Body and Blood of Jesus
Last week I caught the end of a TV ad for the Volunteers of America. A smiling young man says: “We use our bodies to help others.” It is such an earthy image. I thought “That’s what the celebration of the Body and Blood of Jesus is about: using our bodies to help others.”
Because Jesus lived among us as a flesh and blood human being, he showed us that human life is holy. To follow him is not a matter of having some esoteric knowledge. Christian discipleship involves us in the earthiness of life with the messiness of the body, our unpredictable emotions and the suffering that inevitably comes with being human. Christian spirituality and certainly Benedictine spirituality is necessarily embodied.
Jesus used his body to help others. He cared about people’s needs for food, drink and wholeness. He fed the crowds. He touched the eyes and ears of the blind and deaf in order to heal them. He laid his hands on the children and blessed them. People who touched his body or clothing were healed. He knew the touch of another human being is as important to us as food and water.
An article in the newspaper this week about 94-year-old Nelson Mandela said he no longer talks much. But he reaches out in another way. His oldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, said: “It’s the hand that he stretches out. It is the touching of the hand that speaks volumes for me….It means, ‘My child, I’m here,’ It means to me that, ‘I’m here. I love you. I care.’” (“Mandela quiets in old age” by Christopher Torchia in Wisconsin State Journal, 5/28/2013) Jesus is God’s hand in a sense, reaching out to touch us, saying: “I’m here. I love you. I care.”
Jesus was concerned with both our bodily and our spiritual hunger. He taught the crowds and then, he took bread and fish in his hands, gave thanks, broke the bread & fish and gave them to his disciples to distribute. “You give them something to eat,” he said. Here was food for the body.
Throughout the history of Israel, abundant food is a symbol of God’s goodness to the people providing life in all its fullness. In our first reading we have a beautiful poetic image of God hand-feeding the people. “Eating this bread, they tasted your sweetness, the perfect meal for their deepest hunger and hope.”
Jesus knows we also need food for the soul. At his last meal with the disciples Jesus identifies his body with the bread and his blood with the cup. It is his life that feeds us. Jesus promises to meet our deepest hunger and hope – here around this table in the gathered assembly and each day as we reach out to others. Jesus meets our hunger for acceptance, for forgiveness, for justice, for love. He meets our need in this Eucharist and through the Body of Christ that we are now.
As Teresa of Avila said, Christ has no hands now but ours, no feet but ours. We are the Body of Christ taken, blessed, broken and poured out for the life of the world. We each have a basket filled with the broken and blessed pieces of our lives, gathered up and given out to help feed others. As Jesus used his body to touch and fill us with God’s life, so we, too, can use our bodies to bring life to others.
Let us join our hearts in prayer.
– That all who hunger and thirst for food, justice, mercy, forgiveness, and peace be satisfied, we pray: Loving God, hear our prayer
– That all people of the world may share in the abundant gifts of God’s unending generosity, we pray:
– That all members of the Body of Christ may imitate Jesus in self-giving for the sake of others, we pray:
– For what else shall we pray:
– For those listed in our books of intentions and those we name quietly now…, we pray:
Generous God, you give us the Body and Blood of Jesus as food for our journey: hear our prayers that one day we may come to the eternal banquet you have prepared for us. We ask this through Christ our Savior. Amen.
Let us share a sign of peace.