Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, John 6:51-58
We gather around the Table of the Lord today, like the early Church to celebrate the breaking of the bread with glad and generous hearts (CF. Acts 2:46). The Psalmist posed an important question. “What return can I make to the Lord for all his goodness to me?” We have gathered here today to make his reply our own. “I will drink the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:12-13). As we call on the name of the Lord who has called us by name, we come to realize that we have been united in the love that the Father has for the Son in the Holy Spirit. Indeed, our blessing cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ (CF. 1 Cor. 10:16). All who partake of the One Bread and the One Cup become one body by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised that he would not leave us orphans, but would be with us always, even to the end of the age. We believe that He is in our midst, under the appearance of bread and wine. We have to remember his words. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” There is a connection between the Incarnation, the Eucharist, and Sacred Scripture. By the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, the Word became flesh in the womb of the Ever-virgin Mary. By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Word became the Sacrament of the Altar. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Word became Scripture. At the Eucharist Liturgy, we are fed with the Bread of the Word and nourished with the Sacrament of the Altar. The Eucharist is real food and real drink and in eating and drinking it we are strengthened to proclaim the Good News of salvation to all we meet.
From its very beginning, the Church has lived, taught, and celebrated the words of Christ. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:54-56). It is not just “ordinary bread and wine” that we receive in the Eucharist. It is the flesh and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, who came to nourish us and conform us to Himself. “The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients. He delivers over His Flesh and pours out His Blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of His children” (St. Clement of Alexandria).
When we receive the sacred host, we are given a morsel of bread that Christ himself has blessed and broken for us. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we come to recognize the presence of the Lord in the breaking of the bread. When we declare our “Amen” we are proclaiming our belief that the bread we are receiving is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, who died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Every time we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord we enter into a life-changing encounter with Christ, the Living Lord. “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 of sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship the human race renders to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit”(CCC 1325).
Jesus Christ accompanies us in many ways, but none more profound than when we encounter him in the Eucharist. In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women who were created in God’s image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:27). True to His word, he is “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6) that leads us to the Father. The Eucharist brings about our transformation in Christ, which touches on every aspect of our lives. The Eucharist is celebrated on the altar of the world and unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation, east and west, north, and south. Through the Eucharist, we are drawn into a deeper communion with the life of the Triune God.
“We have come to know how much God loves us and have put our trust in his love. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). This conviction about God’s love compels us to a greater love of neighbor, because “whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21). We love one another because God, in Christ, first loved us. “The Eucharist educates us to this love in a deeper way; it shows us what value each person, our brother or sister, has in God’s eyes, if Christ offers Himself equally to each one, under the species of bread and wine. If our Eucharistic worship is authentic, it must make us grow in awareness of the dignity of each person” (J.P. II).
St. Paul VI wrote, “This presence is called ‘real’ not to exclude the idea that the other presences are ‘real’ also, but rather to indicate THE presence par excellence because it is substantial and through it Christ becomes present whole and entire, God and man” (Mysterium Fidei, #39). The Church draws her life from Christ’s abiding presence. Believers approach the fountain of life because, through the Eucharist, Christ’s sacrifice is made present from the rising of the sun to its setting. In the sacramental re-presentation of his sacrifice, Christ holds back nothing. He freely gives himself, whole and entire, to every person who approaches him in faith. As he became bread blessed and broken for us, we who have been conformed to him must likewise become bread blessed and broken for others. The love that we celebrate in the sacrament is not something we can keep to ourselves. That which we have received free of charge we must freely share with others.
“Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: ‘This is my body’ is the same who said: ‘You saw me hungry, and you gave me no food’, and ‘Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me’… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Go first and satisfy his hunger and then come back and adorn the altar with what is left” (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew). May we always give due honor to the sacramental presence of the Lamb who was slain for us. And may he bring us all together to everlasting life.