By: Fr. Scott Karnik
Corpus Christi Sunday Homily, Sunday, June 3, 2018:
The center of this Solemnity of Corpus Christi is sacrifice. Sacrifice brings about covenant. The common denominator in sacrifice and covenant is the shedding of blood. In the first reading from Exodus, the Israelites are willing to accept God’s will. So Moses writes the stipulations of the covenant, reads them to the people, and the people accept. Moses sacrifices bulls as peace offerings with God. Moses splashes half of the sacrificial blood on the altar. The altar symbolizes God. Moses sprinkles the rest of the sacrificial blood on the people. The sprinkled blood joins them to the blood splashed on the altar, God. There is now a covenant, a union between God and His Chosen People, the Israelites. The Israelites must keep the covenant in order to keep their union with God. To make a long story short, the Israelites fail. So God promises them a new covenant. The law will be written in their hearts.
In St. Mark’s Gospel, the Christian Eucharist is established as the new Passover. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is God’s perfect way to save all mankind. St. Mark’s Christians shared in the new covenant of Christ’s Body and Blood by sharing the Eucharistic bread and cup. But St. Mark also tells his readers that if they wish to share in Christ’s Eucharistic cup, they must also choose to share fully in Jesus’s way of suffering service. Imitating Jesus the Suffering Servant is essential to keeping this new covenant of grace. They, and we, must participate actively in Jesus’s mission on earth and keep His Commandments. We are to pour out our lives “for many.”
The Gospel scene is the Lord’s Supper. Notice the verbs St. Mark uses to describe this. “…he took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them” (Mark 14:22). “…he took the cup, gave thanks and passed it to them, and they all drank from it” (Mark 14:23). You hear this repeated at every Mass. All of this emphasizes fellowship and covenant. Jesus transforms this bread into His Body. His Body is connected to a special event, His Death. We are to eat it. This is a new covenant sealed by Jesus’s Blood for His Community, His Church. Jesus’s saving power is applied to His disciples and to us to forgive our sins. We are to enact this new covenant by a legal and authoritative act, the Mass. We do this in memory of Jesus’s saving act. This memory unites us to Jesus’s one and only saving sacrifice. Remember in Exodus, the blood was splashed on the altar and sprinkled on the people, to unite them in a covenant. This memory is not a simple recall and acknowledgement of an act two thousand years ago. Anyone can do that. This is a memorial by which we today faithfully, willingly, and lovingly unite ourselves to Jesus’s one and only sacrifice of Himself on the Cross. Remember, a covenant unites us with Jesus and with God His Father. Christ offers the single sacrifice of Himself as a final annulment of sin, sins past, sins present, and sins future. Jesus sheds His Blood and dies. Jesus’s blood petitions God to forgive sins, purify us, and seal a covenant with God. In all of these respects, Jesus one sacrifice unto death replaces the old Israelite rituals. It fulfills them. Jesus Christ has accomplished the eternal forgiveness of sins in His sacrificial death. Therefore, it is Jesus who is mediator of this new covenant of grace. Jesus’s Passion and Death are His priestly offerings of Himself to atone for our sins. We consume His Flesh and Blood to unite ourselves to His Sacrifice and be saved in this new covenant of grace.
All that Jesus has done, and said, and taught, we will heed and do. Jesus forgives our sins and unites us to Himself and His Father in Jesus’s Mystical Body. That is the effect of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, which we receive here. We must come here to receive Jesus’s Body and Blood in Eucharist. We must receive Him in this Sacrifice of the Mass. We unite ourselves with Jesus’s one and only sacrifice in this Sacrifice of the Mass, which is done in memory of Him. This Church is correct to teach that the Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, not a symbol. No symbol can do this. Only Jesus saves. Jesus saves us through the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood, Corpus Christi. We ought to be very thankful to be Roman Catholics for this incredible fact alone. Here is what we must do. We must pray for a greater faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in Eucharist, the host and the wine, changed really and truly into Jesus’s saving Body and Blood. May we rejoice in the sacrament of Eucharist on this day, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
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