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Corpus Christi Cycle C (3)
Today we celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi—the Body of Christ and the Blood of Christ. This feast is part of the great unfolding of the Church year, in which we celebrated the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday, his Ascension into heaven, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the Holy Trinity just last Sunday. We have been doing a lot of celebrating. So why is today special? Precisely because today we celebrate the fulfillment of a promise: the promise Jesus made when he said, “Behold, I am with you until the end of the age.” I’m talking about the Eucharist—the real and tangible presence of Jesus Christ with us.
Every once in a while, the Pew Research Foundation does a survey about current religious practices in America. One of the questions they ask of Catholics is what they believe about the Eucharist. I’m always a little saddened when I read the results, because it’s usually something like 50- 60% of Catholics who do not really believe that the Eucharist (Holy Communion) is actually the Body and Blood of Jesus. It saddens me because this is something so central to being Catholic. Although manyChristian denominations commemorate the Lord’s Supper in some way, they don’t go so far as to say that this truly is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. That’s something that the Catholic Church has always upheld.
If what the Church teaches is actually true, and the bread and wine actually transubstantiate into Jesus’ Body and Blood, then what does that mean to us? It means that the Eucharist is the most intimate encounter we can have with Jesus Christ on this side of death. It is mind-blowing to think that I can take Jesus, my God into my person, into my heart, flowing through my veins.
It’s unfathomable, really, to think that a transcendent God would become a man, and then that man would command his friends to eat his flesh and drink his blood, and that that would give them eternal life. This is NOT NORMAL! And so, it is admittedly very difficult to believe. So, in a certain sense, I can understand why 60% of Catholics say they don’t believe it.
Priests, too, sometimes struggle to believe. Once upon a time, 1263 A.D., to be exact, there was this priest, Father Peter of Prague. He was on a pilgrimage to Rome from his home, presumably in Prague, and along the way he stopped in a little Italian town called Bolsena. This priest had been struggling in his belief in the Eucharist. He, too, found it hard to believe that the bread and the wine actually changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Still, the priest was faithful to his duties, and went to the chapel to celebrate Mass. And while he was celebrating Mass, an amazing thing happened. As he elevated the host, the host began to bleed. The blood dripped from the host onto the corporal, the square white cloth that lays on the altar. Father Peter, probably terrified at this point, stopped the Mass and asked to be taken to see the Pope, who just happened to be staying in Orvieto, just a couple of miles away. The Pope, Urban IV, sent his delegates to investigate this extraordinary occurrence. The miracle was quickly confirmed, and the host and corporal were brought to the Pope in Orvieto, where he enshrined the stained corporal in the cathedral for all to look upon and believe. That corporal is still hanging above the altar in the Orvieto cathedral to this day.
But the story doesn’t end there. Pope Urban, so moved by this Eucharistic miracle, set aside a very special day on which the Church would always commemorate the miracle that is the Eucharist—the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. That day is today, the solemnity of Corpus Christi. Pope Urban then commissioned a certain Dominican priest by the name of Thomas Aquinas (perhaps you’ve heard of him!) to compose a hymn and special Mass prayers for this newly minted solemnity. And so, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote the words to Pange Lingua Gloriosi. You may know it by its last two
verses, which we sing at the end of Adoration: Tantum ergo sacramentum/ veneremur cernui/ et antiquum documentum/ novo cedat ritui/ praestet fides supplementum/ sensuum defectui.
These last five words mean: faith supplies (evidence) where the senses fail. On that day in 1263 in Bolsena, Father Peter had evidence of the True Presence. He held it in his hands. When we receive the Eucharist, sure, it looks like bread and wine, tastes like bread and wine. But faith supplies what is lacking in the senses.
We know that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ based on this faith—faith that Jesus will do what he says he will do. St. Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, wrote:
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”1
Jesus promised it, and so we believe that he transforms this bread and wine into his Body and Blood through the words spoken by the priest, who is ordained in a line of unbroken succession from the Apostles themselves.
As Catholics, we know and believe that this Sacrament, the Most Blessed Sacrament, is the REAL PRESENCE of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith gives us the ability to look upon the Sacred Host and say, like St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”
Corpus Christi Cycle C (2)
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Who is Humpty Dumpty anyway? He appears to be some egghead with scrambled brains. But let’s not be too quick to judge. Many think he was King Richard III, the hunchbacked monarch who rode a horse named Wall. In the Battle of Bosworth Field, King Richard fell from his horse, and the enemy killed his body. Maybe the resilience of this old nursery rhyme lies in the fact that something of Humpty Dumpty resides in us all. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. We are all broken because of sin. That comes from Adam and Eve.
If you fall and break a bone, can you put yourself together again? It would be best if you had your parents and a doctor.
We are sinners. We do things wrong, and the only person who can put us together is whom? Jesus
When we come to Mass, Jesus puts us back together with Him. He speaks to us in the gospel. He becomes part of us in Communion. See the word union is there. He joins with us.
In the Church, we call it Real Presence. Sometimes you need a parent. You need them to be there for you. You need a hug when you are feeling sad. When your parent is in the room, there are physically present, but when they hug you, they touch you, and they show that they love you, they are really present. Jesus is really present to you in Communion. He touches your mouth. It is kind of like a kiss. Jesus is really present to you.
As you know, I have the on abridged Bible of the New Testament at home. This Bible gives you the behind the scene stories that you read in the New Testament. There is a story in the Bible called Solomon to take a lunch.
Solomon was a young Jewish boy who lived with his parents. One day he ran into the house and told his mother that he was going to go to listen to Jesus. His mother being a good Jewish mother, told him to bring a lunch she took out a brown paper bag yes they had a brown paper bags back then. She put into the bag some rolls, some fish, some fruit and some candy. Solomon grabbed the bag and ran out of the house, leaving the screen door to bang. Yes, they had screen doors back them.
Solomon sat down on the grass and was moved by Jesus’ words. As he listened, he ate.
Ask the children what the first thing they would eat was? Yes, they would eat the candies then the fruits.
Solomon heard Jesus tell Andrew to feed the people. Solomon heard the apostles respond that there was no money in the budget to feed all these people. He heard Jesus respond you feed the people. Solomon listened to the apostles say that they didn’t have the resources nearby and so they couldn’t feed the people. Jesus said, feed the people. Hearing this, Solomon looked into this bag of lunch, and he was already full because of the candies and fruits. He carried his lunch bag up to the apostles. Andrew knew that Jesus said let the little children come to me sent Solomon right up to Jesus. Solomon gave his five loaves and five fish to Jesus. From that Jesus fed the people. So when we offer the small gifts of our lives to Jesus, he can make great things.
When we give things to God, God makes great things. At Mass, through the action of the Holy Spirit bread becomes the Body of Christ. Wine turns into his blood.
So when we go into communion, a word that means according to the Webster dictionary an intimate fellowship or rapport, which describes our union with Jesus in the Eucharist or a body of Christians having a common faith. When we receive communion one with each other we acknowledged that we are a common group of believers who share the same understanding that we are partaking of the body of Christ and that is why Catholics have a closed communion which means it’s not open to everyone because they do not all have the same understanding of what is received.
It is written in John 6 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
The Eucharist is not a symbol of Jesus; it is the Christ. It is not a picture of Jesus; it is really his flesh and blood. Even when Jesus said this, people complained that was not what he meant.
It continues in John
Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”61Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? (Notice he does not say, Oh, you are right that is not literally what I meant) 62What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?*63It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.64But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.
This teaching is hard, and there are many Christians who do not accept what is written here in the Bible.
It is for this reason that it is His Body and Blood we treat it with respect. It is kept in a special room called the Blessed Sacrament chapel. The Eucharist does not stop being the Body of Christ until it is digested swallowing Jesus to become part of us. To let everyone know that it is the body of Christ in the Tabernacle, a red candle is lit in front of the Tabernacle, when the Eucharist is removed, the candle is put out. It is also treated with respect by placing it only upon gold, so we have a gold paten and gold inside the chalice, all this because it is God present. A couple of weeks ago I showed you what happens when a host is dropped and how we cover the spot and clean it up so that there are no particles no pieces of Jesus left on the floor for people to step upon. We take the presence of Christ very seriously.
This reverence Is also shown on how we go to communion. We make a bow to show respect for God being in our midst. We hold our hands if we’re receiving in the hands one hand on top of the other our dominant hand is below becoming the pedestal to God’s throne. For those receiving it on the tongue. The mouth is open wide, and the tongue is partially extended. Hands are either in the position of prayer or across our chest. We are showing either this as a prayerful experience or embracing of Christ. When it is presented to us, the minister says the body of Christ, and we say Amen. Amen means so be it. It is an affirmation that we are receiving the body of Christ, the real presence of Jesus in the form of bread and wine. We partake of the body of Christ and stepping to the side, making the sign of the cross. When we return, this is an opportunity to open our minds and hearts to Jesus, who is now physically and personally present to us.
It is important to remember that this is really our Lord. We need to be prepared for His reception, and that is why we have the Liturgy of the Word. However, we should also prepare our selves, our disposition. Just imagine if Pope Francis was here with you. You would think and act differently. We have one greater than the Pope here.
Corpus Christi Cycle C (1)
When we come back from vacation, our phones are often filled with pictures, and our suitcases are filled with various kinds of souvenirs, many of which make us ask, “Why did I buy this shirt that I don’t need and probably will never wear?” But most of all our memories will be filled with tastes, the various foods we have sampled, particularly if we have gone to a different culture. Almost all the scenes we have in our heads will be accompanied by the pasta, paella, panced, or pizza. Our association with these tastes connects us to not only the food, but also the context, the situation.
That food evokes memories was very clear to Jesus. His ministry so often took him around the table, and to sit especially with outsiders and outcasts, eating the drinking with them. The food of Jesus evoked a broader image of the Kingdom, one which sought not to exclude, but to include as many as were hungry. So our second reading shows Jesus once again at table, this time for his last meal, but leaving the simple food, the food of sacred meals, bread and wine, as a memorial for him. It is because of this text we have fixed texts for the consecration. They are either from Paul or the Gospels.
But Jesus memorial isn’t just of the past, the way we might remember our mother’s cooking or an aunt’s special cake. Because he rises from the dead, memory is not past: it is also present and also future. Because Jesus, risen from the dead, now lives in the glory of his Father, his memory is God’s eternal memory: the eve-living memory of divine life. Jesus gives us this food so we will be part of his timeless and endless life. His covenant is new because it is eternal.
But food does more than evoke memories. It gives us energy. When I pour the water into the wine, I say, By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity. This is to fulfill what is written in 2 Peter 1:4 so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature. We share in the energy, the grace of the Trinity. Our union with Christ empowers us and transforms us.
And this is another dimension of the Eucharist, Jesus’ sacred food. When we eat the sacred Bread and drink the blessed cup, we receive the resources to continue the mission of Jesus, to carry out his work. We notice in Luke’s account of the feeding in the desert that dramatic moment that frames the Gospel story: the people have been with Jesus all day, they are hungry and tired, and a crisis is brewing. Jesus then turns to his disciples with something like a challenge: you give them something to eat? In the face of their feeling of inadequacy, Jesus teaches them to break and share the bread he provides.
This is another way we can think of ourselves as disciples: to be empowered to feed people who are hungry. When we think about it, most of our lives go into doing this, at least in terms of feeding our families. We all go to work to put, as the saying goes, bread on the table. To bring home the bacon. Yet Jesus challenges us to look at other hungers, to set a table in which many can find a seat. WE can see in Matthew 25 a short list: For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ * Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’
Here, it’s not merely a question of the hungry in our own super-rich country, as scandalous as that is. Nor only the hungry in other nations, particularly refugees of war and natural disaster. We readily open our checkbooks for that. But what about the other hungers people have: for friendship, for emotional support, for hope, and, particularly today, for faith? People hunger not only in body, but also in spirit. And here many of us, because of our faith, can be a means through which God alleviates human needs.
As disciples, every one of us has been touched by Christ. As disciples, every one of us is equipped to notice the hurts and isolation of others. As people fed regularly by Christ, every one of us is equipped to reach out, to strengthen, to connect, to forgive, to help restore a sister or brother in spiritual hunger. Every one of us has the ability to feed another from our faith, our hope, and our love.
“You give them something to eat?” That’s Jesus’ challenge to his disciples, and also his challenge to us. To remember Christ, to acknowledge his presence, means carrying out his mission in our daily lives.