CORPUS CHRISTI 2013 – 1Cor. 11:23-26 – June 2, 1013 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Corpus Christi 2013
1 Cor. 11:23-26
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Compared to the people of Corinth two thousand years ago, we live in a breathless pace, and each of us barely keeps up by email and by cell phone. Except for rare contracts, we usually do business instantaneously. Snail mail—even the term—has ceased, and most of our conversation occurs by telephone or by texting because we do not have time to compose a letter. Maybe it is our culture’s addiction to novelty or to the overload of data and of information that swamps us. For all these and for still other reasons, our age is prone to forgetting; this morning’s stock prices no longer persuade us, for this evening’s newscast of events in Tokyo will rearrange tomorrow’s prices.
On this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, on Corpus Christi, the Church invites us to remember and to relive the Last Supper and the Eucharist. Today we live in a global village, yet we ought remember that we belong to God creating us. In speaking about the Body and Blood of Christ, we remember that Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians who teetered on the edge of forgetting. “Brothers and sisters,” writes Paul, “I received from the Lord what I handed on to you, namely, that the Lord Jesus…took bread…and said, ‘This is my body…. Do this in remembrance of me…. This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Remembering aids us in knowing who we are. We remember our user name and our pass word and our telephone number; we remember the names of our family and of our extended family. Shell shock or brain injury may result in amnesia, that is, loss of memory. How terrible to forget one’s own name, nationality, family; our identity depends on our remembering these elements. If we forget the ABC’s of our alphabet, we may also forget our language. If we forget the Eucharist, we forget our religious faith, for it is our identity-shaping sacrament. Although we have other rituals that shape us and that distinguish one family from other families, and we have other sacraments that distinguish us as Christians, still, it is principally the Eucharist that identifies me as belonging to the Lord Jesus. In receiving Holy Communion, I remember to link myself to Christ.
Saint Paul writes to a forgetful people, and Paul invites them and us, you and me, to remember who we are and to whom we belong. This remembering does not concern Greco-Roman history or European history, or the biography of Caesar or of Columbus or of George Washington. Paul hands on a communal, formative, life-giving memory.
In the meal that Jesus offered on the night of Passover, on the night before he was to die, we are invited to remember in a special manner. We relive being at table with Our Lord, we relive being present as Jesus takes bread and takes a cup of wine, and He changes this everyday food and drink into his own body and blood.
On our birthday, on a wedding anniversary, on the Fourth of July, we recall an original event, and we celebrate its importance. Such annual renewals revive the memory of an earlier time. At the Eucharistic moment, however, the event of two thousand years ago again takes place. For the Apostles, and for us, Christ is present in the bread and wine. What once occurred now occurs again. Our celebration of the Eucharist is more than a similitude; it is a reenactment.
As we say “on the night that he was betrayed” Jesus took the Passover bread and gave it to us, we are invited to remember that Jesus offered his life for us, not when we were particularly worthy, charming, faithful, or successful, but when we had betrayed him.
As we say what Jesus said, “This is my body that is broken for you,” we are invited to remember that it is not some idea or philosophy, or feeling of well-being, or novel spiritual experience, or even wonderful teaching that we received from Jesus, but his very life laid down for us, a new sacrifice to free us from our addiction to a deathly path without God.
St. Paul speaks of this.
Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die” (Romans 5:6-7).
The Beatles became famous with their song suggesting self-sacrifice. “Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will lay me down.” That poetic line describes a person who cherishes the beloved, even to the point of offering self for the other. Poetic? Yes!
But in the Eucharist, the Mass renews the sacrifice of Christ, and we participate in that event. We sacramentally relive that moment. Receiving the Eucharist, we personally give a definitive “Yes” and attach ourselves as recipients of the Lord’s doing. ‘Grant me, O Lord, a freeing from the dark waters threatening me. Let me, too, O Lord, receive from your laying yourself down.’
Who are we, and to whom do we belong? I remember what has been handed on to me, and I proclaim that memory each time I eat this bread and drink this cup. I am with Christ and He is present with me. I belong to the Lord, and I live a godly life with the Lord, and I intimately converse with Him who at this moment becomes a part of me. Amen.