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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Corpus Christi Sunday

The Body and the Blood of Christ

Corpus Christ, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, acknowledges the tremendous gift of Holy Communion and of our daily nourishment by God’s love in giving his Son, Jesus Christ, to and for us. This conceptual feast reveals to us the overarching desire of Jesus to be with us always as a life-giving presence. Europe and parts of Latin and South America have grand processions of the Blessed Sacrament through city streets and rural fields to bless the people and their livelihood – a tradition that hearkens back to the Middle Ages. In our contemporary Masses, we sing an ancient Sequence by Thomas Aquinas that announces the grand mystery that will be told in the Gospel reading.

In the first reading from Exodus, Moses sprinkles half the blood of a sacrificed animal on an altar that is surrounded by twelve pillars erected at the foot of the mountain and he douses the people with the other half of the blood. The blood symbolizes the life force that seals the covenantal commitment between God and the people. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus affirms God’s unbreakable bond by sharing his body symbolized by the bread and his blood by the cup during the Passover meal. His blood will mark the new covenant as it is shared in its totality because it represents the fullness of his lifelong offering of himself to the Father and to us in love.

I have often wondered why more people do not partake of the saving cup that Christ offers us. Many do not see it as essential to their salvation and sadly that perspective misses the point. Jesus’ flesh and blood sustains, protects and frees us so that we can be nourished and tell others of God’s covenant with us. It is the blood that seals this covenant. I often tell the people to “crunch and munch” – to really partake of the food that is important for our well-being. Eat the body by making it part of our own; drink the blood rather than merely pursing our lips to the cup. Let us be as deliberately active as we can in our own salvation. When we do so, we renew our promise to live as full members of Christ’s body. Let us imitate the one you has saved us and brings us life.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

This week, the centrality of the Eucharist shapes the way in which we live each day. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount continues as Jesus speaks of the counter-cultural behaviors and attitudes we are to adopt. We are not to seek revenge for sins committed against us, but we are to love one another, even our enemies. We are to grow in holiness interiorly while not parading our righteousness, and we are to grow in simple trust of God’s providence for us as Jesus teaches us his prayer to the Father. Paul in the first reading continues his letter to the Corinthians by examining our choices within the paradoxical relationships of strength and weakness, joy and sorrow, and generosity and need. He acknowledges that life as a follower of Christ demands sacrifices that provide for a glorious eternal reward to the one who is faithful.

Saints of the Week

The feast of the Sacred Heart is always celebrated on the Friday following Corpus Christi and the Immaculate Heart of Mary falls on Saturday. Jesuit Father Claude La Colombiere is remembered for his spiritual direction of Margaret Mary Alacoque who received revelations about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Through his sermons, the Feast of the Sacred Heart was established as a liturgical celebration in the 17th century Originally, the church’s faithful began to worship the wounds of Christ in the 11th century and the pierced heart eventually became a symbol of Christ’s threefold love (human, spiritual, and divine) of humanity. The remembrance of Mary’s Immaculate Heart is tied to the Sacred Heart devotion as her heart signifies her sanctity and her love for humanity as the Mother of God. The Jesuits often pray as an act of consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart as we commend all humans to the care of Jesus and Mary.

Jesuit Ordination and Province Day

Jesuits and their colleagues from the New England Province gather each year for Province Days and ordinations. This year, Toddy Kenny is ordained to the priesthood following theological studies at Boston College School of Ministry and Theology. We inaugurate a new provincial for the next six years. Fr. Myles Sheehan, a medical doctor and gerontologist from Loyola University Chicago takes over the leadership for the 320 Jesuits of the province. His inspirational words at the assembly provide us with hope for the future. We wish Fr. Sheehan much luck and we wish to provide him with the best support that we can. Each year we are blessed to come together to spend time with one another as brothers and to be spiritually replenished before we return to our apostolic missions to proclaim Christ to the world. We wish we had more time together.

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