Body and Blood of Christ, Year B-2009

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Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf (1 Cor. 10:17)

Wrote Andre Dubus in “Bodily Mysteries,” Meditations from a Movable Chair (cf. [1]):

This morning, after struggling with two doors to get into the church,
I settled in my chair and watched the priest lifting the unleavened bread,
and saying, “This is my body”; lifting the chalice of wine saying,
“This is my blood of the new covenant” ... and peace of mind came to me and,
yes, happiness too, for I was no longer a broken body, alone in my chair.
I was me, all of me, in wholeness of spirit. The old man assisting the priest
handed me the Host, and I placed it in my mouth and was in harmony with
the old man, the priest, the walking communicants passing me and my chair
to receive the Eucharist; one with all people in pain and joy and passion,
one with the physical universe, with Christ, with the timeless dimension of
the spirit, which has no past or future but only now; one with God....
Me: flawed and foolish me. I drove my car to church and consumed God.

For imperfect human beings to consume the perfection that is God is a matter of grace, of course. It is a gift from the Most Holy Trinity, “the one wellspring of longing for communion”—if I may use again a phrase from Sister Regina Bechtle, S.C. It is made possible by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who “assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods” (St. Thomas Aquinas in a writing that in part makes up the non-biblical reading of the Office of Readings for today’s solemnity in the Liturgy of the Hours), or who—as St. Vincent de Paul put it in his 1645 exhortation to a dying Brother (P. Coste, XI, 142-148 [2])—willed to become like us and to clothe himself with our very humanity so that we might recover our likeness to God that sin had damaged. We can receive communion only because of the impressive vastness of Christ’s love, according to St. Thomas, or because of the inventiveness unto infinity of the love of this lover of our hearts, according to St. Vincent.

And because God gives us communion first, we give communion and enter into harmony with every brother and sister in the church (cf. 1 Jn. 4:19). We give communion out of the church too, where this very communion is deepened and intensified as it passes the many severe tests posed by the harsh realities and trials and tribulations of everyday existence and made to last in the real presence of “the timeless dimension of the spirit.” We give communion out there when, in imitation of St. Vincent, we are consumed by the hungry and thirsty poor, and engage so many others in helping the needy, as in Châtillon, that one could point to the occurrence of a procession—truly worthy, I would think, of the celebration of today’s solemnity (cf. St. Vincent’s Feb. 13, 1646 conference to the Daughters of Charity in P.Coste, IX, 243 [3]).

A man after Christ’s own heart, St. Vincent’s heart was consumed by love. Little wonder then that his love was inventive and effective too. His ministry of preaching the good news to the poor was surely a sharing, a communion, in the everlasting priesthood of the Evangelizer of the Poor, who fulfilled once for all the priesthood, the sacrifices and the covenant of old when he gave his body up and shed his blood for the poor, for those in need of salvation, for all.