Fr. John Denburger, OCSO
Solemnity of Corpus Christi
Dt 8: 2 – 3, 14b – 16a; Ps 147; Cor 10: 16 – 17; John 6: 51 – 58
For centuries the Church has set aside this day to celebrate the greatest treasure, the most precious reality of our faith – the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. Like the manna in the desert so the Lord feeds us; He in His most gracious providence sustains us not with a something like manna but with Himself, and that in itself, is worthy of a lifetime of reflection and gratitude.
Extravagantly privileged in a most unique and sacred way, we receive the Lord Jesus into our very person so that we become one with, through and in Him – this is what our Catholic faith is about – to look upon our faith life in any other way is to miss the heart of our belief – it is to journey in ignorance.
In the Epistle to the Corinthians St. Paul in posing two questions proclaims clearly what Holy Communion means: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Surely, we have gathered here for this most holy participation.
Often in the Scriptures the word “faithful” or “faithfulness is used to describe God’s love presence, the word in Hebrew “AMAN” – is also the source of our word “Amen” and it means “to support, to stay and even, to nourish”. God’s faithfulness supports us, nourishes us – it is a kind of food, a drink – Jesus, THE Sacrament, THE Living Word of the Father’s faithfulness proclaimed at the Last Supper, “This is My Body, take and eat…This is My Blood, take and drink” – Jesus, the faithful One, could not be clearer, or more emphatic, or more passionate.
In the Gospel the audience was horrified at His words “eating My flesh, drinking My blood” – nevertheless, Jesus did not recant, back down. Jesus, “the living bread come down from heaven” stood His ground – He could not deny His person, His mission, His being sent by and filled with His Father’s presence. He is His Word – He cannot, will not deny Himself.
In Psalm 34:9 we chant: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!” In the act of Holy Communion we taste on two levels, totally unequal – we taste the host and the wine as we taste any nourishment but in our depths, beyond all natural feeling, we taste the Real Presence of the Lord – never superficial, we taste the goodness of God – His mercy, His love, His consolation, His healing, His forgiveness because He has come into you, into me.
The Consecrated Bread to our sight is extremely simple – and in its simplicity it proclaims the simplicity of God – God has only one agenda, only one desire that is His loving you, me. The Consecrated Wine to our sight in the chalice is totally transparent – and in its transparency it proclaims God’s one agenda, one desire that is His loving you, me – St. John put it ever so clearly and simply: “God is love.”
There is a commentary on the manna in the Book of Wisdom: “For this substance of Yours revealed Your sweetness toward your children, and serving he desire of him who received it, was blended to whatever flavor each one wished.” Same food for each yet each experienced it as their own. I believe there is an insight into the Holy Eucharist in this.
To all outward appearances, the receiving of the Holy Eucharist by each one of us looks the same – the same gestures, the same response but for each one in our uniqueness, in our depths, the reception is not, cannot be the same. The Lord comes to you, to me with our singular history, with our personal faults, our regrets, our wounds, our joys, our sorrows. A question: In our personal, holy communion what is the Lord touching, healing, consoling in you, in my depths, in yours?
A last point, if my/your relationship with the Lord, by way of prayer, for example, is occasional, now and then, only when I am in need – then the One Who is totally faithful, the One who is the Holy Eucharist, the One who comes to be my Lord, my Savior, my Lover – this One comes rather much as a stranger – a guest whom I really do not know and perhaps, in all honesty, I really do not desire to know!
The mystery of our God’s faithfulness is graciously revealed in the Lord Jesus – sent by the Father, He comes because He desires that you, I know Him in His love. Such is His love, His Eucharistic Love!