Sunday, May 25, 2008

Body and Blood

1. Today we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi- that is, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. In truth, every time we participate in the Holy Mass we are celebrating the Body and Blood of Christ. But today is a special day for us to focus our minds on this profound and mysterious truth: The bread and wine which we offer are transformed by the will of the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit and the Words of the Son into the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Risen Savior Jesus Christ.
2. Jesus’ flesh is real food and blood is real drink, and He has really offered us Himself in this Sacrament. Of course, His Body and Blood come to us under the appearance of bread and wine. But we do not doubt the power of God to make things new. When God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) what happened? There was light. When God commanded Lazarus to "Come out" (John 11:43), what happened? Lazarus came out of the tomb. So when the Son of God says "this is my Body which will be given up for you" (Luke 22:19), what happens? Can we doubt His words because they might be difficult to accept? Can we refuse to believe simply because we might be uncomfortable to eat His flesh and drink His blood? No, we really cannot refuse this belief in the power of the One who rose from the dead.
3. Nevertheless, the Eucharist nevertheless is a mystery. As children preparing for First Holy Communion, we learned the facts - the Eucharist is Christ’s Body and Blood. And each of us is required to give an intellectual assent of faith before receiving communion. When the priest or minister says Body of Christ, and we must answer Amen! In the seminary, we studied the Eucharist in many classes- Liturgy, History, Scripture, and Doctrine. But as important as it is for us to study the Eucharist in that manner, that is not where our intellect will grow in its understanding of this mystery.
4. True knowledge of the Holy Eucharist begins with faith. And it will grow only in acts of faith. We must believe before we see. To grow in the knowledge and understanding of the Holy Eucharist, we must believe, we must adore, we must participate, and we must receive. Only then will our knowledge and understanding grow. It is like love. We could study love and read books about it, but until we actually love and are loved, we will never really begin to get it.
5. Observe the audience of Jesus in the Gospel. Many complained about Jesus’ words because they thought He was talking about cannibalism. In fact, many of the disciples left Jesus’ company that very day because His words were too hard to accept. What did Jesus do? He turned to the Twelve and asked them if they wanted to leave also. Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Those who remained with Him did not understand. They were probably scared. But they remained because they believed in Jesus and trusted in Him. As they continued to follow Him, they eventually ended up at the Last Supper. And on the night of the Resurrection, their eyes of understanding were opened (see Luke 24:13-35).
6. The Eucharist is crucial to the structure of the Church- not just because bishops and priests are the principal celebrants of the Mass, but because the Eucharist makes us Catholic. Every one of us who receives communion today receives the same Jesus. In the world there are over a billion Catholics. So how many will receive communion? More than a million, more than a hundred million, maybe more than five hundred million or more will receive. And each of us receives the same Jesus, who is One. And by receiving the One, we become One. We become intimate with God Himself. Through our worthy reception of Jesus in the Eucharist, we place Jesus at the center of our worship instead of ourselves.
7. Finally, we need the Eucharist if we want to live- not just here on earth, but forever in heaven, which is our true destiny as the children of God. The life of God we receive in Holy Communion makes it possible that our Holy Religion is not just pious words or humble thoughts, but a radical transformation of our entire selves- body, mind, and spirit.

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