By Sister Judith Schubert
Since the 13th century, the feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for “Body of Christ”) has been celebrated by many Christians to honor the Eucharist and its establishment at the Last Supper. The sacred words of the Consecration, “This is My Body,” occur in the first three gospels (Mark 14:22; Matt 26:28; Luke 22:19) to emphasize the importance of Eucharist. However, by his words and actions, Jesus never intended the Eucharist to be simply revered, but lived.
Let us never forget that the “Body of Christ” was given to Jesus’ followers during a meal. Meals intend not only to nourish the body but also to nourish the “soul” through social interaction and relationships, which nurture inner growth. Therefore, when we partake of Eucharist, Jesus lives on in us. This spiritual “food” has the ability to change us in the way that we relate to others in our daily lives. Subsequently, the merciful actions and open attitude of Jesus towards others need to be reflected in our actions and attitudes after we receive the “Body of Christ.” While during this pandemic, many of us have not received Eucharist physically, we still acknowledge and partake of it in our hearts.
The concept of the “Body of Christ” existed long before devotion to the feast of Corpus Christi was established. In early New Testament times, Paul of Tarsus envisioned all Christians to be spiritual members of the Body of Christ. In his letters to the Galatians, Corinthians and Romans, Paul highlights the theological reality of one body (Christ) and many individual parts (us). For example, in 1 Cor. 12, Paul addresses the Christians of Corinth, a large urban city approximately 50 miles west of Athens. He speaks of the various individual gifts of persons in the context of one Christian community: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the member of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ … Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
What do these statements mean in practical, everyday living? While it may often be a challenge, Paul urges us to share and support one another in both joys and sorrows. Therefore, as baptized members in Christ, we have been called in this time of “Alone … together” to comfort one another. In essence, then, the “Body of Christ” needs to be a changemaker in our treatment of others, especially in close-quartered restrictions during the COVID-19 experience.
Like never before, this present moment of history affords us the opportunity to appreciate and honor the diversity of people and personalities among us. So, let us go forth creatively and with joyful compassion as we face these future weeks together. Then, truly, we shall continue to be a merciful “Body of Christ.”