By Sister Barbara Jean Franklin, ASC
On Sunday, Catholics celebrated the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – formerly, Corpus Christi — but mostly, without the triumphant liturgical processions that marked the celebration years ago.
In those days, the Eucharist was carried out of the Church, often under a fancy canopy, so that the Christian faithful could publicly profess faith and worship of the Blessed Sacrament.
The procession and canopy are not unlike the big tent crusades led years ago by preachers, such as Rev. Billy Graham, where people came forward to profess their faith, embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and perhaps even to be healed.
Recently, I read something that compared our procession to receive the Eucharist to people coming forward to “witness” at a crusade. At least on TV, it appeared that those crusaders who dared to approach the stage and the preacher were transformed.
Since then, I have to admit that I have been more conscious and even a bit apprehensive each time I come forward to receive the body and blood of Christ. This is no cheap parade. Rather, the experience gives me a better sense of how it might have been for those gathered with Jesus when, as the Gospel says, he “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.’”
As Peter and John and the other men and women who were present with Jesus at that meal reflected back on Jesus’ words and actions, they must have realized the amazing truth that Jesus had washed the feet of those who would betray and deny him. He broke bread and shared the cup with each of the people present without questioning their belief, their motives, their fidelity or allegiance to him.
Notice Jesus didn’t say “Try it.” He said “Take it; this is my body.” And when we do, God’s grace will take us to places we’d rather not go, sometimes even to people we’d rather not be around. To take and receive the Eucharist, we must believe that radical love is possible. God’s grace is offered to beloved and to betrayer, to victim and to perpetrator, to friend and to foe. We have all been each of them at one time or another.
Each Eucharist is a religious experience that offers an opportunity to witness, profess our faith, embrace Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and, yes, even to be healed.
So, regardless of who we are as we approach this altar and receive the body and blood of Christ, at the end of the liturgy we each carry the Eucharist out of this Church. In profound simplicity, we are, indeed, each a Corpus Christi procession.