Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Genesis 14: 18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17
”O sacred banquet in which Christ is received, the heart replenished with grace, and the pledge of eternal life bestowed!” As we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we are focusing our attention on the sacrament that is source and summit of our Catholic faith. It is in the Eucharist that Christ, who took flesh in Mary’s virginal womb, offers Himself to each one of us as the source of divine life and fountain of grace (CF. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 55). In the Eucharist we encounter the Risen Lord and are drawn into communion with the life-creating Trinity. The Catechism puts it this way: “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through Him to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (CCC #1325).
When we say that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of Christian spirituality” we mean, that Christian spirituality flows from the Eucharist as its source, the way light streams from the sun. And that Catholic spirituality is realized in and ordered to the Eucharist as the summit to which all our actions are ultimately directed. Through the Eucharist God and man are brought together in a bond of love. Through the Eucharist we are drawn into the life of the Trinity, who is Love itself. Simultaneously, this deepened love of God leads us to a greater love of neighbor. The priest Melchizedek offered bread and wine to celebrate God’s blessing and the Lamb of God felt pity for the people that followed him into the wilderness and fed them with bread from heaven.
The one who showed his love for those who followed Him and fed the multitude in the wilderness has become our living bread so that we might come to fullness of life in Him. This Bread is blessed and broken as food for our journey because of God’s loving kindness. Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus: “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not parish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Today we ponder the mystery whereby perishable bread is transformed into Christ’s glorious and life-giving Body by the power of the Holy Spirit. By entering into communion with Christ’s sacramental Presence, we corruptible human beings are given a foretaste of future incorruptibility. “God is love.” His is not a sentimental, emotional kind of love but the love of the Father who is the origin of all life, the love of the Son who dies on the Cross and is raised, the love of the Spirit who renews human beings and the world. Thinking that God is love does us so much good, because it teaches us to love, to give ourselves to others as Jesus gave himself to us and walks with us. Jesus walks beside us on the road through life” (Pope Francis, Angelus, May 26, 2013)
“O sacred banquet in which Christ is received!” It takes my breath away to think that Jesus Christ who emptied himself of the grandeur that was His as God and made himself nothing by taking the nature of a slave (Cf. Phil 2: 6-7), emptied bread of its substance to make it His living and life-giving Body. And then to think, we who enter into communion through the Bread of Life are filled with the grandeur of God’s only-begotten Son. Through the Eucharist, Jesus is fulfilling the promise he made to the apostles before his ascension. ”Behold I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mat. 28:20). Today’s feast reminds us that we need to be present to Him who has promised to be present to us. In gratitude to Him who gave Himself to us entirely, we should respond by giving ourselves to Him entirely. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, the recreation is signified. Corruptible bread becomes the incorruptible Body of Christ and individual members of the human race are brought into communion with the Trinity.
In the celebration of the Eucharist we are given a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy that is celebrated in the New Jerusalem, our heavenly homeland. What we eat becomes part of us; but when we take the Eucharist we become part of Jesus and enter into his life. By the vision of faith, we come to recognize the risen and glorified Lord in the breaking of the bread. Through our participation in the paschal sacrament we are conformed to Christ. This bond with Christ sets us on fire with love of all our brothers and sisters. In order for this bond of love to be established, it is essential we are aware of what we are doing whenever we gather around the table of the Lord so as to be actively engaged in the sacred rite and enriched by its effects. Our daily lives need to reflect the communion we receive and the Eucharist we celebrate. Having partaken of the bread that was blessed and broken, we commissioned to give ourselves, pour out ourselves in the service of others and in the love of God.
This is why we are celebrating today’s feast in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ. With grateful hearts, we bless the bread and pour out the wine, recalling how God has fed the hungers of our hearts and healed the wounds of our lives. The Eucharist reminds us that we are loved by God and redeemed by the blood of Christ who died on the Cross because of our sins and rose from the death for our justification. Not only today, but every time we partake of the Blessed Eucharist, we must be willing to pour out our own blood, sweat and tears to build up the fraternity, the brotherhood and sisterhood of human kind, and strive to build up a nation that stands in fraternity with the other nations of the world. “May your Sacrament, O Jesus, be a light to the mind, strength to the will, and attraction to the heart; may it be a support to the weak, comfort to the suffering, viaticum of salvation to the dying, and for all may it be a pledge of future glory. Amen” (St. John XXIII, Jesus, King of Nations)