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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Body and Blood of Christ Sunday

June 26, 2011
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58

In a highly dramatic scene, Jesus tells the crowds who witnessed his miraculous feeding of the 5,000 that if they are to be his believers, they are to eat his fleshy body and drink his coursing blood. He tells them they must be like cannibals who are to chew on the meat that makes up his body. This eating is real 'crunch and munch' grinding and chomping of flesh and blood. Understandably, this idea was revolting to many partial followers that turned away from Jesus. He claims that a person who does not eat and drink of him will not have true life and cannot be raised on the last day.

The Evangelist John portrays Jesus to be greater than Moses. We get another example of the way Jesus supersedes the great lawgiver in the Bread of Life discourse. Deuteronomy depicts the Hebrews in the desert after their emancipation from slavery in Egypt. They are being tested to see if they will keep the Lord's commandments. The Lord provides them each day with a food to sustain them that is unknown to their ancestors. The great lesson is to depend upon the Lord for all things and you shall have life.
Jesus tells the crowds he is the new manna from heaven, but this food is greater than the one the Hebrews ate for they died. Jesus gives life. His body is true food and his blood is true drink. The people are to depend upon him the ways the Hebrews relied upon the Lord's providence. Jesus provides the bread that brings eternal life.

I find it helpful to remind myself of the old saying, "You are what you eat." In this case, each time we eat we become more like the one we consume. If we admire a trait in someone, we emulate it and incorporate it. This trait becomes our own. If we participate in the Eucharist, something happens to us over time. Some days, I can sit during Mass and draw a blank on the Gospel proclaimed or on what the homilist said, but I recognize I am still sitting in the presence of Christ. In whatever way I am present, I am still relating to him and observing something about him - even if I'm not conscious of it.
I find it more consoling to think of the type of person I am becoming by eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood over a period of months and years. Somehow, I am mysteriously changed and I depend upon the Eucharist as a source of salvation and nourishment. It is a melior esse - something greater that is going on that is inexplicable. I hunger for Christ if I am unable to attend Mass. Not every Mass is going to be a earth-shattering event for me, but I choose to show up and be in the presence of the one whom I adore.

Sometimes, a calm, stable, uneventful Mass is what I and the world needs. With horrific violence, wars of upheaval, and gruesome disasters, the stability and regularity of Mass becomes consoling. It communicates to me that Christ is always present - steadfast in his desire to feed us and care for our woes.
The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ permits me to think of the myriad of people who participate in Mass each day, month, year, and century. God is charitable in answering our prayerful needs. God has provided since the advent of time and it is completely remarkable that so many people have turned to God to have their prayers answered. The billions upon billions of people who have eaten of Christ over the centuries shows to me the magnificence of his gift to us. I want to eat of him and drink his blood so I can become more like him.

Themes for this Week’s Masses
First Reading: Abraham protests to the Lord as they gaze upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah whose great sin was a violation of hospitality. The Lord would not destroy the city if only 10 righteous men were found in it. As the cities were being consumed, Lot's life was spared. He took refuge in Zoar, but his wife looked back and was cast into a pillar of salt. The Lord then asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a show of fidelity. As Abraham readies to do so, a ram is caught in a thicket and the Lord permits its sacrifice instead. The story of Isaac bestowing his blessings on Jacob instead of Esau is now told.

Gospel: Jesus begins to gather followers, but he warns them that he has no place to lay his head until his work is accomplished.  Jesus gets into a boat while a violent wind kicks up. To ease the fear of his disciples, he stills the storm and raises questions in the minds of his followers. Jesus infuriates the religious authorities because he cures and heals, but also forgives sins - an action reserved only for God. The feasts of Peter and Paul, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary supersede the Gospel passages for the day.
Saints of the Week

Monday: Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and doctor (376-444), presided over the Council of Ephesus that fought Nestorian the heresy. Cyril claimed that since the divine and human in Jesus were so closely united that it was fine to say Mary was the mother of God.

Tuesday: Irenaeus, bishop and martyr (130-200) was sent to Lyons as a missionary and he was charged with combating the persecution the church faced there. He was a disciple of Poycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus asserted that the creation was not sinful by nature but merely distorted by sin. As God created us, God redeemed us. Therefore, our fallen nature can only be saved by Christ who took on our form in the Incarnation.
Wednesday: Peter and Paul, apostles (first century) are lumped together for a feast day because of their extreme importance to the early and contemporary church. Upon Peter's faith was the church built; Paul's efforts to bring Gentiles into the faith and to lay out a moral code was important for successive generations. It is right that they are joined together as their work is one, but with two prongs. For Jesuits, this is a day that Ignatius began to recover from his illness after the wounds he sustained at Pamplona. It marked a turning point in his recovery.

Thursday: The First Holy Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (c. 64) were martyrs under Nero's persecution in 64. Nero reacted to the great fire in Rome by falsely accusing Christians of setting it. While no one believed Nero's assertions, Christians were humiliated and condemned to death in horrible ways. This day always follows the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Friday: The Sacred Heart of Jesus is set on the Friday following Corpus Christi. The heart of Jesus is adored as a symbol of divine, spiritual, and human love. Its devotion grew during the Middle Ages and was transformed in the 17th century when Mary Margaret Alocoque and her Jesuit spiritual director, Claude La Colombiere, reinvigorated the devotion.

Saturday: The Immaculate Heart of Mary began as a devotion in the 17th century. In 1944, the feast was extended to the Western Church. Her heart signifies her sanctity and love as the Mother of God.
This Week in Jesuit History
·         Jun 26, 1614. By a ruse of the Calvinists, the book, Defensio Fidei by Francis Suarez was condemned by the French Parliament. In addition, in England James I ordered the book to be publicly burned.
·         Jun 27, 1978. Bernard Lisson, a mechanic, and Gregor Richert, a parish priest, were shot to death at St Rupert's Mission, Sinoia, Zimbabwe.
·         Jun 28, 1591. Fr. Leonard Lessius's teaching on grace and predestination caused a great deal of excitement and agitation against the Society in Louvain and Douai. The Papal Nuncio and Pope Gregory XIV both declared that his teaching was perfectly orthodox.
·         Jun 29, 1880. In France the law of spoliation, which was passed at the end of March, came into effect and all the Jesuit Houses and Colleges were suppressed.
·         Jun 30, 1829. The opening of the Twenty-first General Congregation of the order, which elected Fr. John Roothan as General.
·         Jul 1, 1556. The beginning of St Ignatius's last illness. He saw his three great desires fulfilled: confirmation of the Institute, papal approval of the Spiritual Exercises, and acceptance of the Constitutions by the whole Society.
·         Jul 2, 1928. The Missouri Province was divided into the Missouri Province and the Chicago Province. In 1955 there would be a further subdivision: Missouri divided into Missouri and Wisconsin; Chicago divided into Chicago and Detroit.

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