This week we are celebrating the great feast of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi that originated in France in the mid thirteenth century and was extended to the whole Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264. While the three readings teach us the meaning of the Eucharist and its centrality in our life, this day gives us pause and urges us to give thanks to God for His greatest and most profound gift for humanity - His only Son, Jesus Christ, who became one of us even though He is without sin, journeyed with us, and even sacrificed His own life in exchange for ours. At the heart of this great feast is the Sacrament of the Eucharist which is Christ’s ultimate gift to us. The bread He gives is His own body and the wine he offers is His own blood. On this day of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, let us reflect on two core messages: communion and bearing witness. When we receive the Communion, that is Christ’s flesh and blood, we “unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in His Body and Blood to form a single body” - the Church (CCC 1331). Equally significant, when we “eat this bread and drink the cup, [we] proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26). In other words, everytime we receive the Eucharist, we are bearing witness to the greatest love of all.
All three readings chosen for this important day point to the meaning and importance of the Eucharist. In the first reading of Genesis, Melchizedek, “being a priest of God Most High”, “brought bread and wine” before blessing Abram. Melchizedek’s grand gesture prefigures the Church’s offering of bread and wine during the Eucharistic celebration, whereby, “in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, fruit of the ‘work of human hands,’ but above all as ‘fruit of the earth’ and ‘of the vine’ - gifts of the Creator” (CCC 1333). In the second reading, St Paul insists on “handing” the gift of the Eucharist to the Corinthians as it is what he has “received from the Lord”. Faithful to Jesus’s command of “do this in remembrance of me”, the Church “continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: ‘He took bread …’, ‘He took the cup …’, the signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation”. (1Cor 11:24, CCC 1333). Finally, in the gospel reading, Jesus performs a great miracle of feeding five thousand men with only five loaves and two fish. This; however, is but a shadow of the true miracle of Jesus Himself becoming nourishment for our body, mind, and soul! Just like Melchezedek’s offering, Jesus’ action of taking the loaves and fish, “saying a blessing over them” and giving them away to nourish the hungry “prefigures the super-abundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist” (CCC 1335).
What a privilege for us to be members of Christ’s Mystical Body who are nourished by the Lord Himself! As members of the Body of Christ, indeed, we are sharers in Christ’s Body and Blood as well as witnesses to God’s unconditional love. Being in communion with each other and Christ does not only imply membership, and unity or harmony within a faith community, but a conviction; a complete openness and acceptance; a self-giving out of genuine love; an unbreakable bond to Christ. Not only has Christ taught us what love is and how to love one another, He has also shown us true love by laying down His own life in exchange for all of humanity’s. So, what does it mean for each of us to be in communion with Christ? Perhaps consider the multitude of creative ways in which we can share Christ’s love with those who are in need? Or, when it seems impossible to forgive or reconcile , pray for love and ask Jesus how He manages to forgive even as He’s dying on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Most importantly, we continue to pray for the grace of humility and courage so that we may let go of our own ego and place our trust in our Heavenly Father, do what’s necessary to fulfill God’s will, and be Christ for one another. By the same token, whenever we receive the Eucharist, we are, indeed, proclaiming “Christ is Lord!”. Such is a powerful witness for Christ as we tell the world that Jesus is the Son of God who not only died for us but continues to nourish us with His Body and Blood through the Sacrament of the Eucharist. In short, when we genuinely love one another, we are exercising our rights and privileges as members of the Body of Christ.
St. Thomas Aquinas has beautifully and succinctly summed up the meaning of the Eucharist:
My dearly beloved, is it not beyond human power to express the ineffable delicacy of this sacrament in which spiritual sweetness is tasted in its very source, in which is brought to mind the remembrance of that all-excelling charity which Christ showed in His sacred passion? Surely it was to impress more profoundly upon the hearts of the faithful the immensity of this charity that our loving Savior instituted this sacrament at the last supper when, having celebrated the Pasch with His disciples. He was about to leave the world and return to the Father. It was to serve as an unending remembrance of His passion, as the fulfillment of ancient types — this the greatest of His miracles. To those who sorrow over His departure He has given a unique solace.
(quoted from “Corpus Christi Sunday”,
Let us go forth, not only on this day of the great feast of Corpus Christi, but everyday, ⋯“give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deed among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted” (Is 12:4)!