On the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, known by its Latin name as Corpus Christi, celebrated this year on June 14th, Catholics all over the world joined together in the ancient tradition of carrying the Blessed Sacrament in procession through the public streets, not only as a sign of our common faith, devotion and adoration of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, but also as a witness to the fact that Christ is also present in our world. He does not remain hidden in the tabernacles of our churches, but comes into our lives, into our very hearts and souls, each time we receive Him in the Eucharist.
As Moses reminded the people to remember the Lord and all the marvelous deeds He did for them in leading them out of slavery in Egypt, as we go out into the world we are to remember the Lord and give thanks for all that He has done for us in leading us out of slavery to sin and into the promise of eternal life, which He promises through the gift of His Body and Blood. We are to make Him manifest in the world through our lives, our faith, and our good works.
Corpus Christi celebrates the presence of Jesus in the mystery of the Eucharist, His presence among us under the appearance of bread and wine. How is it possible, nearly two thousand years after His death, that Jesus is with us in this way? How do we know it is Him?
When Jesus rose from the dead, He was the same as before, but different. He could still talk, eat, walk, teach and work miracles; but now He could appear to His disciples who were cowering in a locked room; now He would hand his mission on to them; now He would ascend to His Father, and give them his Holy Spirit. It is this risen Lord, unconstrained by the ordinary laws of nature, who is present in the Eucharist, to nourish and save his people.
If we do not immediately recognize Him, we are in good company: Mary thought He was the gardener, early in the morning on the first day of the week; the disciples thought He was a ghost, until He ate a piece of grilled fish; the travellers on the road to Emmaus thought He was a well-informed stranger. It is here in this last story that we have a clue as to how we will recognize Him. We study the prophecies about Him; we listen to His teachings about his death and resurrection; we ponder the Last Supper when He says, “this is my body” and “this is my blood”; and we hear His words in Saint John’s Gospel where He tells us we are to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man – Himself. Putting all this together, when we celebrate the Eucharist in His memory, we can recognize that Jesus is truly with us, and we worship and rejoice. Our faith helps us to see what our eyes alone cannot.
Knowing he is so close to us in the Eucharist gives a focus to our lives that is both here and now and in the future; both tangible, appearing as bread and wine, and intangible – this is no ordinary bread and wine, but the flesh and blood of the Lord, the risen Lord. This is for us comfort, consolation, hope of eternal life, a constant call to be united with each other, a challenge to be worthy of His presence, an invitation to share with others the news that He is very close.
May God give us this grace. Amen.
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