Our very identity

By: By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), June 14

Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116:12-13,15-16,17-18; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16,22-26

I am so taken with the response of the people to Moses in today’s first reading from Exodus. As was their custom, Moses was readying for the sacrifice of young bulls as a peace offering to the Lord. Upon hearing the words from the book of the covenant read by Moses, the people answered, “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.”

What a statement! Actually, that is what we proclaim every time we participate in the Eucharist. For us, the Eucharist is not a ceremony of a bystander. It is an action, remembering the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: “Take it; this is my body. . . . This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” (Mark 14:22b-24) In another Gospel passage, Jesus says it this way: “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

The mystery and the power of the Eucharist are breathtaking. It is our very identity as Catholics.

The mystery of Jesus giving his life-blood for every human being in unconditional love will never be something we can comprehend. Blood is a symbol of life. Remember our efforts as children to become inseparable with our friends by fusing blood from our fingers?

For the Israelites, blood offerings symbolized at-one-ment. They were united in the sprinkling of the blood. “Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that at-one-ment may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is blood, as the seat of life, that makes at-one-ment. ” (Leviticus 17:11)

Our at-one-ment in the Eucharist is the mystery of the blood of life flowing through each of us and all of us who participate in the body and blood of Christ. It is the mystery of connection. Being so connected would, logically, if we really could understand it, compel us to have such honor for each other that we would protect each other fiercely as if our own blood were coursing through the veins of the other.

That is also the power of the Eucharist. “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) When we receive the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we have the same words on our lips as the Israelites: “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.” In other words, for us as followers of Jesus, all that Jesus said and did, we do.

The Eucharist can never be the same for us who grasp, just a bit, its power. We are not simply bystanders, giving ourselves some time for quiet (which is necessary). We are willing to die as Jesus died, pouring out our blood for the life of the world. We are willing to die to our own desires and selfishness to be generous to others, willing to allow our blood to be spilled so that others can live.

“All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.” If we can open ourselves to such a connection with each other by giving our very life-blood, the words of the Israelites, and, more importantly, the words of Jesus — “Do this in remembrance of me” — would truly make visible the body of Christ in the world today.

A member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB, has been pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights since 1983.

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