lives to the very people who need him. Perhaps it is to the elderly, homeless, or sick. Maybe it is to someone I live with, or from whom I should seek forgiveness. To whomever, we empty ourselves just as Jesus did the day after the Last Supper.
Sometime ago this scene was noted by a priest at the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. A dozen or so pilgrims came out of the grand basilica. They had participated in a Mass, they had received Holy Communion, forming with Him, his Body and Blood. The priest saw them, and then saw a blind man who had received Communion with them. They came out of the Church together with him. He walked among them tapping the pavement in front of himself with his stick. He did not see them since he was blind but he must have been aware of them all talking excitedly, feeling a bit lost in a strange place. They did not see him, either, though they were not blind. He ended up in the midst of them. Someone stepped on his cane, bending it, while he was pushed on. They left him alone trying to straighten his cane. They had all been to Holy Communion together in Jesus, who said of all of them: “This is my Body, this is my Blood!” Yet, when it came to everyday life, that reality got lost, the Body did not seem to have been formed. They were not really in communion. They did not really form His Body, our Body. Did they? Do we?
I read once from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), that “The Eucharist...is the Gospel in action.”
Only if we live as Christ’s Body when we leave the church and carry out his love all week, do we allow it to be that Gospel in action. And as St. Teresa Benedicta, who died in a Nazi death camp wrote: “Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence and undivided.” May we present this to all we meet and so witness to all with whom we live as we carry the Lord from Mass to into the world.