I want to start with two prayers, one or the other is prayed at every Mass, though you do not hear it.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, through your death gave life to the world, free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood, from all my sins and from every evil; keep me always faithful to your commandments, and never let me be parted from you.
And prayer number two:
May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgement and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.
One of the prayers above is prayed by the priest after the Lamb of God and before he receives Communion. As you heard, they are similar, yet distinct.
Personally, when I am feeling good about the condition of my own soul, I like to pray the longer one. Now, I am not saying I consider myself ready for canonization, there are times when I know I am not walking as well as I should in the grace of God. That is when I like to pray the second one, because it reminds me more specifically of the need I have for His mercy, and that if I am not careful, I run the risk of “judgement and condemnation…” – And sometimes I just want to use the shorter prayer… you understand…
The first and longer prayer reminds me that the Body and Blood of Jesus brings freedom to those who receive it worthily. So it also speaks of a release from judgement and condemnation; but it speaks about it in terms of the liberty of love. The second prayer I see as calling on – or falling on – the mercy of God above everything else, recognizing that I need that mercy so desperately. The closing of the first prayer is important to me as well: “never let me be separated from you.”
These prayers are supposed to be prayed by the priest in a very low voice, so I respect the rubrics of the Mass, though I do try to speak up a little more than many of my brother priests do, because I think these prayers are so simple and beautiful. I think they can – and should be – part of the prayer before Communion for everyone.
On this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), I want all of us to be thinking of what this supreme gift of God does for us. I spoke a couple of weeks ago about how we offer ourselves on the altar along with Christ, and that the Body and Blood – the food that comes to us from the altar – prepares us to go into the world to make our lives a living sacrifice to God. Now on this feast day, we are called to the altar to OFFER ourselves… and receive from God FOR ourselves and for others.
We must take the Eucharist we receive out into our individual worlds, our individual lives, so that those who do not understand the blessing and mercy of God will see in us that same blessing and mercy. That they may see not the judgement and condemnation of God, but the mercy and protection of our souls and bodies; not the sins and evil of fallen humanity, but the freedom and joy of living in the commandments of God that keep us from being parted from Him.
These profound prayers of the Church call us to recognize how much we need the salvation and mercy of God. As I said, they are intended to be the proximate prayer of the priest, but I think they are great preparations for everyone before they receive their own Communion.
During this Mass, I am intending pray the prayer in a louder than normal way at the proper time, so that all of you will be invited to enter into this prayer today, and maybe – as you remember it – you will make it or something similar, a regular part of your own preparation for Communion.
There is a great power and gift in the Body and Blood of Christ. Demons tremble when Jesus comes to us in this humble form. We need not tremble, but we need to draw near in awe and wonder that Jesus chooses to be with us in His humility and undeniable majesty.
May the Body and Blood of Christ bring us to everlasting life.