Every week I get together with a group of friends for what is called “School of Community”. “School of Community” (or “S-O-C” as we call it) is the regular small-group gathering of those who follow the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation. In SoC, we read a spiritual text and share how what is proposed in the text is verified in our experience. It is a way to witness to each other the truth about what we are reading and to recognize where Christ is at work in our lives. In this sharing of life where Christ is the focus, a deep bond of friendship is formed. We come from different backgrounds, but it is Christ that unites us. We normally meet for about an hour and pray night prayer and once a month share a meal together. For the past three months, though, we’ve been having our weekly meetings by Zoom. Last Thursday, after the stay-at-home order was finally lifted, we got together for a cook-out. It was so good to be together! It wasn’t until we sat down for that meal together that I realized how much I missed everyone and really what is special about our time together, i.e., “Who” it was that I was missing and the difference that being together in person makes. Without being really present with each other “in the flesh” (as opposed to being just virtually present through the video conference), the personal encounter that leads to real communion and sharing of life is not possible. On Zoom, we could see each other on the screen. We could hear each other and share our thoughts, but seeing each other in person – being with each other – was profoundly different. The time of separation – the time apart – confirmed for me what it is that I really hunger for and why I follow this movement: what I desire most and find so satisfying is the communion we experience together – communion in Christ. Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there amongst them, says the Lord. Christ uses our physical bodies to make his presence known. He needs our “flesh” – our humanity – a physical presence – for communion to happen – communion with himself and with each other. What binds us together is not a common philosophy or that we share the same ideas but a presence “in the flesh”.
What we celebrate and proclaim in this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is that Jesus is personally and substantially, i.e., really present in the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is not a symbol of Christ. When we receive the Eucharist, we don’t eat bread and drink wine. We “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood.” We receive Jesus. Without this real, personal “flesh and blood” presence, we don’t have a real communion and sharing of life. A symbolic or virtual presence is not enough. Only a real, physical presence makes the communion with God possible. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,” says the Lord. Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” Through this Eucharistic eating, we share in the divine life. That is why we call it “Holy Communion.” St. Paul writes to the Corinthians about the celebration of the Eucharist using language that expresses a very real communion with Christ. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” What is translated as “a participation in” comes from the Greek word, koinonia, which means “communion” and conveys the understanding of “intimacy” and “sharing.” In the biblical understanding, “blood” is synonymous with “life”. To share in the blood of Christ – to have communion in his blood, is to share intimately in his life. Paul goes on to say, “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” Communion with Christ forms us into one body, the Body of Christ. Union with Christ unites us intimately to one another in a way that is not possible otherwise. Jesus gives us communion with the life of God – the life from the Father. And if we receive life from the same father, that makes us brothers and sisters of one another. Jesus gives us himself in the Eucharist and sends us forth as his body to witness to this communion in our world. Corpus Christi traditionally is celebrated with a procession with the Blessed Sacrament in the streets. This gesture proclaims that the union and communion that we desire – what is not possible by bread alone, i.e., by human striving and material means, has come into the world and won the victory over sin and division. This is the kind of street demonstration that this world needs now.
Can we say that the “affliction” that we have undergone in these months away from Mass has increased our hunger for Christ? Has it clarified the reason for going to Mass and “who” it is that we have missed? Watching the Mass on the internet is good but does not give us the communion we desire. When Christ feeds us with himself – with his Body and Blood… when we have that personal communion with him, then we’ll know what gives our life “life”. May our return back to Mass be a time of renewal for our faith in Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist and move us, as members of his body, to be instruments of unity, peace, and communion in the midst of a fractured and divided world hungering for this peace.