By PATIS MUNGCAL
National Council of Churches in the Philippines
June 6, 2021
The Body and Blood of Christ Solemnity
Exodus 24: 3-8
Psalms 116: 12-13, 15-16, 17-18 (13)
Hebrews 9: 11-15
Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
We are reminded once again to commemorate the solemnity of the most holy body and blood of Christ. This is the celebration of a very important aspect of our Christian life – that Christ came to earth, felt the suffering of humankind, and offered his body and blood for the eternal salvation of the people.
This is rooted in the beliefs of the people of God, thousands of years way back, on the sanctity of blood. In the time of the early believers, blood of animals was sacrificed as an act of worship and surrender to God. They proclaim in their sacrifices, “We will do everything the Lord has said! We will obey!” (Exodus 24: 3-8). Meanwhile, in the New Testament, Christ himself became that sacrifice to save the people from eternal suffering. Christ’s blood meant “eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9: 11-15).
Growing up as a Baptist, this was an abstract gesture for me. Sacrificial blood, salvation, eternal suffering, among many others, are concepts that took time for me to comprehend. Thankfully, Christ used bread and wine as an image, a symbolic observance, so that people won’t ever forget the solemnity and sanctity of the body and blood. I remember back then appreciating how practical the symbols were, because bread and wine are important elements for celebrations and are accessible enough to be served in special occasions.
And now, I look at my surroundings, observe the life around me through the news and social media, community discussions, and personal reflections. I can’t help but ask, “How did we get here?” How did we reach the point when life – body and blood – slowly loses its value?
Let us remember the body and blood of 37,000 Filipinos who were coldly murdered in the name of the sham “drug war” of the Duterte administration. Let us put in our memory, too, the innocent citizens who were gunned down by abusive cops and authorities. Here are thousands of bodies and blood that were unjustly shed. These aren’t just bodies. Their deaths left thousands widowed and orphaned.
Let us remember the activists and rights defenders that were killed in Southern Tagalog. Let us remember Dandy Miguel who championed the rights of ordinary workers. Let us remember the Evangelista couple who defended the rights of fisherfolk communities in Batangas, and their 10-year-old child who witnessed the murder of his parents. Let us remember all those who were killed for fighting for the rights of their people, for taking a stand against the ruling Empire, and for speaking out against injustices.
Let us remember those who perished because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those who didn’t get the chance to be medically attended, those who were at the frontlines of the crises, and those who were victimized by criminal neglect in the pandemic response.
The symbolic observance of the holy communion has become especially painful nowadays. It seems like the cruel world is taking away the meaning of body and blood. We have undergone recently dark times when many lives were lost in the hands of executioners devoid of mercy, compassion, and humanity. In sharp contrast to the biblical times, lives lost today were unholy sacrifices to the altar of greed, corruption (abuse of power), and injustices. These aren’t celebrated, but mourned. These aren’t lifted up to the skies, but buried with the heaviest burdens in our hearts. These aren’t dignified, but vilified and minimized.
Where do we go from here? In today’s commemoration of Christ’s body and blood, we are reminded and called to uphold the precious value and sanctity of each one’s life (Psalm 116). Christ has already died for our sins and suffering, in a way that no other person could do, for eternal redemption. The shedding of the most holy body and blood of Christ exemplified the ultimate act of compassion and love – the very elements that we are called to remember and practice in the darkest of times.
Thankfully, Christ has already shown us what compassion and love means in a cruel and suffering world. Also, thankfully, there are still people today who selflessly (and dangerously) follow suit the example of Christ to extend love and compassion, pursue justice, and serve their communities.
Today, as we commemorate, the body and blood of Christ, let us commit ourselves to remember and practice his life and ministry, and his body that suffered in the cross in love. Today’s call includes taking on that radical act of compassion and love and to boldly stand with and serve those who are suffering, just as Christ did.
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).