With the singing of the Vigil this past Saturday evening, we begin our celebration of the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ – once called Corpus Christi (but that only refers to the Body of Christ). I suspect many of us can recall when this was an all-day in-church occasion with processions and Benediction in three locations? I can remember that but I recall most vividly enduring curlers in my hair. I had stringy, VERY straight hair and my mother did not consider braids or a ponytail appropriate for church. So I slept with toilet paper twists in my hair to make curls that barely lasted until the end of Mass. Before lunch my hair was secured in bobby pin twists to get me through the afternoon processions. Not a very holy memory but one that certainly marks this day as special.
In the Gospel account just read, Mark describes for us only those elements of the Passover that he believes to be most essential: Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it and shared it with his disciples. Similar words and actions follow as Jesus shares the chalice with his disciples. And don’t you love the part about where the Passover will be celebrated! Go to town. You will see a man with a jug on his shoulder. (Another evangelist says, “you’ll see a man with a donkey.”) Ask him “Where is your guest room, where we may eat the Passover meal.” Isn’t that what Jesus says to us when He appears in the person of the guest, the stranger: “Where is your guest room, where may I eat?”
I think back to 1959-60 when our original wood-frame convent-home building was condemned by the fire department. The local community responded with generous hearts when we asked, “May our Sisters and academy girls live with your family and on the third floor of Saint Anthony School until we can build a new house.” We certainly felt “welcomed as Christ” – the people saw it as a privilege to meet our need. Over the course of this year we will have our turn to return the favor. Gradually we will begin to open our doors wider.
Today, each and every day Jesus asks each of us … “have you reserved a guest room for Me in your heart? Where I may rest, where I may eat a meal with you? Our corporate commitment continues to challenge us to “respond with the compassion of Christ to the hungers of God’s people.” I envision Jesus, his cloak open wide, to envelope all creation – no space between peoples – ALL persons gathered with, and into, Christ.
Pondering the significance of this feast (other than curlers in my hair), it strikes me that with Christmas we are touched with joy and awe at the birth of Christ. At Easter we explode with ALLELUIA at the resurrection of our Savior. The Ascension leaves us quietly looking upward, waiting in expectation for “what’s next?” Then, comes the solemnity of the Trinity – the mystery that baffles us … that God is so great, so awesome that only in three persons can all the divine manifestations be expressed. And today; the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – this touches, awakens in us feelings we can hardly express – that our God, our Jesus, our Savior would choose to gift us in such a personal, intimate way. The Psalmist knew a close relationship with God. Sometimes on a 1:1, face-to-face basis. In Psalm 103 we pray, “The Holy One enfolds us in tenderness, fills our life with richness, renewing our youth like an eagle’s.” We, who live since Jesus’ coming on earth … how privileged we are! Our God and Savior chooses to be assimilated within the body of the creature. His body and blood become, over and over, absorbed into my body – His blood courses in my veins. Did you ever wonder how an aspirin knows where you ache? Or an antibiotic knows what to attack? Is it heresy to say: Jesus attaches himself to every fiber of my being? When the Eucharistic minister and I look each other in the eye, the minister says: “Body of Christ.” Note the minister does not say “This is the Body of Christ.” No, it is greeting that the minister and communicant exchange. The one greets us: “Body of Christ” – it’s a greeting not an announcement. Our one-word response, AMEN, acknowledges, “You, too, are the are the Body of Christ. AMEN!”
Some of you have heard this story from my first year as a CCD teacher. Sister Rosaria, the pastor and I were unsure if Jimmy had sufficient reasoning to make First Communion. (How little we understood!) On First Communion Sunday, following the Consecration, when the priest elevated the Host, the child’s voice could be heard by everyone in the church. With awe in his voice he said aloud: “Here He comes!” A lesson to us all. Yes, here He comes! He is only depending on us to make room in our hearts, in our lives to respond generously and unhesitantly to his query: “Where is your guest room? Where may I rest; where may I eat a meal with you?”
~ Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
First Reading: Exodus 24:1-6
Second Reading: Hebrews 9:11-15 Gospel: Mark 14:14:12-16; 22-26Continue Reading
This one of my favorite feasts … it celebrates the ultimate in self-giving… not only to lay down one’s life for another but, further, to freely give its essence to another.
This particular version of the story of the feeding of the 5,000 is the only one of Jesus’ miracles to appear in all four Gospels. Luke places it between Herod’s question, “Who is this about whom I hear such things?” and Peter’s response to Jesus’ question about who he thought Jesus was. In Luke’s version of the feeding of the crowd it is not the result of Jesus’ compassion for the crowd but is an incentive to the disciples to do something about the problem they perceive. When they want Jesus to send the crowd away to so they (the crowd and themselves) can get something to eat, Jesus tells them to give the people some food on their own.
When we come to the Eucharistic table, hungry for the Word of God and the Body of Christ, what does the Jesus, in the person of the priest say? “Take, you all, and eat of this. Take, you all, and drink.” How contradictory, then it is, a few minutes later to hear the same person say to the worshiping community: “If you are not Catholic, fold your arms across your heart for a blessing.”
I recall in 1959-60 when our wood-frame convent was condemned by the fire department. The local community responded with open hearts to us when they were asked: “May we live with you until we can build a new house?” We certainly felt “welcomed as Christ” – the people viewed it a privilege to house the sisters and some of our boarding school students. They did not ask “are you Catholic” nor did we pick and choose a dwelling place based on a host’s church membership.
Today, everyday Jesus asks each of us … have you reserved a guest room in your heart for Me where I may rest, where I may eat a meal with you? We think about Benedict’s words “guests are always present, wash their feet, acknowledge them with a greeting or a nod, set a special place at the table for them, reverence Christ in the person of the guest. Our corporate commitment statement continues to challenge us to “respond with the compassion of Christ” to the variety of hungers of the human heart.
I agree with the author who says: “… Admittedly, hospitality won’t cure all of our ills. It won’t erase underlying problems that promote a climate of division or create a magical panacea for human suffering. But hospitality can help. It can assist and guide us in the way we deal with, and the ultimately solve our problems. It can allow us to function with grace and dignity. Hospitality is a seed planted deep within us that awaits our attention and care. Nurtured by willingness, watered by prayer, hospitality reflects the face of a loving, accepting, compassionate God. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we can pray that a spirit of hospitality will permeate our thoughts and animate our actions. (Everyday Hospitality by Thea Jarvis)
Pondering the significance of this feast, it strikes me that with Christmas we are touched with joy and awe at the birth of Christ. At Easter we explode with ALLELUIA at the resurrection of our Savior. The Ascension leaves us quietly looking upward, outward waiting in expectation for “what’s next?” Then comes the Solemnity of the Trinity – the mystery that baffles us … that God is so great, so awesome that only in three persons can all the divine manifestations be expressed. And, today; the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – this touches, awakens in us feelings we can hardly express – that our God, our Jesus, our Savior would choose to gift us in such a personal, so intimate a way … the Creator chooses to be assimilated within the body of the creature. His body and blood become, over and over, absorbed into my body – His blood courses in my veins. Did you ever wonder how an aspirin knows where you ache is? Or an antibiotic knows what to attack? Is it heresy to say: Jesus attaches himself to every fiber of my being? When the minister looks us in the eye and greets us: “Body of Christ; Blood of Christ”, we are stunned speechless except to respond as we’ve been taught: “AMEN!”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, PrioressContinue Reading
Jesus says: “I am the bread of life.” A familiar saying is: “Bread is the staff of life.” Interesting isn’t it that both describe Jesus who is our Staff. In Scripture the word “bread” is used too for both actual loaves of bread and for any type nourishing food – sometimes to describe a whole meal.
In our community, hospitality very often includes food for the soul at community prayer; and, food for the body at a meal. Remember the two disciples on their way to Emmaus? It was in the “breaking of bread” that they suddenly were enlightened. They thought they had been talking with a stranger but at their meal their eyes were opened.
This weekend, as we celebrate the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, is a good time to dwell on the question of how well we do hospitality. We know we want to be hospitable, welcoming. But, more than that, how is God asking us to be “bread” for others? Our corporate commitment says it succinctly. We talk about that statement and acknowledge this commitment often … today is a good opportunity to examine it one phrase at a time. [Read more…] about How is God Asking Us to be “Bread” for Others?Continue Reading