The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Sunday Church at Home

during the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Blood of the New Covenant

The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply: Amen

Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply: Blessed be God for ever

Leader: The solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, more commonly known as Corpus Christi, is a wonderful way of gathering together the themes of Easter. The Eucharist has been described as summing up everything we do and profess as Christians. We honour the Body and Blood of Christ, the food that sustains us on our pilgrimage through life. Even if in pandemic times we have not received Holy Communion as often as we would have liked, we have learned to appreciate this gift all the more.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Exodus 24:3-8

Introduction to the reading: Today’s passage from the book of Exodus describes the covenant between God and the Israelite people. A covenant is a solemn agreement made between two parties and was usually sealed in blood. In ancient times, blood was considered the source of life. To sprinkle two people with the same blood bonded them as closely as if they were blood relatives.

A reading from the Book of Exodus

In those days:
Moses came and told the people
all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances;
and all the people answered with one voice, and said,
“All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do.”
And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.
And he rose early in the morning
and built an altar at the foot of the mountain,
and twelve pillars,
according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
And he sent young men of the people of Israel,
who offered burnt offerings
and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord.
And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins,
and half of the blood he threw against the altar.
Then he took the book of the covenant
and read it in the hearing of the people;
and they said,
“All that the Lord has spoken we will do,
and we will be obedient.” 

And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said,
“Behold the blood of the covenant
which the Lord has made with you
in accordance with all these words.”

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 116:12-13.15 & 16bc.17-18 (R. 13)

Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. The cup of salvation I will raise;
I will call on the name of the Lord.

How can I repay the Lord
   for all his goodness to me?
The cup of salvation I will raise;
   I will call on the name of the Lord.

How precious in the eyes of the Lord
   is the death of his faithful.
your servant am I, the son of your handmaid;
   you have loosened my bonds.

A thanksgiving sacrifice I make;
   I will call on the name of the Lord.
My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
   before all his people.

R/. The cup of salvation I will raise;
I will call on the name of the Lord.

Second Reading: Hebrews 9:11-15

Introduction to the reading: On Yom Kippur, the high priest sacrificed a goat on the altar in the temple. Then he took some of the blood into the holiest place in the temple sanctuary where only he was allowed to go. There, he sprinkled that blood as a renewal of the covenant made at Mount Sinai, and prayed that God would forgive the sins they had committed during the previous year. This ritual is the back drop for today’s reading from the letter to the Hebrews.

A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews

Brethren:
When Christ appeared as a high priest
of the good things that have come,
then through the greater and more perfect tent
(not made with hands,
that is, not of this creation)
he entered once for all into the Holy Place,
taking not the blood of goats and calves
but his own blood,
thus securing an eternal redemption.
For if the sprinkling of defiled persons
with the blood of goats and bulls
and with the ashes of a heifer
sanctifies for the purification of the flesh,
how much more shall the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit
offered himself without blemish to God,
purify your conscience from dead works
to serve the living God. 

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant,
so that those who are called
may receive the promised eternal inheritance,
since a death has occurred
which redeems them from the transgressions
under the first covenant.

The word of the Lord.

Alleluia. Alleluia.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven,
says the Lord; if anyone eats this bread he will live forever.
Alleluia.

Gospel: Mark 14: 12-16.22-26

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

On the first day of Unleavened Bread,
when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,
his disciples said to Jesus,
“Where will you have us go
and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
And he sent two of his disciples,
and said to them, “Go into the city,
and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you;
follow him, and wherever he enters,
say to the householder,
‘The Teacher says, where is my guest room,
where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?’
And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready;
there prepare for us.”
And the disciples set out and went to the city
and found it as he had told them;
and they prepared the Passover.
 

And as they were eating, he took bread,
and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said,
“Take; this is my body.”
And he took a chalice,
and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them,
and they all drank of it.
And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many.
Truly, I say to you,
I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine
until that day when I drink it new
in the kingdom of God.” 

And when they had sung a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.

The Gospel of the Lord

Reflection on the Readings 

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

Homily 

A priest I heard of, if he sees people leave Mass early, stops them and reminds them that only one person left the Last Supper early! (I hope you can identify that one person!) 

Well, we do not do that here, but I am tempted to do what St. Philip Neri did: He saw someone leaving church right after Communion and he sent servers with candles and bells to accompany the man. The guy stormed back into the Church and confronted the priest.  “What kind of joke is this?” he demanded. St. Philip Neri said, “It’s no joke. The rules of the liturgy say the Blessed Sacrament should be treated with reverence. You left the Church immediately with no prayer of thanksgiving. You were carrying the Blessed Sacrament within you. So I asked the boys to accompany you to honour Him.” 

After Communion you and I are tabernacles – the physical presence of Jesus continues in us for a brief time. That’s why we have the Communion hymn, why we kneel in thanksgiving, the Communion Prayer — and even the announcements, to build up the Body of Christ in practical ways.

In this time of the pandemic, when so few are able to come to Mass, I encourage you to use well the time after Communion to say thanks, to express your gratitude.

On the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ we want to focus on the Last Supper. We think of Jesus celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples. Jesus takes and blesses bread, gives it to his disciples saying, “Take it, this is my body.” He gives thanks over the cup, gives it to them saying, “This is my blood which will be shed for the many.”

They are the most powerful words I know. They connect us to Jesus who lived 2000 years ago. They also connect us to Jesus present now at this moment in time. The real presence of Jesus is with us forever. 

The words and actions of Jesus come from the context of the Passover and that takes us to the Jewish roots of the meal. So, let us go there, to our ancestral story, from the book of Exodus, our first reading.

The readings from scripture refer to the use of blood in rituals which seal our relationship with God, both in the ancient and new covenants. We are in the 24th chapter of Exodus, the ratification of the Sinai covenant. Exodus gives a dramatic account of the ritual of word and then blood. First, Moses reads the laws to the people – a reminder of our own liturgy of the Word. People didn’t think God’s “words and ordinances” were restrictive, or burdensome, because they respond, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.”

Well, that was certainly optimistic of them! We know from our own experience that enthusiasm, while a good response to God, is not enough for faithfully carrying out God’s will. Hence, the subsequent rituals. First, the burnt offerings of the young bulls. It symbolizes the people’s total self-offering to God. It is called a “peace offering”; both establishing and celebrating the peace made between God and the people.

Among the ancients blood was seen as the life force. The pouring of blood in the ceremony sealed the covenant. First, it was splashed on the altar, honouring God as the initiator and principal partner in the covenant. God has reached out to the people, not because of their merits, but because of God’s love. God wants to be in a permanent relationship with them. The people realize this. Is it any wonder that twice they profess their desire to follow God’s “words and ordinances”? “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.” “All what the Lord has said, we will heed and do.”

Those are the responses we want to make when we think of what God has done for us and what we celebrate today. However, on our own, we cannot do “everything the Lord has told us.” But we are in covenantal relationship with God who has sealed the covenant with us in blood. Christ has offered himself on the altar for us, symbolizing God’s total self-offering to us. 

Jesus’ gift of himself, his body and blood, is to be seen in light of the tradition of the Passover feast, where the Jews celebrate their deliverance from slavery with the meal of the sacrificial lamb. Today, we Christians celebrate our deliverance from sin with the meal of Jesus’ body and blood.

The gospel describes how Jesus took a chalice, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.

Chalice is just a fancy word for ‘cup’. We ask ourselves why Jesus mentions “the cup,” and not the wine, at that time. Remember that previously Jesus asked the ambitious James and John if they could “drink the cup that I drink….?” (10:38-39). In the garden of Gethsemane, before his arrest, Jesus prayed, “Father… take this cup away from me….” (14:36). The cup is the symbol of sacrifice, suffering and death. We followers of Jesus are invited to share in his life, the fullness of which includes our own sacrificial, self-offering. 

With the Israelites in our first reading, we too want to shout, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.” Well, we do try, but on our own, our discipleship falls short. But we are not discouraged because we are not on our own. God has made a covenant with us, sealed with the blood of God’s own Son. We who eat and drink of the food from the altar have a share in Jesus’ saving death and his new life.

At table with his disciples Jesus promises he will one day drink in the kingdom, the reign of God. He reminds us that the Eucharist we share today is just a simple remembrance of a past event when he ate his Last Supper with his friends. The meal, his gift of his body and blood, also anticipates the feast we will someday enjoy with him and each other at his table, the eternal banquet.

But in the between time of this meal now in the internal feast of heaven, we can work to fulfil what this meal symbolizes – reconciliation and community, welcome to sinners and strangers, God’s embrace of all God’s creatures.

From today’s Gospel reading:

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread,
and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said,
“Take; this is my body.”
And he took a chalice,
and when he had given thanks,
he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.
And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for the many.

Reflection:

Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t just his death on the cross, his whole life was a gift of himself to humanity. By receiving the Body and Blood of Christ today in the Eucharist, we are asking for the nourishment and strength, indeed, the very life of Jesus, to help us do what he did – to offer our lives as a gift to those we are called to serve.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How are the daily sacrifices I make like the ones Jesus made?
  • How does my life reflect the true presence of Christ in the world during this time of the pandemic?

 St. Padre Pio’s prayer of thanksgiving after Mass.

“Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You.  You know how easily I abandon You.

Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.

Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervour.

Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.

Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.

Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You.

Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company.

Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You.

Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I want it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of love.

Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late and the day is coming to a close, and life passes; death, judgment, eternity approach. It is necessary to renew my strength. Amen.

Prayer of the Faithful 

Leader: The Lord is near to us in word and in sacrament. With confidence, therefore, we can bring our needs and those of our sisters and brothers to him.

Reader:

We pray for the Church, the body of Christ: (pause) that she may constantly be renewed though Christ, present in word and Eucharist at this celebration.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for unity among followers of Jesus: (pause) that all who claim to be members of the body of Christ may work and pray, with their sisters and brothers in other traditions, for that unity which Jesus prayed for on the night before he died.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who in our world have lost sight of Christ: (pause) that through our prayers and our witness to Christ in our daily lives, they may find the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for healing in this time of the covid-19 pandemic: (pause) that leaders, government officials, and those in authority may enable a swift rollout of vaccines for all our people.  

LORD HEAR US 

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for Paula Wood who died during the week.  

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine on her.  

May she rest in peace.  Amen 

Leader: Let us pray our Prayer to Jesus  in the Blessed Sacrament.

JESUS
increase our faith in your real presence
in the Blessed Sacrament,
the mystery of faith,
that like the disciples who came to know you
“in the breaking of the bread”,
we may come to know you in the Eucharist
in an intimate and personal way.
We pray that you will help our parish
to become a faith community
by responding to your appeal to be loved day
and night in the most Blessed Sacrament
where you call us to pray without ceasing,
for this is where you, our Risen Saviour, dwell.
May all praise and thanksgiving, glory and honour be yours.  Amen.

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us. 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us: 

All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader: God ever-faithful,
you have made a covenant with your people
in the gift of your Son,
who offered his body for us
and poured out his blood for all.

As we come together in your name,
may we build up your Church
by deepening within us the life of your covenant
and by opening our hearts to those in need.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All: Amen.

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