“My flesh is food . . . my blood is drink”

by May Tam
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Exodus 24:3-8

Hebrews 9:11-15

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Today’s feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) celebrates our Church’s greatest treasure - the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. In the First Reading, the ratification of the covenant between God and the Israelites by a sacrifice prefigures our covenant with God in Jesus Christ; a covenant not sealed with the blood of bulls but with the sacrifice of His own precious blood. And though the institution of the Holy Eucharist is celebrated on Holy Thursday, the feast of Corpus Christi celebrates the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Jesus bears witness to His real presence in the Eucharist when He says “I am the bread of life . . . I am the living bread that has come down from heaven . . . and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world . . . unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting . . . for my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn 6:48-55). Hence, to eat Jesus' flesh and drink His blood is not simply metaphorical or symbolic, “As the living Father has sent me, and as I live because of the Father so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me” (Jn 6:58). The Eucharist gives us a share in that life which the Father shares with the Son, and it is only possible when the Son is truly present in the Eucharist.

When Jesus says before His ascension, “behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age”, He is promising His real, though invisible, continuous presence (Mt 28:20). In one of his sermons on the Ascension, Pope St. Leo the Great explains, “And so our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments. Our faith is nobler and stronger because sight has been replaced by a doctrine whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high” (excerpt from Sermo 2 de Ascensione 1-4: PL 54, 397-399). Those with “believing hearts” believe the sacraments are not mere symbols but the reality of God’s living presence among us. The Eucharist is truly “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium P 11), “for in the Blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch” (Presbyterorum Ordinis P5 Pope St Paul VI 1965). The Eucharist is truly everything because it is Jesus Himself really and substantially present: body, blood, soul and divinity. It is the food for our journey through life, a medicine to heaven.

Traditionally where this Feast is celebrated, there will be exposition, adoration, benediction and procession of the Blessed Sacrament. These devotions are expressions of our living faith in the Eucharistic presence of our Lord. Perhaps today’s feast not only celebrates this wonderful gift that the Lord gives us, but also invites us to go deeper into its mystery and its underlying love. Do we have believing hearts? Do we hunger for the Bread of Life? Are we eager to become the Eucharistic People by leading a Eucharistic life, a life of faith, love, service, piety, humility, gratitude and reverence?