On the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, this year, I was asked to celebrate Mass at my former parish in Caseyville. The twist is that the Mass was in Spanish. At the time I left the parish in July 2011 there was a growing Hispanic presence. My intent was to integrate these Spanish speaking folks into a united community, English and Spanish speaking, having bi-lingual liturgy as possible. The Spanish speaking population has grown since then and the Hispanic Ministry Committee that I had set up to make sure the parish was integrating and welcoming those who spoke Spanish has decided to have a Mass in Spanish once a month. Part of being a priest and pastor is to enable folks to embrace their baptismal call to minister in the name of Jesus and trust their counsel. While it’s not what I envisioned in the parish, I’m not the pastor anymore and therefore I defer to the decisions being made in the parish, trusting the Holy Spirit is at work through those who are the parish, now. So, when the priest that usually celebrates the Mass at St. Stephen recently had serious health issues that prevent him from presiding at the Mass I was asked to fill in for this month’s liturgy. I have been presiding in Spanish at a nearby parish, but in that community, since I can not preach in Spanish (I simply proclaim the ritual texts), a layman who worked as a religious brother in Mexico for 30 years, provides a “reflection.” That option was not going to be available in Caseyville, so I prepared a text in English to be translated and read in Spanish by one of the members of the Hispanic Ministry Committee of the parish that organizes the Mass. What follows is the “homily” that I prepared for translation, thus the references to “El Señor” (which means “The Lord”) and quincieras (the “coming out” liturgy of a 15 year old girl in Mexico). There was also a baptism, in Spanish, at the Mass, too. I did adapt the homily for my own parish, but this is the version I have on the computer, so it’s the version I’m going to print here.
Reflection for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Rev. Joseph C. Rascher, author
Based on Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
Meals shared with families are a very important part of life. Sharing a meal with people, especially family, is one of the ways we experience our connection with our family. Sharing food can be a sign of our connection with each other around the family table. Meals are a way of celebrating important events in our families, too. Think of all the “fiestas” that you have attended to celebrate the baptism of a child or the wedding of the daughter of friends. There is always a fiesta as part of the quincinera of a young woman. All these important moments in life have a meal. The meal makes more visible the connectedness or unity of the group that gathers and helps them celebrate being one family.
Jesus, in today’s gospel, shares a meal with his friends. On the night before he dies he gathers the men and women he has adopted as his family around him in the upper room to share a meal. In one way, the meal expresses the bond the disciples and Jesus have on a human level. But then, Jesus does and says something unusual. He says that the bread and wine are his body and blood. Surely, this shocked the disciples. Jesus uses the experience of a meal and turns it into something more. Jesus makes the supper they share a way for the disciples to be united with him even after he dies. The meal of bread and wine becomes a sign of his communion with his disciples for all time. The sharing of the food of the Eucharist which he establishes that night becomes a way to create the unity of the church family. Those who share the bread and wine of the Eucharist Jesus gives them are strengthened in their union with each other and with Jesus. This mystery is the center of our faith at Catholics. Without the Eucharistic liturgy, we cannot be truly Catholic.
On this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we give thanks that Jesus gives us the gift of the Eucharist. Because Jesus gave us the Eucharist we can know “El Señor” is with us, really present in our gathering under the forms of bread and wine every time we celebrate the Mass and receive communion. We also give thanks that the gift of the Eucharist enables the church to become a stronger unity, a family bound together by our sharing communion.
It is important to remember, also, that the presence of Christ is not only on the altar or in the tabernacle in the appearance of consecrated bread and wine. Because we are baptized into Christ, all of us, priest and people in the pews, we are the Body of Christ, too. Because we share the food of the Eucharist we are strengthened to become another sign of the presence of Christ in the world. We are the Body and Blood of “El Señor” when we serve others in love, when we sacrifice for the sake of others, like Jesus.
Today, we celebrate the baptism of a child. It is a good day to baptize Kelvin. The Church acts in the name of Jesus and Jesus makes Kelvin a member of his Body, the Body of Christ. Because Kelvin is a member of Christ through baptism, he will be able to share, one day, the meal of the Body and Blood of Christ and be strengthened to be like Jesus, alive forever.
¡Gracias a Dios for the opportunity to receive and to be the Body of Christ through Baptism and celebrating this family meal with Jesus!
© 2012, Rev. Joseph C. Rascher