Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Together with the Incarnation and the Most Holy Trinity, which we celebrated last Sunday, it is one of the central mysteries of our beautiful Catholic faith. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Most Holy Trinity, Eternal Word of God made flesh, stays with us in the Most Holy Eucharist, really and substantially present, all of his humanity and all of his divinity.
That is why we adore the Eucharist. We recognize in it the real presence of Christ, even as our senses only grasp the accidents, the form of the host, the taste and viscosity of the wine. We know with the certainty of faith that Jesus Christ is present in them unlike any other place on this earth.
The bread and the wine we offer become the Body and Blood of Christ, not because of magic, but because of the action of the Holy Spirit whom the priest invokes during the consecration. The Lord comes to us and remains with us in the tabernacle, as a prisoner of love, waiting for our visit, to bestow his grace on us.
We kneel before the tabernacle. We genuflect when we enter a church. Some people even have the pious custom of signing themselves with a cross when they walk in front of a church, because they recognize that in there, inside that building, Christ is present with all his humanity and all his divinity in what may truly be considered an enclave, an outpost of heaven on earth.
The encounter with Jesus Christ Eucharist must never be taken for granted. It ought to be always overwhelming. It demands a spiritual preparation, not just purifying our soul, having recourse to the sacrament of Confession when needed, but also preparing inwardly for the intimate encounter with God that takes place when we receive Communion. As the Holy Father Francis likes to say, Communion is not a reward for our good behavior, but it requires inner preparation as well as exterior decorum, that is why the Church emphasizes conversion, openness to grace that heals our wounds and also sobriety, whether in our clothes or our conduct, including expressions of piety.
If we take a close look at the structure of Mass, we notice an ascending path of communion with the Lord. We gather as God’s people in an assembly. We acknowledge our miseries in the presence of God, whose glory we praise. We listen to his Word that challenges us, teaches us and purifies us. We present our lives to Him, our needs. We enter into the mystery of His salvific presence to receive Him in our own bodies and go back to our daily activities renewed by His love, to bear consistent witness in the world to that encounter we have had with the love of God, with God who is love, who became flesh and has stayed with us in the Sacred Eucharist.
Obviously, the reverence that is due to the Body and Blood of Christ real and substantially present in the Eucharist can never lead us to forget what He Himself tells us in Matthew 25 with regards to the duty to practice works of mercy for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in whom He is also present, albeit in a different manner. St. John Chrysostom admonishes Christians, whom, he said, would not hesitate to honor Christ present in the Eucharist with great care, treasures and fine linen, yet would show contempt to Him by the way they treated their sisters and brothers.
A few years ago, Pope Francis organized an evening prayer to celebrate the anniversary of the priestly ordination of Pope Benedict. At the end of the event, he asked the pope emeritus to say a few words. He agreed and stated that he could summarize it all in one word: Eucharist.
Indeed, our entire lives must be eucharistic. Firstly, because our entire lives must be oriented to Him, our entire life is a preparation for the definitive encounter with Jesus Christ. Receiving the Eucharist, his Body and Blood, anticipates and makes us taste it. But also, they must be so if we pay attention to the etymology of the word meaning “to give thanks”, because giving thanks must be a constant in our lives. Finally, since our life must be an imitation of Jesus Christ, who offers his Body and Blood for our salvation, so must we offer ourselves up in the generous service of our sisters and brothers, setting aside whatever may separate us from God and from others, namely, sin in its multiple manifestations.
In his beautiful eucharistic hymn, Adoro te devote, St. Thomas Aquinas adores the presence of Christ in the Eucharist as he asks the Lord the very same thing the repentant thief asked on the cross, to be with Christ in his Kingdom. To receive his Body and Blood makes us taste His company, His presence and communion with Him, here and now. Only one thing is necessary to receive him worthily, a contrite heart, such as the one of the good thief, who acknowledged his misery and dare to reach for mercy. He not only received it but, as Pope Francis likes to point out, he became the first saint of the Church. So it is with us, if we open our hearts to grace flowing to us through the sacraments, receiving worthily the Body and Blood of Christ, will lead us to the glory the sacrament announces and makes present in our midst.
Fr. Roberto M. Cid