SUNDAY HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI YEAR B
THEME: Body and Blood of Christ: the Sacrament that makes us One People
BY: Fr. Luke Ijezie
HOMILY: Exod 24:3-8; Psalm 116:12-18; Heb 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16,22-26
1. To be one people is not easy given our individual diversities. But that remains the task of the Christian community in every age. The Solemn Feast of Corpus Christi, which the Church celebrates today, is so rich in meaning that one can reflect on it from so many complementary perspectives. One significant aspect of the feast is that it celebrates the unique Sacrament that moulds us into one people out of diverse peoples and ethnicities. It celebrates the initiation into a new life, which entails a new relationship and a new identity. Jesus calls the meal of the institution of this Sacrament in today’s Gospel a passover meal, and that sums it. It marks a passage from an old form of life to a new one. It celebrates the passage from death to life. It seals a new pact, a new covenant that gives new identity and better hope. It makes us one people with a common orientation and common destiny. All these are expressed in the rich and plurivocal symbols of body and blood.
2. The first reading narrates the ratification of the Sinai covenant which gave Israel the new identity as God’s people. This was sealed by blood of the sacrificed animal. The blood of the covenant in this ritual context signifies their death to the old life, relinquishing of the old identities, purification and incorporation into the new life as God’s people. Blood is a powerful symbol. In one sense, it expresses death of the old life and in another sense, it expresses another kind of life. Covenants are sealed with blood to symbolize the sharing of the same life by the covenant partners.
3. The second reading introduces another covenant which is also ratified by blood. This time, it is no longer the blood of animals but the blood of Jesus which now perfects the old covenant. Through his blood shed in death, Jesus becomes the mediator of a new covenant that now enlarges and uplifts the people of God. Through Jesus many cultures and peoples become molded into the one people of God.
4. The Gospel text of Mark, which is one of the earliest accounts of the institution of the Eucharist, locates the institution within the Passover celebration. The bread and the wine at the passover meal are now interpreted as his body and blood respectively. Jesus literally gives his body and blood, that is, himself, as both the bond and the nourishment of the new community. His blood seals the rite that binds different persons and races together as one people and as one family: “This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.”
5. But one may ask, Are we really one people? This is one question that keeps troubling me as I reflect on these readings and on this feast of Corpus Christi. Do we act as one people? Those of us that share this one body and one cup, do we really see ourselves as one people? Or, Are we still torn apart by the mundane politics of our clan, racial and ethnic cleavages? Do we behave as one Eucharistic community in our local contexts where we celebrate this Sacrament together? To be a true Eucharistic community means that we love each other and help each other in moments of need. It means we treat each other as brothers and sisters.
Unfortunately, our Christian families and communities are torn apart by factors that contradict our covenantal fellowship in the Eucharist. We often scandalously keep stressing the factors that negate the love that binds us together as one people. The consequence is that we remain divided, disoriented and deformed and disabled. We ask God to help us so that as we experience Jesus in his body and blood in the Eucharist we may also experience one another as members of that one body and blood!
Fr. Luke Ijezie