June 14 – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
How long can a human live without food? Given various circumstances, it varies greatly. At age 74, Mahatma Gandhi, the famous advocate for India’s independence, survived 21 days of total starvation. A Norther Ireland prisoner endured a 66-day hunger strike before he died. The illusionist David Blaine had no food for 44 days in a stunt where he was sealed in a plexiglass box which was suspended over the Thames River in London. A Japanese hiker who was lost went without food for 24 days and survived. In the desert, Jesus went without food for 40 days. There is an adage called the rule of threes: You can’t live without air for three minutes, without water for three days and without food for three weeks.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us, “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi. How long can you survive without consuming the Body and Blood of Christ? During this COVID-19 pandemic and with our churches closed, I know many of you have been starving! Livestreaming Mass and receiving “spiritual” communion has not quite been the same as receiving the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist. With some restrictions lifted, we are now able to celebrate the Eucharist with the maximum of 100 people present in the church. With the parking lot Mass, more people are able to receive the Eucharist, as the number of people are not restricted, but the number of vehicles.
But what about those who do not come to Mass regularly or not at all? Surely they must be incredibly malnourished! I began by asking how long we can go without eating before becoming starved to death. Of course, that is for our physical existence. But there is more to us than our bodies. We are not just flesh and blood. We have a soul. And that needs to be fed as well. Maybe people just aren’t aware of that. But maybe some are afraid of the implications of Jesus’ statement in the Gospel today that he is true food. The people who heard Jesus speaking the words in today’s Gospel knew well that eating and praying together implied communion. The shocking thing Jesus did by calling himself the living bread had nothing to do with cannibalism. The scandal was the declaration that in his very humanity he embodied divine life being offered to them. Jesus claimed that communion with him was the way to communion with God that he already enjoyed. What tripped them up, and perhaps us too, is that he brought God too close. A God who is majestic and unreachable is far easier to deal with than one who invites us to communion in the here and now. It doesn’t cost much to worship a god to whom we can offer placating sacrifices and then go on with our lives as normal. But God who initiates communion with us is going to claim everything we are as we come to abide in Christ and allow him to abide in us.
Have a Blessed Week in Communion with God!