YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING
HOMILY THEME: CORPUS CHRISTI –A NEW COVENANT
BY: Fr. Gerald Musa
In the early hours of the morning, there was a torrential rain and I was amazed to see the large number of people who were going to pray. As I was driving towards the chapel, I saw students and other people clutching their umbrellas and torchlights coming from different directions towards the chapel. Their commitment defied the rains and not even the force of nature and the attraction of a warm bed daunted their enthusiasm to go for Morning Mass and receive communion. They all had the option of remaining in the warmth of their rooms and of praying quietly and privately. They chose to come to join in the community prayers.
The second Sunday after Pentecost is called Corpus Christi (Body of Christ). It is a day on which the Church celebrates the Solemnity and dignity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Many years ago, St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon in Belgium promoted veneration to the Blessed Sacrament and it was through her influence that Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus is included in the annual calendar of the Church.
The celebration of Corpus Christi is important because the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. This is to say that it is the fountain of our joy and strength and it is the summit to which all activities of the Church are directed. What is more, the Eucharist is the new covenant that God makes with his people. In the Old Testament God made a covenant with Israel through Moses using the blood of oxen; In the New Testament, Jesus the new mediator renewed this covenant on the day of his last supper with his disciples. The letter to the Hebrews says this new covenant was a radical departure from the old covenant that was sealed with the blood of goats, calves and oxens (Hebrews 9:11-15).
A covenant is an agreement or commitment that two or more parties make. It comes from the Latin Word convenire, which means to come together. Coming together marks the beginning of every covenant. After coming together, the parties engage in a commitment rooted in unconditional love. In the history of salvation, God made several covenants with his people, beginning with our first parents Adam and Eve. The covenant he made with them is that of obedience (Genesis 1:26-28); He made another covenant with Noah after the flood; furthermore, he made a covenant of promise with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). Years later, he made a legal covenant with Moses in which he issued the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-31). After the Israelites arrived the Promised Land, God went into another covenant with his people (Deuteronomy 30:1-10). Later on, he made a covenant with David assuring him that his dynasty will be for many generations and will be fulfilled in the coming of Christ.
In the Old Covenant Moses sprinkled the people with the blood, saying: “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his” (Exodus 24:3-8). This ritual that Moses performed appears like the Holy Eucharist, because he began with the liturgy of the Word in which He took the book of the covenant, and read it aloud to the people. Similarly, "In the New Covenant, Jesus took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to his disciples, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” Both of these rituals were ways of sealing the covenant and in both instances the disciples participated in the covenant. It is important to note that the first covenant was specifically between Moses and the people of Israel, but the second covenant has a wider scope because it was between Jesus and all who believe in him. The book of Hebrews explains to us that Jesus entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood (Hebrew 9:11-15).
As we celebrate the Body and Blood of Jesus let us reflect on the following four points:
1. If blood is a sign of biological relationship between people, it follows naturally that those who share in the body and blood of Christ are also related by flesh and blood.
2. We recall that God sanctified the body by coming into the world in the form of flesh and body. As we celebrate the Body of Christ, we also celebrate the dignity of our bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit.
3. As Jesus shed his blood by laying down his life and he invites us to pour out our lives as libation and even as holocaust in the service of our brothers and sisters.
4. The celebration of Corpus Christi is a good reminder of the importance of receiving Jesus daily in Holy Communion. St. John Vianney says, “Not to go for communion is like someone dying of thirst beside a spring.”
Corpus Christi Sunday/Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16.22-26.