Corpus Christi 2018

     I thought we’d start today’s homily with a little pop quiz. Which of the following expresses our belief in the Eucharist? Option A: The Eucharist is a remembrance of Jesus’ death for us. B. The Eucharist is truly the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. C. The Eucharist is a mere symbol of Jesus’ body and blood. If you answered B you are correct. If you answered A or C, don’t feel too bad, a recent study showed that 45% of Catholics do not know this answer.[1]

     The belief that Jesus truly offers us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist may seem crazy, but if we take Jesus at His word and believe the Bible to be true, we have no other option than to believe that the Eucharist is more than just a symbol or remembrance. While the idea of something changing from one thing to another may seem odd, it’s not unprecedented in the Bible. For God changed the water of the Nile river into blood, and water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, so why can’t he change bread and wine into His own body and blood?

     Friends the only logical conclusion after hearing today’s Gospel is to recognize that the Eucharist is truly what Jesus says it is, His body, blood, soul and divinity. “Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, This is my Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He Himself affirmed and said, This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate saying that it is not His Blood?”[2]

     Yet, Jesus doesn’t just offer us His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, He tells us “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”[3] The people who heard this teaching knew that He was speaking literally and the Gospel recounts that many of them left Him and returned to their former way of life. If Jesus were just speaking figuratively don’t you think He would have called them back to clarify that He wasn’t speaking literally? Well, Jesus says what He means and means what He says.

      Friends, it is only here at the Mass that Jesus offers us, the one thing He says we need for eternal life, the Eucharist. While at times we can be tempted to stop coming to Mass because we find it boring, we don’t feel like we are getting anything out of it, or we think the preaching is better at the church down the street, there simply is no excuse to walk away from the Mass. After all the Catholic Church is the only church that even dares to claim that we have the one thing Jesus says is necessary for eternal life: Jesus’ own body and blood. Since the Eucharist is truly His body, blood, soul, and divinity, we have a chance to interact with God every single day. If you had a chance to eat with a president, even if you knew the conversation was going to be boring, wouldn’t you? Why then would we miss the chance to come face to face with God?

     “The Eucharist is not just a ritual meal; it is the shared prayer of the Church, in which the Lord prays together with us and gives us himself,”[4] and yet look at all the empty pews. So many people in our world are on a quest for God and He is right here. I bet if we were handing out gold or silver every Sunday, there would be a line from the altar to the arch and we would not have churches large enough or numerous enough to contain the multitudes that would be fighting to get inside. But our Lord is not content to give us merely earthly satisfaction; He wants to give us eternal life. If we need food to sustain our natural life, should we not also need food to sustain our spiritual life? Holy Communion gives us our spiritual food and so regardless of whether we feel like we are getting something out of Mass we know that by being here and receiving Jesus Himself, we are receiving the essential nourishment we need for our journey to heaven.

     Today’s feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is thus an invitation for each of us to put on the glasses of faith to see the truth that, it is only here at the Mass that Jesus offers us food for the journey in the form of His body, blood, soul and divinity. So, when you approach the altar to receive Holy Communion, what will you see? What will you be thinking? What will you be holding in your hearts? How you answer those questions will depend on if you really believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ and how you answer those questions will determine if attending Sunday Mass is a weekly priority for you.

[1] Pew Research Center. Who Knows What About Religion September 28, 2010 accessible at http://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-religious-knowledge-survey-who-knows-what-about-religion/

[2] St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Lecture 22 Chapter 4 paragraph 1. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310122.htm

[3] (Jn 6:53)

[4] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Worship in the Parish Communities Fifteen Years After the Council. In Joseph Ratzinger Collected Works Vol 11 Theology of the Liturgy. Ed. Michael J Miller. San Francisco: Ignatius Press Pg 534.

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