Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily: The Body and Blood of Christ

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Note: the next homily will be posted on Sunday June 13, 2010.

BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST C – June 6, 2010
Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:1-4, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Luke 9:11b-17

Today’s complete biblical texts

For the longest time now researchers have worked to find ways to build new organs to replace damaged livers, blood vessels and other body parts. Overcoming various obstacles (scientific and ethical ones) it appears that scientists at MIT and Harvard have found a way to grow cells by breaking down tissues that hold them together. Once they are free the cells can be assembled, like building blocks or Legos, into new organisms and potentially new body parts.  [1]

In recent weeks we listened to scriptures describe who we are as members of one body, blessed with many gifts and working with one Spirit. Today the church celebrates the body and blood of Christ. To use time honored theological terms it can be a celebration of the church, the people of God, you and me, who comprise the mystical body of Christ. In this sense today is a celebration of our body and our blood.

Each one of us knows that when we have a head ache, a heart attack; or need a hip replacement or a blood transfusion, the rest of our body suffers. Because of its resilience however the body, along with a determined mind and positive a spirit, can mend itself. Medicine and surgical advancements are helpful in this healing process. Could the same be true of the people who make up the church?

The first passage from Genesis this morning tells of an indigenous royal priest called Melchizedek who, by blessing Abram, sets the stage for the development of the priestly people of God. That’s how the faith tradition of Jews and, eventually Christians, got its start. The psalm affirms Melchizedek’s role as an ambassador of God.

In the second reading we heard how Paul recounted what happened at that final meal when Jesus, using familiar Jewish blessings, shared bread and wine, calling it his body and blood. He gave new meaning to the food and drink. The gospel tells the popular story of how Jesus blessed food which the disciples then shared with the multitude of people. Similarly you and I are called to serve others. That event on the mountain was a foretaste of the meal in the upper room and of the never ending heavenly banquet. [2]

We Christians build our entire faith tradition around these actions. When we gather at one table to share the Word of God and the sacramental bread and wine we continue to build up the body of Christ. It’s like building up new cells in an organism. We breathe new Spirit into the blood stream of the Church. Each one of us is important in this action. All of us are invited to embrace the mission set forth by Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus was asking when he said, “Do this in my memory.” His words are not merely references to the Eucharistic meal but an invitation to take on the weight of the cross caused by poverty, oppression, injustice, war. We carry on his mission not alone but in communion with one another. No one can do it alone.

To welcome and include all of God’s creatures into his household Jesus was famous for breaking down cultural taboos and even religious rules and regulations. He did not say take and eat, take and drink only if you are straight, white, male and Jewish. As they moved through the crowd with bread and fish the disciples did not ask for identification cards or whether someone was rich or poor, Jew or Gentile.

We cannot overlook the tensions in the world and in our Church caused by prejudice, power and arrogance. These symptoms plague the body of Christ; they clog the arteries of the Church. What happens in Rome, Italy or Phoenix, Arizona does not stay there. The news about the way the pope handles the pedophile crisis or how a bishop excommunicates a highly respected health care provider, without due process, affects all people of God. One human suffers, everyone suffers.

When something bothers us physically and mentally our first reaction is not to cut off a limb or tear out a heart or tap into a brain. Those are last resorts after other measures have been exhausted and after long and sometimes difficult discussions with family, friends and medical professionals.

Like any human body our church is imperfect. However, when it breaks down it too can be built back up again because of the care and love of God. This divine healing process requires our participation, the faith and hope, of every member of the Church, clergy and laity alike. There is no room for spectators in this action.

Today’s scriptures are less about a royal priesthood and more about the priestly people of God. These texts are not only about sharing abundant gifts of life but also about treating one another in a respectful and hospitable way.

Scientific and medical advancements may eventually alleviate many sufferings we humans have. A good dose of regenerative medicine in our ecclesial society could also bring hope for God’s people including those who believe we make up the body and blood of Christ.

_________

1 “Building Organs Block by Block” in Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100513112813.htm

2 Fuller, Reginald. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today
(The Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition) pp. 444-446, 59.

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

6 thoughts on “Homily: The Body and Blood of Christ

  1. I spent a significant part of these past few days, and this morning as well, giving thought to the “re-membering” of the Body for numerous reasons. Corpus Christi is a reminder and there was a confluence of personal events that led me to consider much.

    Your words cut to the heart of this and about how the entire body feels the impact of any lack of integrity. Yet, we, myself included, continue to act otherwise.

    Perfection is elusive, but the work towards it should be part of our efforts. Everything is connected, everything matters

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  2. I like the inclusion of the imperfection of human organizations. People need to be reminded that nothing is perfect and all need Divine assistance and healing. (I dislike the excuse some folks use that they will not participate in a worship community because of the imperfections of the members.)

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  3. I am very touched by the strong social justice message in this homily. I also like that it calls for a strong understanding of the church as the body of Christ. This understanding makes sense to me. I do have a bit of challenging feedback. While I love the homily, it does strike me as “taking the safe route” on the treatment of the subject.St. Vincents is always (happily) thrilled at the reminder of the mission for justice and peace. The Mystery of the Eucharist is at the heart of Catholic Christian communal life. I believe that this is an important thing to address. Exactly what is the body and blood to us?What do most of us believe we are doing as we line up for communion at mass? There is the symbolic representation of Jesus’ mission for sure but there is also a greater mystery. For 2 thousand years, people have been willing to live and die for access to this sacramental meal. People seem to crave it’s presence and mourn in advance for the days where it will not, in all likelihood, be so readily available. I think it is important to challenge ourselves to think about this most central, beloved and mysterious part of our communal worship. Just a thought, thanks for inviting feedback.

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  4. Thank you so much for inviting response. That is the first step to inclusion, and to communion.
    I have appreciated the act of inviting the members of the community to participate in the holy liturgical prayer during mass. This is an important part of the Body and Blood of Christ, to realize our involvement and our ultimate responsibility to do our part in the prayer. There is no magic. There are no secret words or special postures. There is only our pure intention and Christ’s miracle of presence.
    The heartbreak for me is our tendency to not include… for so many reasons. In my own personal life, I or my family face the “official” exclusion of persons for the following: 1) being gay. 2) marrying a person who didn’t get an annulment. 3) having a child without being married. 4) being a woman who is ordained to the diaconate. There are more… Although these may be accepted in our local parish, we know there are communities that will not, cannot, accept and welcome people like these. It gives us pause to stay here in the Roman Catholic Rite.
    It is in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that we find that ultimate welcome. Our quiet procession renders us nameless, yet still special, personal friends of him who dies and lives for us. Our rituals are sacramental, and Jesus is our priest. He is our hope and our salvation.
    Thank you again for inviting discussion and comment. It is a blessing to be a part of St. Vincent’s in so many ways, not the least being able to hear your thoughts. +Peace+

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  5. The opportunity to read your homilies and the responses and prayers that follow are a true gift. Fran, Jennifer, Kim and Debbie – your words touched me deeply. We are truly a community of priestly people…imperfect and loving, male and female, gay and straight, doubtful and hopeful. May we be energized and blessed by becoming what we are – the body and blood of our loving Spirit God – that we may further alleviate suffering and welcome all to this Body.

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  6. I know there is much that separates our Christian denominations. We’ve got two millenia of Christian history and tradition that reflects the details of that which separates us.

    With the help of this homily, I shift my thinking from separation to reparation. So I ask myself this question: “What is it about following Jesus and his [my!] mission that becomes a blessing to my sisters and brothers within the faith, and an embracing, hospitable welcome to those beyond the faith, and therefore honors and brings glory to God?”

    As always, Father Vosko’s message for me is both affirming and challenging, and stimulates me to carefully consider his thoughts.

    I love the analogy of the body’s healing and the hope for the Body’s Healing.

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