Today we celebrate the solemn feast of Corpus Christi. It is a doctrinal feast established for three purposes: first, to give God collective thanks for Christ’s abiding presence with us in the Eucharist and to honor him there; second, to instruct the people in the mystery, faith, and devotion surrounding the Eucharist; and third, to teach us to appreciate and make use of the great gift of the Holy Eucharist, both as a sacrament and as a sacrifice. In the three-year cycle of the Sunday liturgy, there is a different theme each year for this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Year A’s theme is the Eucharist as our food and drink. Although we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the Church wants to emphasize its importance through a special feast, formerly called Corpus Christi. It was Pope Urban IV who extended the feast to the universal Church.
The biblical basis: Our belief in this Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist derives from the literal interpretation of the promise of Christ to give his Body and Blood for our spiritual food and drink, as found in St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 6, and in the four independent accounts of the fulfillment of this promise at the Last Supper (Mt. 26; Mk. 14; Lk. 22; 1 Cor. 11). Eucharistic theologians explain the real presence by a process called transubstantiation: the entire “substance” of bread and wine is changed into the glorified Body and Blood of Christ, retaining only the “accidents” (taste, color, shape) of bread and wine.
- A message of unity and sacrificial love: The Eucharist (the Body and Blood of Christ) teaches us the
importance of community, the bond that results from this sacrifice. Just as numerous grains of
wheat are pounded together to make the host, and many grapes are crushed together to make the
wine, so we become unified in this sacrifice. Our Lord chose these elements to show us that we
ought to be united with one another and to allow and work with the Holy Spirit in transforming us into Our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the head, and we are the body. Together we are one. “That which
unites us is our willingness to sacrifice our time and talents for our fellow members in Christ’s mystical
body.” This is symbolized by our sharing the same bread and the same cup. Hence, Holy Communion
should strengthen our sense of unity and love. The duty of preparing properly to receive Holy
Communion: Many of us have neglected this duty in our lives. We have tarnished God’s image within
us through acts of impurity, injustice, and disobedience. Hence, there is always a need for repentance
and the sacramental confession of grave sins be
- fore we receive Holy Communion. We should remember St. Paul’s warning: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the Body and Blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves” (1 Cor. 11:27-9). Hence, let us receive Holy Communion with fervent love and respect – not merely as a matter of routine. Since “the Eucharist makes the Church” (CCC, no. 1396), let us pray especially for healing and peace for victims of sexual abuse by the clergy, and the reconciliation of the abused and their abusers with the Church. These abuses have grievously wounded the Church, and it is in the Eucharist that we must find healing. 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!” Let us grow in the love of Jesus in the Eucharist, as the liturgy is the source and summit of our Christian Life. Love and peace, Fr. Karl