Solemnity of Corpus Christi – Year A
June 14 2020 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Deuteronomy 8:2-3;14B-16A | Psalm 147:12-15;19-20
I Corinthians 10:16-17 | John 6:51-58
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ or Corpus Christi. This is a feast which is celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday, but since we live in the US and since we are currently closed due to Covid-19, we are celebrating today.
The celebration of this Solemnity dates back to the thirteenth century when Pope Urban the fourth instituted it in twelve sixty four. He wanted it to be a celebration filled with joy, hymns, and a procession. So he asked Saint Thomas Aquinas to compose two Offices of prayer, which he did, along with five hymns, one of which we will sing today after communion.
On this feast, we proclaim our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The word “Eucharist” is derived from the Greek word eucharistia, which means “thanksgiving”. The term originated in the first or second century A.D. as Christians commemorated The Last Supper with thanksgiving. Blessed Sacrament is a devotional term used by Catholics to refer to the Eucharist.
The three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians contain versions of the Words of Institution, “Take, eat, this is my body…Take, drink. This is my blood…Do this in remembrance of me.” All further reference to the Communion bread and wine is based on this injunction. The Gospel of John, which we read today gives a detailed explanation of the Eucharist:
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” And “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”
We also proclaim that Jesus resides within each one of us who are baptized into His Body, also referred to as the Church, of which we belong. Jesus also teaches us that the Trinity also resides in us. This is the great theological mystery that we call the Holy Eucharist.
According to Pope Benedict the sixteenth who served as head of the Roman Catholic Church and Sovereign of the Vatican City State from two thousand five until his resignation in two thousand thirteen and is currently alive at age ninety three and known as “pope emeritus”, “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.”
Corpus Christi is Latin for “Body of Christ.” This feast calls us to focus on two manifestations of the Body of Christ: the Holy Eucharist and the Church, but our primary focus of this feast is on the Eucharist. It is during the Eucharist where we experience the Real Presence of Jesus. Since the Eucharist is typically shared in the Church, and since Jesus expresses Himself to us through the gospels, where He is the Head, we also refer to the Church as the Body of Christ.
In contrast to the Catholic tradition of the Eucharist every Sunday, some Protestants may have it monthly. The bread known as the Host embodies Jesus for Catholics, but for Protestants, it serves to commemorate Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The Feast of Corpus Christi is most commonly used as gathering to worship Jesus in His Body and Blood and to offer God, our Father, our pledge of love by offering ourselves to the service of others.
In our first reading today from Deuteronomy, Moses reminded his people of how God cared for them on their pilgrimage in the desert. “He fed you with manna” and “in this waterless place brought you water”. Today, God has cared for us by giving us the Eucharist, for our spiritual nourishment.
In our second reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds us of our unity in the real sharing of Christ’s Body and Blood at the Eucharist, which sustains our spiritual needs. We go to church, albeit virtually now for most, to receive God’s love and mercy.
Today’s Gospel from John proclaims the true meaning of Christ. Jesus tells us, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Jesus gave us the Eucharist in order to nourish us on our spiritual journey. The Body of Christ is present in the Church as we refer to the Church as the Body, a metaphor for Jesus.
Since the beginning of the Church, Christians have relied on set forms of prayer in their worship of God. The Book of Common Prayer, published in 1549 by the Church of England compiles patterns of prayer in a single text to be used during worship. The Book of Common Prayer holds that the Holy Eucharist is the principal act of Christian worship on the Day of the Lord. The congregation receives forgiveness, nourishment, and strength by the Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament.
Presently, throughout the world, people are being moved by the recent events of the pandemic and the tragic death of George Floyd to come together and love one another. The killing of a Black person at the hands of police is not a new headline in the USA. We remember victims Trayvon Martin, Yvette Smith, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Tanisha Anderson,Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Jerame Reid, Natasha McKenna, Eric Harris, Freddie Gray, William Chapman, Sandra Bland, Darrius Stewart, Samuel Dubose, Janet Wilson, Calin Roquemore, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Joseph Mann, Terence Crutcher, Chad Robertson, Jordan Edwards, Aaron Bailey, Stephon Clark, Danny Ray Thomas, Antwon Rose, Botham Jean Atatiana Jefferson, Michael Dean, Ahmaud Arbery, Brianna Tailor, and yesterday, Rayshard Brooks. And there are many others. But never has such a death, as that of George Floyd , where the entire world watched in shock and disbelief as he was murdered before our eyes over the assumption that he had used a counterfeit $20 bill, never has such an act empowered so many people around the world to speak out against racism and oppression. We can learn to “love the brethren” when “we have come to know His love in His Sacrament and Sacrifice of Love. In this awakening and unification, we can finally recognize our neighbor as our brother.
Jesus brought us into the world to carry His message to others. Jesus wants all people of every race, color, sexual orientation, physical ability, rich or poor, mental state, or any other diversity to live within the Church. She is the home of the entire human race.
President Donald Trump has often used religious language while in office and he has surrounded himself with evangelical leaders and has supported Christian causes. And just recently, he held a photo op in front of St. John’s Church holding a Bible while his staff pushed away and tear-gassed the peaceful demonstrators, one of whom I believe has died as a result of this. But like it or not, Donald Trump is a member of the Body of Christ. Jesus loves and respects everyone.
This feast of Corpus Christi is our universal call to holiness while we go out into the world and bring it back to God through Jesus. Like Mary, the Holy Mother of God, we are invited to say “Yes” to God and help transfigure the world! Amen.