Daily in our news feed we hear headlines of the violence rampant across the globe. Stories of bodiesbroken and blood spilled. We can barely comprehend the numbers that tally the destruction: more than 20,000 dead just from gun violence in the US in 2020, with 2021 on track to dramatically exceed thatnumber. 1.2 million violent crimes reported in the US in 2019. Around the world the numbers stagger us. Bodies ripped open, families shattered, communities torn apart--a seemingly endless stream of violenceand blood.
Many of us, feeling fearful and helpless to stem the tide of violence, persuade ourselves that this violencehas nothing to do with us. We imagine that the violence is out there, in those people, and we participatein fracturing the world — dividing it into camps of the righteous and the evildoers. We remain blind to theways that those very thoughts, and the words and actions that ﬂow from them, fracture our own hearts, and perpetrate another violence that negates the humanity of some; and projects our own suffering or rage onto whole groups of others. I saw this pattern so vividly displayed as I observed the words and emotions offriends and co-workers reacting to the recent trial and verdict of Derek Chauvin for the murder of GeorgeFloyd.
Today’s solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus, can, if we will allow it, expose the divisions in ourhearts and the ways we so easily feed violence as we participate in fracturing relationships anddividing communities. Today’s celebration invites us to metabolize the violence in our hearts and inour world, as we take into ourselves the lifeblood that heals all that divides us, the body and blood that makes us one.
The blood of the covenant, in our reading from Exodus, marks the eternal relationship between Godand the people, who by their assent to this covenant, make their unity visible. The blood poured outon the people and the altar signiﬁes the blood of their communion. They are one.
Jesus’ free gift of his body and blood, the night before his own unjust and violent death, forever tearsaway our illusion of separateness and the illusion that the violence in the world is not also in us
This is my body, which is for you
This my blood, poured out for you and for the multitudes.
In this act we see, we know, we receive that we are one body, with one river of blood ﬂowing through theveins of all.
This is not simply a poetic or spiritualized notion. Our faith is incarnate, corporeal, lived out in our physicalbodies — and the blood that ﬂows through the veins of every human person is one:
The bodies broken daily by violence are our bodies; it is our blood spilled out.
The enraged, or perhaps cold, blood that ﬂows through the veins of the perpetrators ofviolence, is pumped by our hearts as well.
And together we receive, our common healing and transformation through our participation in thefree gift of Jesus:
This is my body, This is my blood, which is for you.
St. Thomas, commenting on this feast writes: “No other sacrament has greater healing power, through itwhat divides us is purged away, virtues are increased, and we renew our memory of the surpassing love forus which Christ revealed.”
The ancient sequence composed for this solemnity names with joy the source of our healing:
Sing of love beyond your telling, love from Jesus’ heart upwelling, giving all that love can give. See him as hislife is ending, to his chosen friends attending, giving all that all might live.
Greet your Lord with acclamation, sing with joy in celebration of his gift of living bread. Let your mind withlove be dwelling on this gift, all gifts excelling, gift by which your heart is fed.
Two images — both responses to violence — one so familiar in our world and experience, which perpetuatesthe dehumanizing spiral;
the other offered in our scriptures and tradition, which liberates and transforms. So how might we moredeeply participate in Jesus’ gift, making his act our own? Perhaps, by involving our bodies more fully. Verysimply, as we pray the Eucharist, we might extend our own hands in offering:
This is my body, which is given for you
This is my blood poured out for you.
And what might be the result if we choose daily to practice this act of love. Could it be that through each ofus, in our small ways, God’s healing and transformation of violence may spread?
Let us pray every headline and every statistic with these words: This is my body, this is my blood.
As we see the faces in communities locked in opposition to one another. . . As the news bringsto our eyes the faces of the victims, and the faces of the perpetrators, Let us pray:
This is my body, this is my blood. We are one.
Celeste Mueller, D.Min.
Celeste Mueller, D.Min.
Celeste Mueller serves as Vice President, Ministry Formation for Ascension, a Catholic health system headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. Celeste leads a team of formation leaders and facilitators, educators and practitioners who function as an internal and external consulting group: designing, developing and delivering spiritual and theological formation programs, services and resources to serve Ascension leaders, clinicians and associates and through Mandorla, to serve organizations, groups, communities and individuals beyond Ascension. She also serves as designer and faculty for the Ascension Leadership Academy and leads Ascension’s Formation Facilitator Certification Program.
Celeste’s current research and writing interests include advancing the professional competence in formation as a multidisciplinary art and science, and formation for virtuous leadership
Prior to joining Ascension, Celeste was Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. She founded and directed the Vocare Center which was established to strengthen the capacity of leaders to transform society according to the gospel.
Celeste has taught Practical Theology, Scripture, and Systematic Theology at Aquinas Institute and St. Louis University as well as at the secondary level. She has served parish ministry in catechetical and faith formation programs, and urban ministry in programs for at-risk youth, transitional housing, and in jail ministry. Celeste holds a Doctor of Ministry in Practical Theology from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, an MA from Aquinas Institute of Theology, and a BA in philosophy and theology from the University of Notre Dame.
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