This Sunday, Our Future Glory — or Horror
In the Vatican and elsewhere in the Church, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi (Year B) was celebrated on Thursday and this Sunday is the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B).
That is the best way to do it, because that gives the full picture that the liturgy has to offer — a description of our identity transformed in Christ.
Because the fact is, our greatest dreams become true in Christ, and our worst fears are realized without him.
Our greatest dream is that we will realize the deepest desires awakened in us by the transcendent reality we sense all around us. We want to be fully known and infinitely loved, such that we feel dissatisfied even with the greatest loves we experience on earth. We feel overwhelmed by beauty at times and want to experience Absolute Beauty. Now matter how much good we experience, we hunger and thirst for more.
What we want is to be one with God, who is perfect truth and love, infinite beauty, unfathomable goodness. And that is what is on offer at the feast of Corpus Christi.
On the other hand, our greatest fear is that we would live in a world that matches what we see in our nightmares, where fear grips us and we have no freedom at all, where figures of evil appear in front of whom we are helpless, and where we are made to feel worthless, alone, warped and rejected.
The 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time readings describe how Satan wants to trap us in that evil world.
Take Corpus Christi, first.
The Corpus Christi Gospel begins with the Apostles gathering for the Passover meal with Jesus. The Passover sacrifice was the moment when God’s people stopped thinking of themselves as trapped and worthless, good for nothing but service to Egyptian masters who worshiped strange gods depicted as jackals, baboons and crocodiles.
With the first Passover sacrifice and their yearly re-presentation of it, God changed the Hebrews’ old identity, “slaves” — to a new one, “chosen.”
In the First Reading for Corpus Christi, from Exodus, we see Moses sealing the new identity of his people with the blood of bulls. In the Second Reading, from Hebrews, Jesus does the same thing, “not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant.”
This new covenant will transform the identity of God’s people once again, from “slaves” to “chosen” to — well, let St. Thomas Aquinas say it.
Jesus Christ “assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods,” wrote St. Thomas Aquinas. He did this at his crucifixion, he said, and “to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us forever, he left his body and blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.”
Jesus Christ takes our human nature, offers it to the Father on the cross, and hands us back participation in his life — first in baptism and then at every Mass. He is God, so he exists outside of time and that one sacrifice is available at all times. In the Gospel of Luke and in Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians Jesus tells the apostles to “do this in anamnesis of me.” That means not just “in remembrance of me” but also “in participation with me.” Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is present and real at every Mass, and remakes us at every communion.
It is re-creating us into beautiful heavenly creatures who will finally be satisfied in our longing for infinite truth, love, beauty, and goodness and filled with Christ’s infinite glory.
But there is another family vying for our attention.
The Gospel for the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time, which some of the Church will hear, is all about the accusation that Jesus is in league with Satan. In the course of the Gospel he describes what belonging to Satan looks like.
He compares Satan’s principality to a “house divided against itself,” and he identifies his own job as “tying up the strong man” and plundering his house. Then he describes how our slavery to sin ties us to that house. “Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”
A nightmare future is as real a possibility as a glorious future, if we don’t accept Christ. It is like slavery to the Egyptians with their jackals, baboons and crocodiles, only worse. In it we are captives of the Prince of Darkness, living without light while suffering perpetual violence, trapped and twisted by our refusal to let the Holy Spirit “wash what is unclean, water what is parched, heal what is diseased, bend what is rigid” and “warm what is cold.” We do not know the conscience of any other person, but we know our own, and pray for mercy on us and on the whole world.
It is the Holy Spirit, who we meet with Christ in the Sacrament, who remakes us and renews us.
“Although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day,” writes St. Paul in the Second Reading for the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, “producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” and bringing us to our true home, “a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.”
And here the two come together — the Solemnity American Catholics celebrate this Sunday and the solemnity the Universal Church celebrates.
As St. Ambrose put it, “Before the words of Christ, the chalice is full of wine and water; when the words of Christ have been added, then the blood in effect redeems the people. So behold in what great respects the expression of Christ is able to change all things.”
If Christ’s words change things on Corpus Christi, think what that means for his words that end the Gospel for the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Jesus is told by his circle of disciples, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” He answers, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Conforming to Christ’s image is not automatic, even with baptism and the Eucharist — even for Mary. As Jesus himself pointed out, Mary was blessed because she “heard the word of God and kept it,” not because of her blood relation to Christ.
It is the same with us.
We become his family not because we are baptized, but to the extent we take his new covenant to heart. That is when we find ourselves on the path to a glorious future — and off the path that leads nowhere good.
Image: Eucharistic Adoration at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.