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

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

Exodus 24:3-8

When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD, they all answered with one voice, "We will do everything that the LORD has told us." Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, "All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do." Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his."

Hebrews 9:11-15

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there." The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

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?

Posted: June 6, 2021

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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