Become what we receive

by May Tam

Today’s Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ or Corpus Christi as it is traditionally known, celebrates the Church’s “most beautiful treasure” – the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist (Homily of Pope Benedict XVI June 22, 2008). Why is it regarded as the most beautiful treasure? In fact, it is deemed as “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium 11) and considered to be “the Sacrament par excellence” (Homily of Pope Benedict XVI June 22, 2008). Perhaps it is not an exaggeration, for “the other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself, our Pasch” (Presbyterorum Ordinis 5).

Inasmuch as the Eucharist is the “sum and summary of our faith” (CCC 1327), it is oftentimes also referred to as a thanksgiving, sacrifice, communion or memorial, depending on what aspect of the sacrament we emphasize (rf CCC 1328-1332). Today's Gospel's reading, taken from St. John's gospel chapter six, focuses on the Lord's saving sacrifice and the Holy Communion is the fruit of His sacrifice. Those who receive Him – eat His flesh and drink His blood (in the form of bread and wine) – will live forever and have life everlasting (rf Jn 6:51-59). It is undoubtedly a great mystery and if we are deeply convicted that it is God who is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, then the reverent celebration would have profound meaning. Like what St. Augustine said in his sermon 272, "Believe what you see, see what you believe and become what you are: the Body of Christ . . . if you, therefore, are Christ’s body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord’s Table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying ‘Amen’ to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith”, that is how mysterious and profound it is! Not only will we be transformed into His likeness but consequently, our lives, too, become Eucharistic.

To say that our lives become Eucharistic means our lives become a mirror of Eucharistic love, that is, reflecting the self-giving love of God, His very essence and nature; revealed in His son, Jesus Christ, who gave up His life to save us and He Himself as the food to nourish us. Thus, our lives would be a life of generous love and service, of piety and reverence, of devout humility; a life which already here on earth that shares in the divine life of God.

Ever since His glorious ascension, “our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments. Our faith is nobler and stronger because, empirical sight has been replaced by a reliable teaching, whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high”. These words from sermon 74 of Pope St. Leo the Great, addressed to those with “believing hearts” that the sacraments are not mere symbols but the reality of God’s living presence among us. May this Feast invite us to reflect on our own personal belief; may our 'Amen' when receiving the Eucharist ring true; may we become what we receive and express our appreciation and gratitude for so great a gift, a treasure truly most beautiful!