Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 19, 2022
“Live the Eucharist. Live Truth” That is the motto of a parish in Hawaii I visited recently, and it exemplifies the meaning of The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ…more commonly referred to as Corpus Christi Sunday. As instructed by Pope Saint John Paul II in his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharista, we do not celebrate the Eucharist as much as we “solemnly bear it in procession.” This weekend we grab hold of that which is at the center of our faith, and declare our belief to the world. This weekend we proudly express for all to see the Eucharist, the Greek word for “to give thanks”, that is at the very center of our faith – where we go for nourishment and the source of strength to move forward in faith.
Genesis 14: 18-20
1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
Luke 9: 11-17
Our gospel today is the feeding of the five thousand men, and while we know there were women and children present, it was common to count only the men. The significance is more than just the number – maybe it was 10,000 people, maybe it was 8,432, regardless of the number it was a daunting task to both convince the great number of people that they would have enough to satisfy their hunger and then actually produce enough food to make that a reality.
The reply Jesus gives the disciples when they advise Jesus to send the people away so they can go get food for themselves reflects His preparation for the incredible miracle that was to occur – get in there and help Me. Prior to this gospel passage, Jesus had sent His disciples out, giving them authority over demons and the ability to cure diseases, taking nothing with them but a tunic. Jesus called them to total trust in Him. When the disciples returned they expressed the incredible things they did on His behalf, so much so that even Herod was impressed.
The disciples, though, do what Jesus told them to do in our gospel - they would by this time have learned the story of Elisha who fed a hundred men with twenty loaves of bread (2 Kings 4:42) so we can logically conclude they were anticipating something great. They must have known that when Jesus promised to provide for the people, that He would come through for them. Jesus takes the bread and fish and He both enters into the need of the crowd and provides for them. He understands their hunger but goes beyond that understanding to ensure they are satisfied.
The leftovers are the overflowing with 12 baskets full of nourishment – just as God had promised the 12 tribes of Israel that He would always provide for them. At the Last Supper, Jesus would make another covenant to provide all that we need, this Eucharist would be given to the Apostles, and ultimately, to us. The over-abundance of the feeding of the 5,000 is reflected in the Eucharist – Jesus makes Himself available in a way that meets our needs today and prepares us for tomorrow. Can’t live without it!
Melchizedek is referenced in our first reading from Genesis as the king of Salem and a priest. We do not know a lot about him but we have him referenced later in Psalm 110. In that Psalm, King David, the Psalm author, foretells of the coming of a messianic leader in the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek brought out the bread and wine to give thanksgiving after the great victory Abram had to win back his relatives who were enslaved, his land, and his possessions.
At the Last Supper Jesus performs a priestly act along the same lines but in a unique way unto itself – He gave thanks for the bread and wine, the opportunity to share Himself with others, and for the opportunity to save souls – He brings us into communion with HImself. As the Priest among priests, Jesus brings us to the great Sacrament thereby partaking in His mission. This mission is carried forth by His Church as we are physically and spiritually fed with the source of our existence.
Pope St. John Paull II wrote a beautiful encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharista (translated The Church from the Eucharist), in which he describes the meaning of the Eucharist for us in terms of: 1) at every Mass we are “brought back to the Paschal Triduum”, 2) “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist”, and 3) “the Church…effects Her mission…by celebrating the Eucharist”. You probably have heard the phrase the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our faith and the Church – that is derived from the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, which expresses our entire relationship with Jesus is derived from and begins with the Eucharist.
At every Mass we are brought back to the Last Supper where Jesus provides the Church with exactly what we need as the cornerstone of our lives. Through the centuries, the recognition of Jesus in the Eucharist has remained consistent. How we partake of the Eucharist has certainly changed but we have always recognized the Eucharist as alive. This Eucharist is beyond piece of bread and truly is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. He is alive at our Mass. He is not some distant god who seeks us to pay him homage and then go our way. He is alive!
Theme in our Life Today
What do you believe? The things we believe in are always a choice. We can believe the Cubs will someday win another World Series…or not. We can believe our kids will actually answer us when we text them at college…or not. Each choice we make has a consequence. Choosing a spouse or career or house has consequences.
We can study, and Christians have for centuries, exactly how a piece of bread becomes Jesus. When it comes right down to it though, at some point, we simply make the choice to believe the words of Jesus. Exactly where in the Mass and how that occurs is non-consequential. All we need to know is that it does happen. And when we truly believe that Jesus is the Eucharist, it changes lives.
Around 1270 AD, St. Thomas Aquinas was called to Paris to help resolve the questions surrounding the Eucharist. After spending time with the Eucharist, Jesus appeared to St. Thomas to confirm the teachings St. Thomas was presenting. St. Thomas helps us understand that through our faith in God we can come to understand the Real Presence of the Eucharist, the integral piece there is faith.
There are several excellent websites like www.therealpresence.org that outline the miracles and understandings of the Real presence. How is this bread really the body of Jesus, not a symbol, but actually His body? I encourage you to spend time with www.therealpresence.org. Beyond all of the teaching though, as you stand before the Eucharist and the words “The Body of Christ” are spoken, it remains up to you to say “Amen”. As you speak that one word, “Amen”, you are both confirming what was just stated and giving yourself over to carry forth the mission of Christ.
To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy, consider the following:
Get to Reconciliation! In the Book of James, the Holy Spirit lets us know that those who present themselves unworthily for the Eucharist do themselves terrible harm!
Get onto www.therealpresence.org
Spend time with Jesus at the Adoration Chapel