By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
In a manner deeply rooted in our tradition of faith, on the feast of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we gathered around the Altar of Sacrifice, as did Moses and the Israelites at the base of Mount Sinai, to renew and celebrate our Covenant begun in Baptism, sealed in the blood of the Cross, and confirmed in the Resurrection. The Israelites emerged from slavery in Egypt to a place of freedom in the desert, in order to gather as the People of God.
We are regathering as the Body of Christ in greater numbers after a year of being scattered, not because of the oppression of a cruel Pharoah, but because of a punishing pandemic. Even further back in our tradition of faith we resemble Noah and his family, including all of God’s creatures, who were confined in their floating home, until the day they could set foot on land and offer sacrifice to God. So too, we set foot in our churches throughout the diocese in a more ordinary manner to offer sacrifice to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On the most fitting solemnity apart from Easter Sunday, the dispensation from the Sunday Obligation was lifted on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, rightly in place for over a year, in order that our Catholic faithful, the Body of Christ, might celebrate anew our most sublime act of worship, the holy Mass.
I have been inspired by all who have gathered this past year out of hunger for God’s Word and the sacrament of the Eucharist, and by all who have had a deep hunger to be physically present in church. More and more this longing is being fulfilled as the pandemic recedes. For those, who continue to stay apart because of health concerns, may circumstances allow them to come home, sooner rather than later.
In national surveys over the past year, many expressed that the pandemic, in the throes of suffering, death and deprivation, had strengthened their faith in God and their spiritual lives. Crucibles often do this. This growth could indicate a wide range of personal development, but for us as Catholics, outward signs that our faith in Jesus Christ has grown are confirmable. They are the hunger to be in communion with him in the sacrament of his Body and Blood, the hunger to be a living part of the Body of Christ, the gathered community, and the hunger and thirst that we have for righteousness and reconciliation in our relationships, beginning at home, and reaching out to all in our lives and in our world.
Pope Francis continually pleads for a deeper sense of fraternity in our world that compliments liberty and equality. His passion for greater unity and solidarity among peoples and nations arises from the source and summit of our Catholic identity, the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
The precious body and blood of the Lord is our lifeline in faith. Each day the Word of God resounds in accord throughout the world-wide church, a light in the darkness. The crucified and risen One is the light of the world, the bread of life, the way and the truth. His life poured out for us is food for the journey and the pledge of eternal life.
What a precious gift and mystery we celebrate in his undying love for us. How blessed we are each time we gather for the Eucharist, professing our faith that we do this in memory of the One who is with us always until the end of time and for all eternity.
On Mount Tabor, the mountain of the Transfiguration, Peter blurted out, incredulous for pure joy: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” (Matthew 17:4) We concur that it is good for us to be back in church in our sacred places where we can see and celebrate the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus Christ, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, and throughout the year. Alleluia!