15 June 2017
Blessed, broken, poured out and shared in love for the life of the world
A Protestant friend told me once that he could never contemplate becoming a Roman Catholic “because you are Eucharistic cannibals”. He was sincere. I was speechless – and that rarely happens.
I always think of that conversation when we come to the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. We have to own that in some popular devotions and pious legends there can be too explicit a link in the physicality of the Eucharist. We are not Christian cannibals, feasting on Jesus’ flesh and blood, on his liver, brain and bones. The best traditions in the Church are careful in the language they use about how Jesus is present in the Eucharist. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, when it speaks of the Eucharistic real presence, it never refers to “Jesus” but to “Christ”. This distinction matters. The Eucharist is a Sacrament of Easter.
As a Catholic I believe that Christ, raised by God from the dead, is fully and truly present to me in the consecrated bread and wine at Mass. In 1 Corinthians 15, St Paul was at pains to rebut two extreme views about the glorified body of Christ: a crude physicalism, where the glorified body of Christ was simply a resuscitation of his corpse; and an over-spiritualisation where Christ raised from the dead was an ethereal ghost.
The Catechism puts the issue succinctly: “… the glorious body (is) not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth” (CCC 645). The risen body and blood of Christ is found in the experience of Easter it signifies, an encounter that transcends the boundaries of human weakness, but at the same time raises it up and heals all the wounds of the body. The divine presence of Christ lives in and through the redeemed physical world, but is not bound or contained by it.
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