This Sunday, Jesus Accompanies Us Through Life: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity

We learn how Jesus accompanies us through life this Sunday, The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi.

Because, the truth is, once we know Jesus, we each feel the same aching longing the disciples had near the end of the Gospel of Luke when they said, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” And once we know his plans, we can each feel the same thrilling completeness the disciples must have felt at the end of the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus said, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Not only will Jesus stay with us, but, as Sunday’s readings show, this is a culmination of the plan he had to accompany us ever since the beginning of human history.

On the night before he died, Jesus lived life backwards so that we can live life forwards.

We are used to thinking of the centuries “Before Christ” as running backwards. We count down to the coming of Christ, the “Anno Domini” years. Greek culture goes Homer (800s BC) to Socrates (400s BC) to Alexander (300s BC) to Jesus, and Roman history goes from the Punic Wars (200s BC) to Julius Caesar (100s BC) to Augustus (b. 62 BC) to Jesus.

Then, starting with Jesus, everything goes forward together from the age of early Roman martyrs to the 21st century Coptic martyrs, from the Council of Jerusalem to the Second Vatican Council, from St. Benedict to St. Francis to Mother Teresa, St. Teresa of Kolkata.

We are used to all the prefigurements of the Old Testament running backwards, too: We go from the Spirit hovering over the waters to the flood to the Red Sea to the Jordan to baptism into Jesus. We go from the sacrifice of Able to the Sacrifice of Isaac to the Passover Lamb to the Temple to the New Covenant in Christ.

On Corpus Christi, the Gospel shows us that in the week he died, Jesus went backwards too:

  • Jesus offered his body and blood at the table before he offered it on the cross.
  • Jesus is the new Passover Lamb, but this Lamb is consumed before he is killed.
  • He offers his memorial Mass before his death and his funeral dinner before his burial.

This is only possible, because he will rise again, and everything will go forward.

  • Jesus will give his “last words,” sharing his mission for us, at the beginning of his new resurrected life.
  • He will give his “last will and testament,” committing his Holy Spirit to us, at the beginning of the life of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
  • And he will “stay with us,” after he dies and rises, not before.

This makes the Eucharist a new kind of sacrifice, one that transforms time itself from past tense to future tense, from history to progression. It is also a new model for accompaniment.

The Church shows us what Eucharistic accompaniment means by showing us how God accompanied Moses and his people in the Old Testament.

The First Reading from Exodus has seemed strange to me ever since I heard it. In fact, this story is the only thing I remember from my First Communion, which I received at age 5.

Moses takes the blood sacrificed to God, the symbol of life, and splashes the people with it. He is sealing his covenant, establishing his relationship with his people and saying, “I will stay with you. I will go where you go.”

Those original worshipers knew it was true. This promise was coming from the God who “heard the cries of his people” in slavery and came to rescue them. This is the God who called his people out of Egypt, who led them through the desert with miracles and wonders. This is the God who gave them the Ten Commandments to say, “This is how to walk with me through life.” So they believed him when he says he will accompany them.

The Second Reading, from Hebrews, repeats the same image of God marking his people, only now with the blood of Jesus. If the Hebrew people could be bound to God with the blood of animal sacrifice, how much more will the blood of Christ cleanse us? If the Old Covenant marked God’s chosen people as carriers of his special protection, how much more will the New Covenant keep us close?

After all, this is the whole reason Jesus came: To lead us back to him by walking at our side.

We parted ways with God in the Garden of Eden but instead of abandoning us to our folly, we know that, “for us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.”

The Catechism gives four reasons God became man in Jesus Christ, and they all come down to accompaniment.

  • First, he came to save us, because “Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us to the light; captives, we awaited a savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator,” says the Catechism quoting Gregory of Nyssa.
  • Second, he came to show us his love. “God sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him,” it says, quoting John.
  • Third, he came to be a model for us, saying “Love one another as I have loved you.”
  • Fourth, he came to be make us partakers of his nature, accompanying us through adoption, becoming man so that we can become God.

Put another way, he saves us with his blood; he show us his love through his blood; he models his love by his blood; and he shares his divine love in his blood. The blood of Jesus is the life of Christ, it marks us and stays with us.

Looking at my own family I can see how this accompaniment by Christ has lasted my whole life long.

My wife is a great example of Jesus coming at a young age to her in the Eucharist. She had an extraordinary experience at her first communion: both the host and the chalice glowed and lit up the church. It made her realize that Jesus was there for her, and she stayed with God despite having little help from her parish.

I first met my wife in college because we were both involved in All-Night Adoration. There, next to the monstrance, we were guided in the first steps of our courtship.

Later, the Blessed Sacrament was a place of refreshment as we brought our children there, one after the other, nine times, to their own first communions.

My son had a hard journey in high school, and he told me how the Eucharist accompanied him through the local perpetual adoration chapel. “I questioned my faith in high school, but I never questioned my need to go to the adoration chapel,” he said.

My daughter told me that she learned how to handle the frustrating silence of God there. “One summer I decided to pray there every day. That chapel has always felt like home to me. But that summer it was the worst. I didn’t leave prayer feeling comforted or refreshed as I often had before. It just felt like a chore where I prattled on and God said nothing. But I stuck to it. That year was the most important year of personal growth for me to date in my life.”

The hardest times in our family’s life were times when the Blessed Sacrament was no longer there, when the pandemic closed the churches to us, withheld communion from us, and locked Christ’s presence away. If felt like Jesus no longer walking with us, like God leaving us on our own, alone.

Then, when my wife suffered a devastating stroke and was in the hospital for a month, often unresponsive, the Eucharist was there for me too. We were in an Episcopalian hospital but the chaplain showed me the tabernacle where the “Catholic hosts” were reserved, and I spent my time there, close to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, silently asking him “Why?” And hearing him tell me that it was all in his hands.

We see exactly what Eucharistic accompaniment looks like when we walk in a Corpus Christi procession. We walk through the streets holding Jesus Christ high. He is totally at our disposal and we are totally at his disposal. He is leading us and we are carrying him. We are taking him on our journey, and he is taking us on his.

He accompanies us with his presence — his commitment to us, body, blood, soul and divinity. We learn from him that we are meant to accompany others with our presence: our commitment to stay with them, with our presence; with our blood, sweat and tears; with our whole life.

The beginning of the Gospel this Sunday shows us how by living his life backwards, Jesus set us on a path forward.

He told his disciples how to find the place of Passover: “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.” Then, Jesus says, speak in his name to those in the house he enters and they will arrange everything.

This is what happens when we live our lives with Jesus Christ, when we allow him to accompany us: The circumstances of our lives start to cohere into a story told by God. People we meet lead us deeper into our Christian life. Doors open. Arrangements get made. Everything just seems to work, and we arrive at the place of our own Passover.

So I will pray on Corpus Christi in the communion line, “Stay with us, Lord.” And he will answer when I return to the pew, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of time.”

Then I will follow him out through the Church doors in the procession that leads into the rest of my life.

Image: Melissa Schramp St Benedict Parish Facebook.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.