“Corpus Christi is the liberation meal.”
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, said this in his June 14, 2020 homily provided to ZENIT English for the Feast of Corpus Christi being celebrated on Sunday.
The President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) says that on Corpus Christi, “we reach a summit,” that of the Eucharist.
Recalling that according to Vatican II, the “Eucharist is the source and summit of our spiritual life,” he says we celebrate with joy, the institution of the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ.
“May the body of Christ,” he prayed, “nourish all of us sailing through the stormy seas of COVID, may the Blood of Christ wash away all our wounds inflicted by this pandemic.”
He also delineated various social justice issues plaguing humanity globally, and how these injustices and this pain are forms of Christ’s suffering body.
The celebration of the Eucharist, the Cardinal of Myanmar says, unites the global Church.
“Every day in millions of altars, in thousands of languages and hundreds of cultures, the words uttered by Jesus on the Maundy Thursday is repeated with utmost reverence : Take and Eat. This is my Body. Take and Drink. This is my blood.”
“It is passing of the bread of slavery in sin towards the bread of freedom in Christ,” he said. “It is the paschal meal that emboldened the Israelite slaves to leave Egypt to go into the promised land.”
Corpus Christi, the Archbishop of Yangon reminds, is the feast “that urges us to liberate ourselves from all kinds of enslavements of sin…”
Corpus Christi, Christ’s body, Cardinal Bo says, “was mutilated on the Cross.”
“He was crucified. His body took on excruciating pain,” he lamented, adding: “His pain has not stopped with Calvary. Jesus continues to be crucified today in our suffering brothers and sisters.”
“Whenever the innocent suffer,” Cardinal Bo stresses, “the voice of Jesus, rises: ‘Take- This is my Body.’”
“If we look around, we see many people crucified today, he said, noting that in them, “Jesus continues to suffer. In their sorrow, Jesus continues to cry out “Take – This is my Body”.
When millions are affected by COVID and thousands have died, “especially the old and the abandoned and died with great pain and left alone to be buried,” the Asian prelate acknowledged, “Jesus’ compassionate heart cries out: ‘Take – This is my Body.’”
Myanmar is emerging from decades of military rule after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the 2015 elections and has taken office.
The Muslim minority in Myanmar of the Rohingyas is considered by the UN to be one of the most persecuted. According to data from the Arakan Project, a humanitarian organization defending Rohingyas rights, since 2010, some 100,000 members of the minority have fled Burma (Myanmar) by sea. Violence between radical Buddhists and Rohingyas has left, since 2012, more than 200 dead and 140,000 displaced.
Here is Cardinal Bo’s message:
Take and Eat this is my Body, Take and drink this is my blood
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
May all blessings be upon each one of you.
Today we reach a summit. The summit of Eucharist. The Corpus Christi. According to Vatican II the “Eucharist is the source and summit of our spiritual life”. We stand on that summit. Today we celebrate with joy the institution of the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ.
May the body of Christ nourish all of us sailing through the stormy seas of COVID, may the Blood of Christ wash away all our wounds inflicted by this pandemic.
The celebration of the Eucharist units the global Church. Every day in millions of altars, in thousands of languages and hundreds of cultures, the words uttered by Jesus on the Maundy Thursday is repeated with utmost reverence :
Take and Eat. This is my Body
Take and Drink. This is my blood.
This event took place – on the Maundy Thursday, just before the crucifixion on Good Friday. We could not celebrate it that day – so we celebrate it today as the Corpus Christi – body and blood of Jesus. Eucharist is beyond times. The Eucharist unites us with the past, the Maundy Thursday’s enactment of Jesus who called us to “do it in memory of me” (Luke 22:19) and promise of the future “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. (Jn. 6:54) Eucharist unites the present with the past and a glorious future hope. It is right and just we celebrate this unique feast.
We have come to celebrate the memory of Body and Blood of Christ today in various forms:
- The body and blood of Christ broken and offered on the cross
- The body and blood of Christ shared in the last supper
- The Mystical Body of Christ that includes all of us as a Church
- The bread that came from heaven; man does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the Lord.
Human family is itself is a huge body. As members of the same body we feel the joy of others, we feel the pains of others. Recently when George Floyd, a black man was mercilessly killed the humanity in more than 50 countries rose against that injustice. It felt the pain; it proclaimed injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. We have come to celebrate this oneness of human empathy in Corpus Christi. We have come to celebrate our interdependence on each other. We have come to celebrate our fellowship. Corpus Christi is the common feast of the whole human family.
- Food and Corpus Christi
Today’s first reading from Deuteronomy reminds us of the food. In the first reading we hear the groaning and whining of the Israelites for food. God had brought them out of slavery, but the released slaves were still clinging on the memory of the food in oppressive Egypt.
The miracle of Manna also brings to our mind the importance and danger of food in our lives. Manna nourished the freed slaves but did not free their minds. Jesus himself was tempted to become a slave to food by Satan in the desert. Jesus had to confront that temptation: “ Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the Lord.” (Mt: 4:4). In this unjust world, lack of food enslaves. Corpus Christi feast is a painful reminder that we break bread on millions of altars in an unjust, and uncaring world that allows nearly 20,000 children to die every day of starvation.
Every Eucharist is a clarion call for Justice. Every Eucharist call for a world war: a third world war against poverty and human suffering. Jesus knew what it means to be starving – for forty days he was fasting. He knew when the people were hungry he multiplied five loaves and gave it to five thousand people. Eucharist is a reminder when we utter the consecration word “Take and Eat” we are aware nearly a billion of the people of the world, has not enough to eat. The great intellect and the heart to love are extinguished by fire.
Corpus Christi is the liberation meal. It is passing of the bread of slavery in sin towards the bread of freedom in Christ. It is the paschal meal that emboldened the Israelite slaves to leave Egypt to go into the promised land. Corpus Christi is the feast that urges us to liberate ourselves from all kinds of enslavements of sin and march towards a new heavens and new earth, where there will be no tears. This is the feast of reconciliation in our families, in our parishes, in our country.
- Corpus Christi – the Church as the body of Christ
In today’s second reading in 1st Corinthians, Paul explains Corpus Christi in the sense of the ‘body of Christ’ – the Church, the body politic, us. We are one in Christ; we all belong to the same body. In the early church, Eucharist was celebrated as a sign that in Christ, all are equal. The very fact of coming together is the cementing of our oneness through Christ. That early Eucharist in Corinth was in grave danger of separating along social and class lines; the failure of one group to discern that the other was just as much part of the one body.
For us, therefore, the warning is: Nothing less than a wholehearted commitment to the life and the unity of our particular community is essential to the integrity of our communion, our holy communion. Have I failed to make peace with my fellow communicant before I approach the altar? Am I indifferent to the hunger and thirst of the millions even as I eat and drink the sacrament? If the answer is yes, then perhaps I eat and drink judgment upon myself, and Incarnate Love is betrayed at this table just as he was at the first in that upper room.
Eucharistic celebration tried always to melt differences. Our celebration of Mass is a strong show of unity. Each one of us become the living bread and taken along with the bread and wine, we become the body of Christ. This mysterious and mystical union is the Corpus Christie on the altar. This oneness was articulated during the reception of the Holy communion. During the time of St Augustine, the priest did not say “ Body of Christ” during the distribution to the communicant, but he said “receive what you are” and the communicant said “ Body of Christ.”. We become the ‘Corpus Christi’! Yes, we participate in communion, knowing that we are in communion with one another and Christ, the eternal bread of life. Corpus Christi is the awareness of our oneness with Christ our Lord.
COVID shattered this communion. Live streaming took away the live presence. But those of us who reached out to suffering people, prayed for them, felt their pain and cried in our situation of being shattered, were really in communion with Christ. The priests and religious and the health professionals who sacrificed their lives are the glowing witness of Corpus Christi.
- Corpus Christi and the Cosmic Christ
With our increased awareness of the ecology, as a gift from God, our view of the ‘Corpus Christi’ has widened. It is not only the Mass, it is not only the Church as the mystical body, but the whole cosmos is the expression of the love of God, the Corpus Christi. The encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ has sharpened this awareness of our interdependence.
This idea of the cosmos as the Corpus Christi was mainstreamed by the mystic Teilhard De Chardin. Through his penetrating view of the universe Teilhard De Chardin found Christ present in the entire cosmos, from the least particle of matter to the convergent human community. ‘The Incarnation,’ he declared, ‘is a making new . . . of all the universe’s forces and powers.’ Personal divine love is invested organically with all of creation, in the heart of matter, unifying the world.”
He celebrated his famous Mass of the Universe without host or wine. When he was in China, when he had no host or wine to celebrate Mass, he saw in the early morning Sun the cosmic host on the paten. He saw the earth as the altar, he saw the sweat of human toil as the wine in the chalice and prayed “I will raise myself beyond these symbols up to the pure majesty of the real itself. I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar, and on it I will offer you all the labors and the sufferings of the world. I will place on my paten Lord God all the harvest to be won from your renewal.”
- Corpus Christi and the context of the world today.
Corpus Christi also brings to our mind, being a Christian comes with a price, a price paid in blood. Most of the first apostles met very violent death. Bearing witness to Christ was also bearing wounds in their body. St Paul brought this agony clearly when he said : “We bear about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus might also be made manifest in our bodies. (2 Cor 4: 10).
Corpus Christi, Christ body was mutilated on the cross; he was crucified. His body took on excruciating pain. His pain has not stopped with Calvary. Jesus continues to be crucified today in our suffering brothers and sisters.
Whenever the innocent suffer, the voice of Jesus, rises
“Take- This is my Body”.
If we look around, we see many people crucified today. In them Jesus continues to suffer. In their sorrow, Jesus continues to cry out ‘
“Take – This is my Body”.
When millions are affected by COVID and thousands have died, especially the old and the abandoned and died with great pain and left alone to be buried, Jesus compassionate heart cries out:
“Take – This is my Body.”
When thousands of our young men and women are trafficked by heartless men and sold like cattle and given up to be exploited and killed in faraway countries, amidst their silence, Jesus voice rises
“Take – This is my Body”.
When innocent girls were duped into sexual slavery and their bodies are ravished day and night and in their lonely dark nights shedding helpless tears, Jesus accompanies them with the consoling word:
“Take – This is my Body”.
When Black people and other minorities are indiscriminately killed in the streets, not allowed even to breath, in their death and in their wounds and in their heart wrenching cries, Jesus joins their cry for justice, saying:
“Take this is my body”.
When thousands of children die of starvation every day owing to poverty, and their bodies are carried by their helpless mothers to the grave in silent tears, Jesus accompanies their sorrow with the words :
“Take this is my body”.
When thousands die in senseless wars and innocent blood flowing in the land of heart of hatred, Jesus weeps for them with the words :
“Take this is my blood”.
When thousands of migrants brave the stormy seas and perish in the watery graves, in their darkness and dilution, Jesus stands near their dead bodies and says:
“Take This is my Body”.
Yes, in these human tragedies, hundreds of them, thousands of them, Jesus cries with them with the words of Corpus Christi
“Take this is my Body; Take this is my Blood”.
Corpus Christi has taken us from heaven to our soul, into the community and to the cosmos. It has opened our eyes to see the suffering of the world through the eyes of Corpus Christi and Christ’s breaking of the bread and his body for this world.
Let this Corpus Christi feast touch our body and wash with his blood and free us all the COVID, the poverty, hatred. Let these days of prayers and sacrifices make this world free from this pandemic, release the world from all hatred, bless the world with peace and prosperity.
Let us pray for the day when we can come together as a community to break the body and bloody of Christ as God’s Children. Till then be united in the mystical body of Christ through the blessings that flow from Corpus Christi.
God bless you all.
June 14, 2020.
Yangon – Myanmar[Text of Message was given by Cardinal Bo to ZENIT’s Deborah Lubov ]