Scripture Readings, June 2, 2024

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Exodus 24:3-8

Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18

Hebrews 9:11-15

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Beginning weeks ago and continuing until the celebration of the Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July, the Catholic Church in America has been solemnly celebrating the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Like four great rivers, the procession has flowed from the far reaches of the continental United States. The four routes began at the Mississippi headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota; New Haven, Connecticut; Brownsville, Texas; and San Francisco, and, along the way, pilgrims will walk alongside our Lord, in his Real Presence, gathering, adoring and worshipping as his Chosen People.

As Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed on the occasion of his first papal celebration of Corpus Christi, “the Church relives the mystery of Holy Thursday,” but that now, “we again go on this procession, but in the joy of the Resurrection. The Lord is risen and leads us.” As he would later note in the same homily, this sense of going forth denotes a twofold movement. First, the sense of “going ahead to Galilee,” as the angels instructed the disciples, “(the Lord) goes ahead of you to Galilee, where you will see him.” (Matthew 28:7) But also, the Lord corrects Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” (John 20:17) What are we to make of this dyadic instruction, which clearly impels us to “go?”

First, it is the hallmark of the Christian to go ahead, to go forth and to make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19) Recall that the Mass concludes with the command to “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or to “Go in peace.” But my personal favorite is even more illuminating. “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” This final blessing is the most literal translation of the early Church dismissal; the people were sent forth by the command, Ite, missa est. We should be reminded that the word missa comes from its Latin root missio, meaning mission. The Mass gives us a mission, as the people of God, to actively go forth, bringing the first fruits of the Eucharistic harvest to the world.

This movement parallels harmoniously with our Lord’s words to Mary Magdalene. As Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, “Jesus goes before us next to the Father, rises to the heights of God and invites us to follow him.” As we go forth to bring his Real Presence to others, we do so for no grander reason than to draw them into the deep intimacy of communion with God the Father. Thus, for this reason we go forth as a Eucharistic people to draw others into this act of communion, literally “communicating” with God.

Whereas our procession on Holy Thursday maintains a solemn note as we join our Lord in the solitude of his suffering, the procession on Corpus Christi is one that serves as the enfleshed witness to the power of his Real Presence. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, it is the Lord who has made himself known in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:30) These disciples, whose eyes were opened to see that the Lord had always been with them, rush back into the city to proclaim the truth of his victory over sin and death. Like them, we go forth — having been sent on mission (missio) — out into the world to share just how our own hearts had been burning.

For this, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi serves as a keen reminder that the Lord who continues to give himself to us daily does so not only for our own personal benefit but even more gloriously, for the sanctification of the world and the evangelization of all peoples. St. John reminds us in his first epistle that we are to proclaim boldly about “that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands.” (1 John 1:1) We are to share the glory of the Lord who comes to us in his Real Presence, manifest body and blood, soul and divinity, in the Most Holy Eucharist.