The Body and Blood of Christ

Jun 18, 2017

There were rules when I was a kid growing up on the farm, rules that had to do with everything from keeping things nice and neat, to keeping everyone –kids and animals alike, safe and alive.

  • If you use a tool, but it back where you got it.
  • Don’t eat the calf pellets.
  • When you park the tractor on a hill put it in gear before you get off.
  • When you burn the trash, don’t use gasoline to light it.
  • And an important one I once forgot. If you’re going to touch a cow’s udder with your cold hands, make sure she knows you are there before you do so.

Simple rules: they kept everything in order, kept the animals happy and kept everyone alive and relatively injury-free.

But rules alone didn’t do it. Somewhere along the way, growing up, all of us kids came to understand that we were a part of something bigger and more important than just “me”. We came to understand that what we did and when we did it and how we did it, as small and insignificant as it might seem, meant something; it affected something or someone else. It had to do with responsibility and with taking pride in what we did and what we were a part of. Most of all it had to do with belonging. The rules got us started, but there was something in our guts that spoke what words could not. Something clicked, eventually, which gave us what we needed to want to be a part of this “thing” bigger than us. We belonged.

Rules, alone, won’t get us there. Like they Israelites wandering through the desert, even though God had given them ten simple rules to live by, God knew that would not be enough. Eventually, they found exceptions and excuses and ways to dance around them. So when things got tough, when they had to deal with hunger and afflictions, God gave them signs and wonders, things that would speak to a place deeper than the rules could, and assure them that they still were his, that they still belonged.

That experience of belonging, whether we find it in a family or at work or a team or in a band (that experience of belonging) helps us grasp what we celebrate today in the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. God wants us to know we belong. St. Paul deepens this understanding when he says that when we partake of the bread, we participate in the Body of Christ; when we drink from the cup, we participate in the Blood of Christ. God wants us to know what it means to belong to Him and be a part of God’s family.  

There is nothing that could speak deeper, something unchanging in our guts. We need to know what it is to belong. It’s that gut knowledge of Christ that we must come to. To be committed to Christ is to truly grasp the fullness of what it means to belong to this family. In our Catholic Church, we find this Christ –literally- in our gut. We are sustained in this faith by the Body and Blood of Christ. We proclaim this faith with the lives when we are Christ-like to one another. Rules can’t get us there. Rules can’t keep us there. But the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ can and does.

One of the other rules we had on the farm was that every one of us had our own particular place to sit at the table, and God forbid that you sat anywhere else. But more important than the particular place we were assigned at the table - is that we knew we belonged there; we needed to be there. This (altar) is where we belong; this altar is where we need to be.