Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ 2011
A Reflection by Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Sts. Sergius and Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy
The feast of Corpus Christi this year is celebrated the Sunday following Trinity Sunday which was last week. This feast day is one of very special significance because in honoring the Eucharist, especially following the celebrations of the Ascension and the Trinity the church proclaims one of the basic beliefs of the Catholic faith, that in the Eucharist, or Holy Communion as some refer to it, we actually are receiving the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The feast of Corpus Christi is one of the most exalted mysteries of Catholic beliefs and one often disavowed by some Christian denominations because it yields nothing to the mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation but requires absolute trust in the Word and teaching of Christ which is proclaimed in the Gospel for today and in the words of consecration we priests invoke.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the Blessed Sacrament when Christ took the bread and blessed it and took the cup and proclaimed the words we use in the consecration. In the first reading from today St. Paul tells us the following; "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf”
Since Holy Thursday is linked closely with the final days of Christ’s earthly life and therefore often with sadness it was only appropriate that we celebrate the gift of that day to us of Christ’s body and blood or in Latin, Corpus Christi .
The Eucharist is often called “The Bread of Life” because of the promise by Christ that “He that eats of My Flesh, and drinks of My Blood, lives in Me, and I in him” which is found in the Gospel for today. Those words found in John 6 are a clear explanation of why we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi as a separate joyful feast and one that is affirming and welcoming and clearly shows Almighty God’s infinite and everlasting love for us.
In the Eucharist we have been given Christ as a companion to us for as long as we live and through partaking of this bread of life we receive the strength to overcome the daily temptations that plague us. The Body of Christ is a sustaining strength for us and therefore a life giving source.
Paul reminds us; “Brethren, I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke, and said: Take you and eat, this is My Body which shall be delivered up for you; this do for the commemoration of Me". (1Corinthians 11:23-26)
Throughout the Gospels and Epistles we are advised that by refusing to recognize Christ as actually present in the Eucharist will bring condemnation upon those who receive without believing that Christ is actually present in the bread and wine. A few years ago I was so blessed to be present at my 7 year old granddaughter’s First Communion and so impressed at the devotion and piety she exhibited when going to receive the Eucharist. Her entire being glowed, it seemed, and returned with reverence and prayerful continence to her place. Afterwards I asked her if she knew what it was that she had done and she replied, “I have just taken Jesus into me”. I saw the same recently at the First Eucharist of some young people at St. Joseph Cupertino Faith Community, our parish in Fall River Massachusetts.
If only everyone could have that kind of piety, love, devotion and belief as they approach to receive the Bread of Life the children had at their first Holy Communion. It saddens me that so many in these times forgo taking time to attend the Eucharistic Celebration which we commonly call “THE MASS” to partake of the gift of Christ’s body and Blood in the Eucharist, as well as thank God for all that he has provided them.
I believe that we could resist all the temptations we are faced with every day easier if we partook of the Eucharist more often.
Maybe we would become more faithfully to the teachings and examples Christ taught and saints like Francis, Clare, Mother Therese of Calcutta often spoke of and St. Thomas Aquinas Exalted in the very special Alleluia sequence he wrote especially for the Feast of Corpus Christi which we heard today a part of which says; "Bread of the Angels, for us is given, broken, for our pilgrims food, and token of the promise by Christ spoken, in the Paschal immolation, in old types pre-signified. Alleluia Jesus, Shepherd mild and meek, shield the poor, support the weak; help all who your pardon seek, placing all their trust in You: fill them with Your healing grace! Source of all we have or know, feed and lead us here below. Grant that with Your Saints above, sitting at the feast of love we may see You face to face. Amen. Alleluia"
The Eucharist gives us the strength to resist temptation and become less judgmental of the differences God has created for reasons known only to Him. It helps us to become more loving and open to accepting all people as children of God. We might even become more concerned for the wellbeing of all people in this world and be more active in speaking up for equality, justice, fair wages for all people and against war, genocide, greed, poverty and homelessness.
Christ taught us that; “As often as you do this, you do so in remembrance of me” (Lk 22.) (1 Cor 11)
How lucky and blessed are we to be able to partake of the Eucharist and have Christ within us every day if we so desire, what a special gift and one that again shows us how much God loves us. Let us return that love by partaking of the Eucharist as often as possible and thereby help us to be more Christ like in our daily lives.
Even though none of us is truly worthy of receiving such a gift from God we also know that God loves us and forgives us any wrongs we have done if we but ask and by that forgiveness we become worth to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. I close this reflection with the words of St. Francis concerning the Eucharist; "What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation" "...In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood." - St. Francis of Assisi