Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ or Corpus Christi when we affirm our belief in the truth that Jesus is present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist.
Just as we need nourishment of earthly food to live healthy and full physical lives in community, we need nourishment of heavenly bread to live healthy and full spiritual lives in the community of the Church. Each of us has a longing, an emptiness, a grumbling, and a hunger that can only be filled by God. Christ’s Church offers us varying forms of spiritual nourishment which allow our hearts to rest in Him. Sacred scripture, sacred music and art and the many forms of prayer can nourish us. But Jesus at the Last Supper gave us the most perfect and satisfying spiritual nourishment in the Holy Eucharist. It is “the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus which he instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until his return in glory, a continuation of his deep love for us all.” (Compendium)
Every Holy Communion unites us more deeply with Christ, makes us living members of the Body of Christ, renews the graces that we received in Baptism and strengthens us to face the challenge of temptation to sin. St. Ignatius of Antioch described the Holy Eucharist as the medicine of immortality that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ.
The presence of the living Christ – body and blood, soul and divinity – under the forms of bread and wine is a mystery we can accept because Jesus told us it is true. In the Gospel reading he declares, “My flesh is true food, my blood is true drink.” St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote: “do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.” Through the Holy Eucharist Jesus continues to express love at its most intimate. One saint said as we embrace Him in Holy Communion, He embraces us.
I have noted before that what moved me to become Catholic was God’s call experienced through the opening of my heart to the reality of Our Lord’s presence in the Holy Eucharist. Once I accepted the mysterious reality of the Real Presence, I could not stay away. It motivated me to change my ways and turn to Jesus as my savior and teacher. As many converts have put it, I had to come home. To some of my friends it made no sense so hard was it to explain. I pray it is partly expressed through my joy in Him and how I live as a disciple of Christ.
To those who are unable to come to Mass or to receive Holy Communion for whatever reason, which includes many who watch the TV Mass, we are delighted that you join us in prayer. You are invited to a spiritual communion which consists of a deep desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Sacrament and invite His loving embrace. Pray with fervor, Jesus I love you. He will love you back and fill your spiritual hunger in a unique way. Pope Saint John Paul II assured us that those who accept Christ in this way will receive great benefits.
So magnificent is the gift of Jesus himself that it ought to humble us and motivate us to approach him with respectful dignity and serious resolve. Unfortunately a certain casualness has entered into our receiving Holy Communion that diminishes that gift to just another thing we wait in line to do. That is one reason why a few years ago we were asked to bow our head before the consecrated host raised up before us, to remind us of the sacredness of encountering our Lord personally.
In the first reading Moses sends off the Israelites to the Promised Land which he himself would not see. He cautions them not to forget the Lord who brought them out of slavery, saved them in the desert, fed them and led them to the Promised Land. As history shows, they did forget him. That is a challenge for us. Do we get so caught up in worldly affairs that we forget the God who died on the cross for our redemption, who gives us Himself in the Holy Eucharist?
Pope Francis has noted: “There are many offers of food that do not come from the Lord, and that apparently satisfy more. Some are fed with money, others with success and vanity, others with power and pride. But the food that truly nourishes and satisfies us is only what the Lord gives us! The food that the Lord offers us is different from all other, and maybe it does not seem as tasty as some food that the world offers us. So we dream of other meals, like the Jews in the desert, who missed the meat and onions they ate in Egypt, but they forgot that those meals were eaten at the table of slavery”. That secular gods can enslave us is exposed in rampant disrespect for life and the dignity of all persons, the use of violent language and action to impose ideologies that deny God, and the cavalier stewardship of all God’s creation.
The noted Italian poet Manzoni was distraught when he was visited by a friend. Asked why he felt that way, the aged man said, “due to bad weather, the family would not let me go to Mass this morning.” “And is this a great tragedy?” his nonbelieving friend replied. “Well, if you were to win with a hundred thousand dollar lottery ticket, wouldn’t you go to pick up the money in spite of the wind and the weather? For me, one Holy Mass is worth more than any amount of money.” What is Our Lord in Holy Eucharist worth to us?