Homily the Solemnity of Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Fr. Michael UdoekpoReadings: Exodus 24:3-8; Ps 116:12-18; Heb 9:11-15 and Mark 14; 12-16, 22-26
The Presence of Christ, the efficacy of his Body and Blood
Today is the Solemnity of the Body of Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, in Latin. I would like to invite you to reflect with me on the theme, “the presence of Christ, the efficacy of his Body and Blood.” I have chosen this theme because when Pope Urban IV in 1264, the time of Saint Thomas Aquinas instituted this celebration, among the things he had in mind was that we continue to be devoted to Christ, worship him with hymns and songs, processions, genuflections, adoration, veneration, visitations, for he is ever present with us in the Blessed Sacrament of love, at Mass, in the bread we break, in the cup we share, in our neighbors we love, in the Church we listen to, and pray with. He is present on our faith journeys, everywhere on earth!
His presence of love, his covenant with us is unbroken, ever active and effective at least from his part. In ancient days, in Exodus 19, God on Mount Sinai established this covenant of love, and his divine presence with Israel. This covenant was ratified in today’s first reading, Exodus 24:3-8, by the sprinkling of blood on the altar and on the people. These ancient rites continued on. We see this in Leviticus 16 and 17, on the Day of Atonement, blood sprinkled by priests in the Holy of Holies. Since ancient times this sprinkled blood was not only a sacred symbol, but a symbol of life, a sign of purification from sins, filthy things, blessings, peace (shalom), good luck, covenant and life’s renewal in the years ahead.
But in the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah 31:31” in the days to come I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and Judah,” the author to the Letter to the Hebrews in the second reading (Heb 9:11-15) moves a step further to remind us of the efficacy of the Body and blood of Christ, the new covenant foretold by the prophets.
By dying for us on the cross (as we saw during the Holy Week) Christ fulfills/perfects this covenant. He is both the perfect high priest and the perfect sacrifice. Christ’s blood, shed on the cross is more effective than the blood of the animals shed annually and sprinkled on the altar and on the people by the OT priests.
Notice the argument from “less” to “great” or from the “lesser” to the “greater” presented by the second reading. He says, “Christ came as the high priests of the good things that have come to be.” He passes through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, entered into the divinely constructed sanctuary or tent that is heaven, with his own blood, not with animal blood like goats and calves, in order to bring us eternal redemption.
If the ordinary animal blood could be effective in the context of earthly sacrifice, how much more the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, his body and blood. Christ in the Gospel (Mark 14:12-16, 22-26) says, “Take this is my body… and for the cup, this is my blood of the covenant,” words we repeat at every Mass we celebrate. This body and blood of Christ is efficacious. It is superior to the blood of the animals in the OT. It cleanses our consciences from sins, from dead works and enables us to worship the living true God and restore our rightful relationship with God.
He is alive in the rich and the poor. Christ is alive in the healthy and the sick. He is alive in the living and in our loves ones gone before us marked with the sign faith. He is alive in our relationship with one another. In our homes and rooms he remains the unseen guests of the believer. He is alive in the sacred music. He is alive in the Holy Scriptures we share. He is alive among peace makers, champions of unity and in those who forgive wrong doings done to them. Above all He is really present with us,”transubstantially,” in the bread and in the wine when the priests invoke God’s blessings upon it at the epiclesis, particularly in the community of believers.
This reminds me of the song: He’s alive amen, He’s alive, and Jesus is alive forever…He’s alive amen!
As we celebrate this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ may we continue to share our faith and our experience of the efficacy of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist with our neighbors, friends and family members!