The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 3, 2018 – Year B
Readings: Ex 24:3-8 / Ps 116 / Heb 9:11-15 / Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
You’ve heard Father and me talk about the Exodus 90 program that a group of us in our parish did. It’s a ninety-day program, and during that time you’re supposed to refrain from any kind of social media. You’re not supposed to use the Internet except for work or school.
Over that period I stopped using Facebook (except to keep tabs on the parish’s Facebook page) and YouTube. I would typically browse the Internet during lunch at work, so the first day, I thought, Okay, what do I do? And so I started reading. It was very spiritually beneficial and a great change.
After Exodus was over, I continued that. And then, as time went on, I started from time to time looking at things on the Internet, and I began watching Bishop Barron’s short videos. (They’re excellent. I highly recommend them.) If you’ve ever spent any time on YouTube, you know that you watch one video, and then there are lots of links to other videos, and this can go on forever.
One day, one of the suggested videos was by Dr. Peter Kreeft. He’s a philosophy teacher at Boston College, and I knew he was highly respected, but I’d never heard him speak. What caught my attention was he had an hour-plus long talk on The Lord of the Rings. Anybody who knows me knows that one of my heroes is J.R.R. Tolkien. I thought, this has got to be good.
So I watched it, and it was interesting. One of his main points in that video was echoed in some of Bishop Barron’s videos, which I found really interesting. The point they both were making is that in today’s culture, we tend not to respect words the way people tended to in the past.
They made some very good points: that today, we tend to just say things without really fully thinking about it. I do it myself. How many times, when somebody tells you something, do you say, “That’s awesome!” Was it awesome? Was it really good? This is the kind of thing that drove Tolkien mad. He would agonize over this: Was it awesome? Was it really good? Was it nice? Because words are important.
A byproduct of our habit of just throwing words around willy-nilly is that we don’t always appreciate the language that is used in the scriptures and in Mass.
There’s one word that we hear all the time, and if you really understand the word, it opens up everything. That word is “sacrament.” We hear it all the time. We have seven sacraments in the Church. Sacrament comes from the Latin, sacramentum. That was a sacred oath taken by a soldier when he was entering military service in Rome. By this sacred oath he was bound to the Roman empire with a bond that could not be broken. In effect, that oath established a relationship.
It occurred to me that that’s really what sacraments do. Sacraments establish, maintain, and support relationship.
Think about it. First sacrament, sacrament of Baptism: When someone is baptized, a child of God is formed, a brother or sister of Christ. And in this sacrament, the words are very, very important. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” That is required. If I were baptizing a baby and I said, “I baptize you in the name of the Lord,” and poured some water, it’s not valid, because the words are important.
Other sacraments: sacrament of Confirmation. The bishop or designated priest makes a cross on a person’s forehead and says, “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit.” And through the actions and words, the relationship that was already started with the Trinity, specifically with the Holy Spirit, is strengthened and fortified.
Think about our sacraments of Reconciliation. When you go to confession, and Father Sal says the words, standing in persona Christi, so these are the words of Jesus. When he says “Your sins are forgiven,” guess what? Your sins are forgiven. Those words bring about the action that begins to repair a relationship with God.
Think about Marriage and Holy Orders. When a couple stands in front of the altar and says, “I do,” a sacred relationship is established between them and God. When a bishop says the words in an ordination, a man is configured and an established relationship is created between the man, who is now in the image of Christ the servant or Christ the High Priest. That relationship is established between him and God and the Body of Christ.
When you stop to reflect on words, our rich, rich history and the power of our liturgical celebrations, sacred scripture opens up.
There is one word that we throw around all the time and probably never even think about it. It’s a simple word: Amen. That simple word, Amen, means, “So be it.” It means basically, “What you just said, or what I just said, I believe it.”
Think back just a few minutes ago to the beginning of Mass. Father did the Collect, the opening prayer, and at the end of it, we said Amen. I hope we all meant it. In just a little while we’ll say the Creed, and we’ll say that we believe in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe in His Apostolic Church. We believe in the resurrection of the body. And at the end of it we say Amen.
Today we celebrate one sacrament in particular: the sacrament of the Eucharist. Vatican II states that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life, because through this sacrament, our relationship with God and with one another is strengthened, healed, and supported. In just a few minutes, Father Sal will be up here, once again standing in the place of Jesus, and he will speak some words. He will say, “This is my Body. This is my Blood.” Those words were spoken by Jesus, and those words have power.
So when you come up for Communion, and you’re presented with the Host, and you hear the words, “The Body of Christ,” and you respond “Amen,” that little word means, “I believe that this is the body of Christ. I believe that I am standing and participating in His Church. And I believe that by taking the body of Christ, I will share in the life that only He can give us.”