The Solemnity of the most Holy Body and Blood of Christ and the Feast of St Peter and St Paul
June 15th The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Twice the Apostle Paul, writing to the community in Corinth, recalls this command of Jesus in his account of the institution of the Eucharist. It is the oldest testimony we have to the words of Christ at the Last Supper.
“Do this.” That is, take bread, give thanks and break it; take the chalice, give thanks, and share it. Jesus gives the command to repeat this action by which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood. This action reaches us today: it is the “doing” of the Eucharist which always has Jesus as its subject, but which is made real through our poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit.
And Jesus asks us to give ourselves, to break ourselves, as it were, for others. This “breaking bread” became the icon, the sign for recognizing Christ and Christians. We think of Emmaus: they knew him “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35). We recall the first community of Jerusalem: “They held steadfastly… to the breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42). From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the centre and pattern of the life of the Church. But we think also of all the saints – famous or anonymous – who have “broken” themselves, their own life, in order to “give something to eat” to their brothers and sisters. How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well! How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated! Where do they find the strength to do this? It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, when the priest breaks bread for us and repeats: “Do this in remembrance of me.”
29th June The Feast of St Peter and St Paul
Each of these two saints is important for different reasons. Peter is important because he was the first Pope and kept the Church united, which was growing rapidly in the years following Pentecost. In the first years after Pentecost it was Jews who accepted Jesus as the Saviour and so the early church was a very Jewish church. But as time went on Paul began to preach also to non-Jews, the Gentiles as they were called. All of us are Gentiles. His preaching was very successful and he brought huge numbers of non-Jews into the church, so much so, that the number of Jews in the church was greatly out-numbered by non-Jews. It is because of Paul that we are now in the Church. So both Peter and Paul had very important tasks in the early Church, Peter maintaining the unity in the Church, which during his lifetime, had already spread throughout the Middle East and Europe, and Paul who taught the Jews that Jesus is the fulfillment of their Old Testament hopes and taught the non-Jews that Jesus is the Saviour. Whenever you see statues of Peter and Paul, usually Peter is holding a key, symbolizing his duty as head of the church, and Paul is holding the Bible, symbolizing his preaching, spreading the good news of the risen Christ to Jews and Gentiles alike.