Saturday, June 17, 2017

Solemnity of Corpus Christi- The Body And Blood of Christ

Corpus Christi is one of God's  most beautiful and precious gifts.  It is beautiful because it encompasses the reality of the Trinity being present , and precious because it is a gift which we do not deserve and yet was given to us freely and unconditionally.  Many Saints and spiritual writers spent many long hours of contemplation before our Eucharistic Lord, and put down in writing what they have experienced during those hours of prayer and contemplation.  And yet, all of them would tell us that there is no word to describe the gift of this Presence of Jesus in this simple piece of bread.  The Holy Eucharist is both a unifying doctrine for those who accept in faith the words of Jesus, "This IS My Body!" in the passage of the Last Supper, and a stumbling block  for those who do not yet believe.  For us, Catholics, the Holy Eucharist is not just a representation of Jesus, it IS Jesus Himself, the  Real Presence.  It is not just the product of a collective imagination of pious people but a mystery presented to us which can only be apprehended by faith alone.  The Holy Eucharist is one of those mysteries of  " believe to understand" , as opposed to "understand to believe." (paraphrasing St. Augustine).

Catholic Apologists (a curious description since they are not "apologizing for anything!) are excellent guides in this debate since they point to us the Scriptural passages supporting the Real Presence.  The Holy Eucharist is inseparable from the gift and mystery of Holy Priesthood.  There is no Eucharist without the Ordained Priesthood.  They are like hand to glove, if I may be permitted to use this expression.  The Old Testament is full of prefigurations of the Eucharist: the Israelites journey in the desert for forty days and forty nights fed only by manna; the raven feeding the prophet Elijah with bread to strengthen him on his journey to Horeb, and many others.  The New Testament continues this in the many parables told by Jesus: the feeding of the five thousand, the five loaves and two fish, and most of all , Chapter 6 of St. John's Gospel.  It is most of all the events of the Last Supper which form the foundation of what we now accept as Catholics: the Institution of the Holy Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday night.
Jesus left us His Body and Blood for one reason alone: that we may have eternal life.  "he who eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the Last Day."  The Eucharist is a remedy for sin and a source of strength for living the life of virtues.  If we do not eat His Body, we do not have life in us.  We may be walking and talking, and may be living a "full life" but if we do not have the life of Jesus in us given to us in the Eucharist, we are dead men and women walking.  It is not enough to receive the Eucharist.  We must receive it worthily.  St. Paul says that we have to be mindful that when receiving we may not be bringing our own condemnation because we are receiving in sin.  To receive worthily does not mean we have to be "perfectly good."  It means that at the time of reception we are not conscious of being in the state of mortal sin.  Being in mortal sin means committing an act that is grave or serious, committing it with full knowledge, and committing it with our full consent.  In other words, we know something is seriously against God's commandments, we know it, and still we do it.  Grace is restored to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Confession of our sins  to an ordained priest (Sacramental Confession) makes us worthy once again to receive our Lord.  Being worthy  sacramentally-  for who of us is really worthy to receive such  infinitely good and gracious God?
As we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, let us be mindful of the love which made this possible.  St. Therese once said that God made Himself a "Divine Prisoner" for love of us.  He allows Himself to remain in the tabernacle so that we can approach Him with confidence in times of sorrows and temptations.  He hides Himself under the appearance of a tiny piece of  bread, so that we can contemplate Him in faith.  St. Therese also reminds us that "Jesus did not come to earth to remain in the ciborium but  so that after entering our souls in holy communion we can in turn go out to bring Him to others in charity.
Let us celebrate this day of devotion with much love.  Let us return Love for love.

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