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Reel Presence and the Real Thing (870)

User's Guide to Sunday, June 10.

06/10/2012 Comment

Sunday, June 10, is Corpus Christi Sunday in the United States.

Papal

In Rome and much of the world, Corpus Christi is celebrated on Thursday, June 7. Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass at 7pm, followed by a Eucharistic procession to St. Mary Major.

Family

For Corpus Christi Day, here are 10 Eucharistic film scenes in no particular order.
 

The Passion of the Christ: The film presents the Eucharist as a window on the Crucifixion.

Brideshead Revisited: Charles Ryder finds the chapel with an empty tabernacle to be “just an oddly decorated room.”

Marty: This great old movie celebrates the extraordinary in the ordinary, including going to Sunday Mass.

Catholic chapel scenes: In several sports movies, visits to Catholic chapels mark turning points -- for the athlete himself in Rudy and Rocky II and for the neighborhood in Cinderella Man.

The Longest Day: A priest goes to great lengths to rescue his Mass kit.

Romero: Martyrdom at Mass is not just the climactic scene, but the theme.

The Mission: At the end, see a remarkable scene of enemies firing on a Eucharistic procession.

Becket: The saint is killed in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Miracle of Marcellino: A boy experiences a miracle when offering bread and wine to a crucifix.

The Maldonado Miracle: The blood of Christ unites a town and saves souls.

Readings

Exodus 24:3-8; Psalms 116:12-13, 15-18; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Our Take

Great Britain’s The Telegraph recently polled Britons about whom they would most want to meet from history. Jesus Christ won handily. Online surveys asking, “Which historical event would you most like to witness?” are also dominated by events regarding Jesus Christ, especially the Crucifixion.

The very logic of our religion depends on our physical contact with him.

The first two readings form a kind of argument. It goes like this: God made his covenant with his chosen people by blood sacrifices; Jesus ended those sacrifices, subsuming them into his sacrifice “once for all” in his crucifixion.

Look at today’s first reading: It is the tale of the first covenant with God. Moses directed that animal sacrifices be made to the Lord and the blood be sprinkled on the congregation.

As Father Robert Spitzer explains in Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life: “Blood, the principle of life for the Israelites, was the vehicle through which atonement occurred in sin or guilt offerings.” The people had to have contact with the blood of the offering; that is what brought about their atonement.

St. Paul updated this picture in our second reading. “If the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled … how much more will the blood of Christ” cleanse us, he says.

Explains Father Spitzer: “Jesus’ reference to his sacrificial blood would almost inevitably be seen as the blood of a sin offering — with the notable exception that the sin offering is no longer an animal, but, rather, Jesus himself.”

But if Jesus’ blood is to save us, how does that offering apply to anyone but the people who were alive in Jesus’ time? How can he save me and my family with his blood if that blood was shed long ago? Today’s Gospel answers that: Jesus sacrificed himself only once on the cross.

But he made that one sacrifice available to his apostles the night before in the Eucharist. Not only that, he gave them the power to make that one sacrifice available to more and more people in the following days. By the continuation of the Eucharistic sacrifice, he put each of us in the position to have saving contact with the blood of the new covenant.

So, if we wish we could meet Jesus Christ, the truth is, we can.

The most significant thing we remember about our encounters is often the “presence” of a person. We remember the gentleness, attentiveness and love of a priest like Pope John Paul II. We remember the joyfulness, humility and gratitude of a religious sister like Mother Teresa.

When we meet Jesus in the Eucharist, we experience all those aspects of his personality — and we get soul-changing contact with his body and blood, as well.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas, where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.

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