Juneteenth and the Body and Blood of Christ
Juneteenth is the “oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.” This year it had the happy occurrence of falling on the same day as Corpus Christi, the Church’s celebration of the Eucharist and how it is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Since they both feel on the same day this year and since God can be in the details of human affairs I wanted to reflect and see any connections that could be drawn between the two celebrations and how a Black celebration and Catholic celebration could link up.
Juneteenth is about freed bodies who were now about to give themselves fully to their families and communities free from fear of shackles and whip as Corpus Christi is about Christ freely giving His Body and Blood in the Eucharist so that we might truly give ourselves to God and others free of sin and hatred.
Juneteenth carries with it the message of freedom from slavery at the hands of men. Corpus Christi carries with it the message of freedom in Christ from slavery to sin and death.
Juneteenth recalls the call to the freedom that was always the rightful possession of enslaved Black people, which was owed to them by virtue of their human dignity. Corpus Christi recalls our sublime participation in divine dignity as partakers of Christ’s Body and Blood.
Juneteenth is the triumph of a people over the twin evils of slavery and racism that lied at the broken heart of a nation. Corpus Christi is the triumph of the People of God over the twin evils of sin and death which lies at the broken heart of humanity.
Juneteenth is the sweetness of the news of freedom. Corpus Christi is the sweetness of the Eucharist and its news of God’s closeness to us.
Even though Juneteenth is a secular holiday there is always the spark of God in good human activities because of the Image of God that we bear. God Himself became flesh and took part in the ordinary world filled with both secular and sacred. And the Lord promised to be among us, especially among the least of these, which for too long of a time was Black people in this country.
The common celebration of Juneteenth by all (without the rancor and distortion of politicization and polemics) can be a source of healing and reconciliation. The Body and Blood of Christ is the source and sign of healing and reconciliation of all people in Christ and in His Catholic Church, which is truly universal.