The scripture readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ focus on covenants. In the Book of Exodus (24:3-8), at Mt. Sinai, Moses sprinkled blood upon the Israelites, a symbol of God’s desire to make them part of His “blood” relations. Thirteen centuries later, in his Letter to the Hebrews (9:11-15), St. Paul reminds us of the New Covenant which Jesus established: “When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood.” In Mark’s Gospel (14:12-16, 22-26), Jesus gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room. While they were eating, 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.”
Did you know that each time we celebrate the Eucharist and receive Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion, we renew that covenant?
As we know, the Mass has many parts. From the Introductory Rites to the Eucharistic Prayer to the Dismissal, each has a special place within our liturgical worship of the Lord. Given our exposure to these many parts, over time, they become part of us. Nonetheless, one phrase is repeated more than any other. At the distribution of Holy Communion, the bishop, priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister, says the following words over and over: The Body of Christ. If we listen closely, in the silence of our worship space, these four words form a sort of litany and possess the capacity to penetrate our entire being. We might ask ourselves: Why is it that these words are repeated over—again and again?
The Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, once reflected upon the the Words of Institution that are spoken by the priest that, through the mystery of Transubstantiation, transform the bread and wine into the very Body and Blood of Christ. Rahner noted that “what Christ gives us is quite explicit if his own words are interpreted according to the Aramaic meaning. The expression ‘This is my Body’ means ‘This is Myself.’”
Therefore, to answer our question regarding why the communion minister repeats The Body of Christ to each of us is simple: Each time we receive Holy Communion, Jesus gives us His very Body and Blood, His very Self! In life, can we think of anything more intimate than to give our very selves to another?
At Holy Communion, the Son of God, Son of Mary, the very Jesus who died for us at Calvary, enters our body. When receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, Love enters our bodies. What should be our response? To love some more. For we humans, love is found not by accumulating things; but rather, by giving ourselves away. We see this in families where husbands and wives sacrifice for one another. We see this in religious life and priesthood, where men and women make a gift of self to God and His holy people.
At wedding celebrations, we often hear a passage from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (Ch13), referred to by scripture scholars as a Hymn to Charity: “…that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And that, when everything else has passed away, one thing remains.”
In the Eucharist, God gives us His very self—which is Love. And so, it is right to ask: After Jesus gives Himself to us, do we shine the love we have received upon others?