Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Body of Christ
The Feast of Corpus Christi, Body of Christ, owes its existence to Blessed Juliana of Liege, who began devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in around 1230. Largely through her insistence, in 1264 Pope Urban 1V commanded its observance by the universal church. Our liturgy today recalls the scriptural origins of this devotion.

Genesis 14:18-20 - To give thanks for a major victory that he had won, Abraham ordered his high priest, Melchisedech, to offer sacrifice. Instead of the usual sacrificial offering, Melchisedech, offered bread and wine, the full significance of which came to light at the Last Supper.

1 Cor. 11: 23-26. - The importance of the Eucharist as a reminder of Christ's passion and death is again brought home to the Corinthians

Luke 9:11-17 - From earliest times, the multiplication of the loaves and fish has been interpreted as a sign of the Eucharist - the Thanksgiving Meal.

Point 1: - When we think of the words "Body of Christ", most of us naturally think of the Blessed Sacrament; but the term has a wider range of meanings. To begin with, it refers to the physical body of Christ in its various phases of existence, firstly on earth and finally ascended into heaven. Joseph of Arimathea, after the crucifixion, asked for "the body of Christ"; the holy women came to anoint "the body of Christ"; in the post resurrection period, it was the reality of his bodily presence that convinced the Apostles that He had truly risen.

Point 2: St. Paul, however, introduces another insight to the phrase "body of Christ". He proclaims the truth that all Christians form and are part of the body of Christ - the Mystical Body of Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles, we find recorded the words addressed to him on the road to Damascus at the time of his conversion "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" clearly identifying the disciples of Christ with Him. In his letter to the Ephesians, he refers to "the church, which is his body"; and in his letter to the Romans, he states that "we, though many, are one body in Christ".

Finally, there is the sense most familiar to us, of the Blessed Sacrament as the "Body of Christ". This strange language takes its origin from the words of institution at the Last Supper -"Take and eat; this is my body"- words that made such a deep impression that they are recorded on four occasions in the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians. Together with the references to the "Bread of Life" so frequently made in St. John's gospel, there can be no doubt about the importance of this sacramental meaning of the phrase "Body of Christ".

Conclusion: This Feast, then, of the Body of Christ, sums up three important confessions about our Faith. First, and most important, that God became physically present in the person of Christ - True God and True Man. Secondly, that God continues to be present in His people as they form the Mystical Body of Christ in his church. And, thirdly, the presence of God, under the form of bread and wine, is made sacramentally real for us on the altar at Mass and preserved there for our nourishment and worship. When, then, at the conclusion of the prayers of consecration, we proclaim our "Amen", remember that we are saying "Yes" to the real and inseparable presence of Christ in time and in eternity. In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas from the hymn "Pange Lingua" and sung regularly at Benediction:-

"Therefore, we before Him bending, this great sacrament revere; types and shadows have their ending, for the newer rite is here; faith, our outward sense befriending, makes the inward vision clear. Glory, let us give and blessing, to the Father and the Son; honour, might and praise addressing. while eternal ages run; ever too his love confessing, who, from both, with both is one.