Once again, we have the great privilege of celebrating another great Feast of God Himself. Last week`s Feast centered on the Holy Trinity, this week is the wonderful Feast of Corpus Christi. As we celebrate this great Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we should, with the help of the Holy Spirit, keep on seeking a deeper understanding and appreciation of this most marvelous gift of the Blessed Eucharist. The Blessed Sacrament is God`s greatest gift of love and life. Today we seek to refresh our faith in the knowledge of such a great God given mystery. For no other sacrament contributes more to our salvation than this one. But it is not because of this that we owe the Blessed Sacrament all our love, our adoration, our praise, our thanks our very being, no, it is because the Holy Eucharist is God Himself: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Person of Jesus Christ. Throughout the centuries men have given their lives in defence of this belief; this doctrine of faith.
In saying that the Holy Eucharist is the greatest of the seven sacraments, where Jesus gives Himself to us totally, we are stating the truth. Baptism, of course, is the first sacrament we receive, by this sacrament we become children of God. We also gain a share in the Priesthood of Christ to celebrate the Holy Mass with the priest. It’s true to say that each sacrament has its own necessary action and is an action of Jesus Who through His minister dispenses His Grace. Yet, it is in the Eucharist Christ is most fully Personally present: Body. Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is no wonder that the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian faith; where every sacrament, as well as every ministry of the Church and every work of the apostolate are directed towards it. “For the Most Blessed Eucharist contains the church’s whole spiritual wealth, that is, Christ Himself, our Passover and living bread.”
The Holy Eucharist is both a sacrament and a sacrifice. As a sacrifice, the Holy Eucharist/ the Mass is that divine action which Jesus through the agency of the human priest changes the bread and wine into His Own Body and Blood continuing through time, the offering which he made to His Father on Calvary, the offering of Himself for the salvation of mankind. This is exactly what happens at our Holy Mass, the same that happened in the upper room at the Last Supper when the Holy Eucharist was instituted by Christ, “Do this in memory of me” he says. The same sacrifice that took place on Calvary the following day: from that time onward the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the Paschal Mystery celebrating the Eucharist in which the victory and triumph of His death are again made present, and at the same time giving thanks to God for His most wonderful gift of life giving love in Christ Jesus.
It is at the consecration of the Mass that the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist the Real Presence of Jesus comes into being, as we hear in today’s Gospel reading: Then He took some bread, and when He had said the blessing He broke it and gave it to them “Take it” he said, “This is my Body.” Then He took the cup and when He had returned thanks, He gave it to them and all drank from it, and He said to them “This is my Blood, the Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
It is then at that precise moment that Jesus becomes substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine. No words of Jesus could have been plainer than these, He wanted no misinterpretation: “This”: that is, “This substance which I hold in my hands, which as I begin speaking is no longer bread, but my own Body.” “This cup”: That is: “This cup, which, as I begin speaking, contains no longer wine but my own Blood.” We wonder in awe as to how this can be so.
It’s a wonderful miracle of course, a continuing miracle wrought hundreds and thousands of times a day by God’s infinite power through His priests at the altar standing ‘in Persona Christi’ (In the person of Christ). By this wonderful miracle, this unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied but rendered present to us in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. Christ is present whole and entire under the appearance of bread and wine now His Sacred Body and Precious Blood. Similarly, Christ is present whole and entire under each separate portion when the sacramental species are divided or broken. At every Mass throughout the world the same Jesus whole and entire is made present.
It’s a wonderful mystery, a glorious miracle. In fact, it’s a double miracle: there is the change itself from bread and wine into Jesus Christ; but there is a further miracle by which God supports in existence the appearances of the bread and wine, although the underlying substance is changed — It’s like having the face of a person remain in the mirror after the person has walked away. This change which takes place by means of the words of consecration is such a special kind of change, that the Church has coined a special word to describe it. The word is “Transubstantiation”, it literally means, a crossing from one substance to another, but in this case, a unique unparalleled kind of crossing—In this bread and wine, which you see—is now His Body and Blood. God Himself (Jesus) is Really, Truly, and Substantially present. And through this Presence of Our Blessed Lord; His very flesh made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit in the Mass, He offers life to all people. An eternal life.
The holy sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest gift we have on this earth. It is our greatest prayer and greatest action. By His loving omnipotence, God the Father has made it possible for us to simultaneously sit at the Table of the Last Supper, stand beneath His Son’s cross with Mary, John and the Magdalene, and be by the empty tomb. Our response? To worship, adore and become the love we receive. We too can make an offering of ourselves, we co-offer ourselves with Jesus. In our Holy Communion God returns to us the greatest offering, His Son. It is He whom we receive in Holy Communion. In instituting the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper Our Blessed Lord has left us His greatest gift, the gift of Himself. It’s almost as though He loves us so much, He can’t bear to be separated from us: “Indeed His love for us even induced Him [God] to become our spiritual food, thus uniting Himself with us, that His heart becomes one with our heart.” Says St Alphonsus Liguori.
Now after our revisiting of some of the things we know about the Holy Eucharist, we are able to say — It’s an incredible gift of God, a mystery so deep that it has mystified saints and sinners alike. Strive as they may, no poets, no saints, no writers— no-one can say anything more outstanding than the undeniable truth The Blessed Sacrament is God, and at our Holy Communion at the Mass, it is He Who we receive. So as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion today let us remember what He tells us: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” What a wonderful excess of divine love. I’ll leave you with some more words of St. Alpohnsus Liguori as he tells us of one holy servant of God who is mesmerized by the Holy Eucharist, not being able to comprehend how God could love his creatures so much:
“If anything could shake my faith in the Eucharist it would not be a doubt as to how the bread could become flesh, nor how Jesus could be in several places at once, nor how He could be confined in so small a space, because in these concerns I would say that God can do everything. But if I were asked how God could love us so much, as to make Himself our food, I can say only that this is a mystery of faith above and beyond my comprehension, and that the love of Jesus for us, so immense, it cannot be understood.”
Let us remember this holy servant’s dilemma, as we approach and receive Our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion today on this great Feast and as we say AMEN, let us thank God for His gift of the Holy Eucharist and let us: “think of the love that the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children; for that is what we are.”