We used to call this feast ‘Corpus Christi’, ‘The Body of Christ’, but that is only half its title. Perhaps it was because we used to receive Communion only under the form of bread and not, as we do now and as the first disciples of Jesus did, under the form of bread and wine.
This year, the second in our three-year cycle of readings for Sundays and feasts, the readings for this feast focus more on the blood than on the body. Two important words keep cropping up in these readings: covenant and sacrifice.
The Bible tells the story of how God is always wanting to enter into a relationship with his people, a covenant which involves commitment on both sides: God will look after his people, showering gifts on them, and they will worship him and obey his commands. The Bible also tells the story of how the people keep on breaking the covenant, following other gods, forgetting the laws and commandments, behaving in selfish and sinful ways.
Sacrifice comes into both parts of this story: the covenant between God and his people is sealed by the blood of animals sacrificed to mark the importance and solemnity of the agreement, and the people offer sacrifices to God when they want to show they are sorry for their sins and to restore the covenant they have broken.
The story changes dramatically when Jesus enters our world. Animal sacrifices are no longer necessary because he sacrifices himself to establish the new and everlasting covenant between us and his Father. His blood is poured out for the forgiveness of our sins.
On this feast, as in every Mass, we do what Jesus told us to do in memory of him. As he took bread and wine, gave thanks for them, broke the bread and poured out the wine and gave them to his friends as a permanent way to be with them, so we take bread and wine, give thanks to God for them, and receive in them the gift of Christ himself, his broken body and his blood poured out to restore our relationship with the Father.