Body and Blood – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26, Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

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On weekdays, my 82-year-old dad gets up at 5:30am. After breakfast, he hops on a cab that takes him to the wharf. Then he gets on a bus that rolls onto a ferry that heads for Samal Island where he works in a law office. He had been a judge in Samal for many years and decided to keep working there when he retired. I see  two reasons why my thinning, weakening dad still goes to work. First, because he still can. Nothing gives him more energy than lawyering even at 82. But second, because he still needs to support my youngest brother and his family. I used to resent my brother, that dad had to still do this because of him, when dad should really been long enjoying his retirement. But I’m no longer resentful. Our youngest brother and his family keep dad alive. They are dad’s reason for living. When I visited him on a weekend last January, he was sleeping in front of the tv. I watched him and a voice in my head went: “Haay, ang daddy. Pagod na. Pero pawis niya at dugo ang dahilan kung bakit narito kami ngayon.”

Pawis at dugo. That’s one of many “binomials” we often use: like aches and pains, odds and ends, bread and butter, and in view of today’s solemnity, body and blood. When we say that dad’s pawis at dugo has brought us to where we are now, we’re not referring literally to his body liquids, right? No, we mean dad’s whole person, his entire life and effort, dedicated for his family. Well, that’s how we understand Christ’s body and blood, i i e , as the Lord’s whole person, his entire life of dedication for us, his reason for living.

Don’t you find it interesting that we Catholics isolate body parts for veneration? Like the hearts of Jesus and Mary. It often horrifies a non-Catholic/Christian. But when we venerate these hearts, it’s not just the anatomical, fist-sized muscles in their circulatory system that we pray to, no. Venerating their hearts is our way of making thoroughly visible and concrete and sensorial what is otherwise so tremendous that it defies absolute visibility and concretization. And what is that? Their true love. We do this for ordinary people, too. The heart of a mother, for example, really concretizes a mother’s compassion so tremendous that words cannot exhaust its depth. The hands of a father really stand for his industry, so immeasurable that words fail to circumscribe the value of his hard work. The eyes of a child, that would be a child’s utter innocence and vulnerability and total dependence on us. Jesus’ body and blood is our way of concretizing, making thoroughly visible, this tremendous self-outpouring the Lord did to his neighbor all his life; a self-giving that still defies calibration and comprehensibility. Could God have remained an invisible spirit and still saved the world? Sure. But, no. God became a human, a bodily being. Don’t you think God is trying to tell us that our faith is not just a spiritual thing, that salvation is not just a spiritual thing, that being a “good Christian” is not just a spiritual thing? Jesus himself didn’t just say prayers or meditate the salvation of the world, no. He brought light to darkened eyes and sound to shut ears, by touching them. He restored ailing bodies, stayed the flow of blood in a bleeder, cleansed the putrefying leper, by touching them. Sisters and brothers, I cannot tell us enough that our God is not just a spirit. Through Jesus, who is the complete revelation of the Father, God showed us that being Divine also means being thoroughly bodily, not just spiritual. Jesus showed us how important bodiliness is to our salvation. He started and ended with his own body and blood—by giving it away, whole, entire, and unabashedly.

We make the sign of the cross, not just think it, don’t we? We take communion by eating. We have our heads and hands anointed. We clutch our rosaries when we’re afraid. We kiss the crucifix, we kneel, we close our eyes, we sing! Our faith is a very bodily faith because our God is a bodily God. So, why is it that many of us Catholics often shrink from anything bodily, especially outside of the sacraments? We have a long history that gave the human body a bad rap: that whatever is bodily is carnal and therefore, sinful. Worse, outside of the sacraments and outside of family, we, especially us in religious life, we get very anxious when there is bodily interaction, like embracing or kissing or even simply throwing an arm over each other’s shoulder. An alarm goes off within and warns us: anything bodily or tactile is immediately sexual or lustful or decadent—even when it’s the most natural, most loving, even the most Christ-like expression of being not just a Christian, but of being a good human being!

Yet look at our faith, sisters and brothers. Our most celebrated sacrament is the Eucharist, where we remember in the most concrete and visible way the self-offering of the Savior, through his body and his blood. No, not just his spirit, not just his prayers or well-wishing, or his flying kiss, but we remember all of him, all his bodily effort, his physical expressions, his touch, his embrace, his kiss of peace, his tears…and then his torture and death…and then his bodily resurrection, and then his coming back down in tongues of fire. “Take and eat and drink, this is my body and my blood,” we say in the Eucharist all the time. How much more corporeal did Jesus intend our faith to be, intend us to be? You could almost hear him say, “By your eating and drinking my body and my blood, I become part of your body and your blood. All of me is yours. Do not be afraid to do the same for each other…spiritually and bodily.”

*image from the Internet

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