Mary, the Body and Blood of Christ, and us

In John 6 Jesus says several times and in different ways: “I tell you most solemnly…He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.” Can we actually embody Jesus Christ? Wouldn’t that change everything?

Father Stefano Penna asks us to imagine the Sacred Heart of Jesus pumping the precious blood out to the distant capillaries. The systolic action sends out the blood to nourish us. This is the blood shed for our sins, the blood that washes us white as snow. 

The diastolic action of the Sacred Heart contracting, draws us, a sluggish waste, back through the veins to be cleansed and refreshed, once again to be sent out refreshed and re-oxygenated. As we go forth from our encounter with Christ’s love, we are literally and figuratively “pumped”. We go forth to strengthen and rebuild the body of Christ.

To help us understand how this works let us use the Blessed Virgin Mary as our model. Mary was the first to embody Christ. Through the incarnation Jesus was present in her and the Holy Spirit of God was active in her.

Then after the Resurrection we follow Mary to the upper room with the disciples, preparing for the coming of the Spirit in the event of Pentecost (Acts 1). Mary had already been entrusted with the role of mother of the church when at the foot of the cross Jesus gave her to John and the disciples as their mother.

Now the Spirit comes down upon this infant church infusing it with power and grace. Mary had been a part of this community praying for the gifts of the Spirit. She was instrumental in helping to bring about the growth of the church as a human participant – like you and I are at present.

And just as in the Incarnation the Spirit had formed the physical body of Christ in her virginal womb, now in the Upper Room the same Spirit comes down to give life to the early community of church, what we could call the mystical body. (A Moment with Mary June 8, 2019)

And just as Mary was instrumental in the growth of the church, you and I can be instruments in the present time and place. We have Christ inside us, body and blood. We also have the Holy Spirit within us, the same Spirit that infused the church at Pentecost.

Given all that, what is there in this world that we cannot attempt? In contemplating Mary’s powerful influence in the church, our long and often tiring journey to salvation is made easier.

If we stay close to Jesus, especially united with His body and Blood, it will be necessary at the time of our deaths that we be reunited with Jesus in heaven. This is what happened to Mary when she left this earth.

According to St John Damascene, a father of the Eastern Church and the greatest of her poets, Mary left this world by falling asleep and being assumed into heaven. She did not know sin and was not subject to the punishments of original sin.

Thanks be to God for the gift of church and the sacramental presence of Jesus. Thanks be to God for Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother in the church. And thanks be to God for the incarnation that opened the path to heaven for us.

(577 words)

By Ken Rolheiser