Do This In Memory Of Me!
Readings: (1st: Gen 14, 18-20; Ps: 109, 1-4; 2nd: I Cor 11, 23-26 Gos: Lk 9, 11-17)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the parochial vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details contact him on:firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or +23408063767512
The solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), which the Universal Church celebrates today reminds us all of the wonderful gift of God to us through the person of Jesus Christ who is sacramentally present in the form of bread and wine. This feast originated in France in the mid 13th century and was extended to the whole Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264. It is celebrated on the Thursday following the Trinity Sunday or on the Sunday following that feast. While the primary focus of this solemnity is on the spiritual nourishment that Christ gives us, its secondary focus is on the Body of Christ as it is present in the Church. The Church is called the Body of Christ because of the intimate communion Jesus shares with his Church. In order to help keep in focus both the unity and diversity of the Church, Jesus employed the metaphor of a body in which He is the head and the Church the body to express this (Col 1, 18).
The Body and Blood of Christ (Eucharist), is the most excellent of gifts ever given by anyone on earth. It also shows how much God loves and cares for both our temporal and spiritual welfare. Therefore, we celebrate today the sacramental presence of Christ in his Church. Lucky Dube of the blessed memory in one of his songs “blessed both the hand that gives and the one that receives.” However, he did not tell us whose blessing is greater, but there is a saying that “there is more joy in giving than in receiving”. Today, virtually all the readings touched one issue – giving or offering of something. The first reading succinctly tells us that: “Abram gave him (Melchizedek) a tithe of everything”. He did not give it with the sole intention of getting something in return. Of course, Melchizedek did bless him, and offer thanks to God on his behalf with bread and wine. These were offerings of one’s self in the form of material items. In fact, Abram is a specialist in self donation as we see also in Gen 22, 1-18.
Today as ever before, God offers Himself wholly and cheerfully to us to eat and drink as a way of expressing his unconditional love for us. He sees our physical weakness orchestrated by spiritual hunger and thirst. He also sees the weakness of our power of reminiscence and so, offers himself sacramentally to us in the form of bread and wine: “Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death.” As humans, we are quick to forget and so need to be helped to remember. Hence, the Lord commands us: “Do this in memory of me!” Obeying this command goes beyond mere remembering. “The command of Jesus to repeat his actions and words until he comes does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their successors, of the memorial of Christ, of his life…(CCC 1341). This is why we employ the word “re-enacting” because, when one merely remembers, it could come as a flash and off it goes. But when we re-enact, we re-live the experience and we eat truly his Body and drink truly his Blood. At another level also, “do this in memory of me,” positions us well in order to be ready to offer ourselves completely to, and for the emancipation of others. When we re-live this experience, we are totally drawn into it, and the result is that we are nourished spiritually and physically for the purpose of offering ourselves too to others as Christ did. “Do this in memory of me,” sustains our hope for the Parousia; it prepares and equips us for the great call and reunion not only with Christ but also, with all the Faithful (in the Communion of Saints).
In the gospel, Jesus says to us as he says to Andrew and his colleagues: “Give them something to eat!” At the time he said this to Andrew it could be taken for granted that that he (Andrew), was handicapped because Jesus was yet to offer himself for the first time in the form of bread and wine, and so had not issued the command: “Do this in memory of me!” The disciple’s eyes were not yet opened to the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood. For us who have been fed and who continue to feed on the Body and Blood of Christ what Christ expects of us is simply to: “give them something to eat”. What are we to feed them with? We are not being asked to give what we do not have. Although our world is highly religious, yet there are many yet to be nourished by the good news. When they are converted, then we would have succeeded in bringing them to the banquet of the Body and Blood of Christ where Jesus Christ our Lord and Master himself is the “Chief Chef.” Therefore, we must be hospitable enough to get the weak seated comfortably in order to participate in the great feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. We must make those who are hungry and thirsty for both physical and spiritual food our guests, and begin to feed them with what the Lord offers us.
Finally, today the solemnity of Corpus Christi, what Christ offers us is his real Body and Blood, real food and real drink which is the “locus of our faith”. With it, Christ draws us closer to himself. Christ is present with us in the Holy Eucharist as the head of the Church. So, today’s celebration is therefore an opportunity to thank God for the gift of himself to us through Jesus Christ who sacramentally is present with us.
Peace be with you all!