Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. Corpus Christi is a doctrinal feast established for three purposes: 1) to give thanks to Jesus for His abiding presence with us in the Eucharist; 2) to instruct the people in the Mystery, Faith and Devotion surrounding the Eucharist, and 3) to teach us to appreciate and make use of the great gift of the Holy Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and as a sacrifice of Christ. Although we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the Church wanted to emphasize its importance by creating a special feast, formerly called “Corpus Christi,” added to the Church calendar by Pope Urban IV in 1264. Today’s readings beautifully describe the meaning and the power of the Eucharist.
The first reading is near the end of the Exodus from Egypt when the people are at last becoming accustomed to their long-promised new homeland. Moses realizes that the sudden change from hardship to comfort and from insecurity to security might make the people forgetful of the Lord on Whom they depended. Therefore, Moses tells them, “Remember,” and “Do not forget,” referring to the manna that the Lord had miraculously provided for them in the wilderness. The possible reason for the Church choosing this reading from the book of Deuteronomy is that manna prefigures the Holy Eucharist. Moses reminded the people not to forget the wonderful deeds God had done for them, and in the same way today’s feast, Corpus Christi, invites us to remember with gratitude the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, the salvation Jesus won for us through his death on the Cross.
In the second reading Paul clearly distinguishes the Eucharist from the ritual meals of some pagan groups known to the Corinthians. For Paul, “the Body of Christ” can have two meanings: the Body of Christ that we share in the Eucharist and the Body of Christ that we form as the community of believers, united with the risen Christ. Paul extended this union with Jesus to include union with all believers. As Paul says, “The cup of blessing is a sharing in the Blood of Christ, and the bread we break is a sharing in the Body of Christ.” The language is mystical, but it carries the meaning of the union of all believers with Jesus and thus with one another. The union of believers, the Church, is called the Body of Christ because of the intimate communion which Jesus shares with His disciples. Paul beautifully expresses our union with God and one another in the reading by saying, we, though many, are one body. It is the Eucharist that unites us; It keeps us as one.
In the Gospel, Jesus identifies Himself as “the Living Bread that came down from Heaven,” thus linking Himself with the manna in the wilderness, while assuring His disciples that, unlike those who ate manna, “One who eats this Bread will live forever.” The phrase, live forever” reminds us of His abiding presence among us. It also fulfills the promise of Jesus before His Ascension, “Go I am with you always” (Mt 28:26). The holy Mass that we celebrate every Sunday invites us to focus our minds and hearts on the Eucharist and at the same time to focus on the Body of Christ, the Church.
As we celebrate this great feast of faith, let us worship what St. Thomas Aquinas did not hesitate to call, “the greatest miracle that Christ ever worked on earth . . . My Body . . . My Blood.” Before the greatness of this mystery, let us exclaim with St. Augustine, “O Sacrament of devotion! O Sign of unity! O Bond of charity!” Let us also repeat St. Thomas Aquinas’ prayer of devotion in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament: “O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament Divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!”
Last weekend 22 of our children received Holy Communion for the first time. This weekend, at the 4:30 pm and 11:00 am Masses, 22 more of our children will be receiving First Holy Communion. As we congratulate them, let us keep them in our prayers that these our children may continue to grow in love for the Eucharist and long for Jesus, the Bread of Life.