Sunday – 6 June 2021- Bible Readings for Mass: I: Exodus 24: 3-8; Responsorial: psalm 116; II: Hebrews 9: 11-15; Gospel: Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
This Sunday in June is the Solemnity (High Feast) of Corpus Christi, The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It is the celebration throughout the world, in the Catholic Church, of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the consecrated bread and wine that becomes the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is for many non-Catholics and even some Catholics perhaps the most challenging of the beliefs long cherished in the Church.
The specific Feast is traced back to the year 1263 when a priest, en route to Rome, stopped in Bolesna Italy to say Mass. The priest had been struggling with recent doubts about this ancient point of faith as he went into the Church. At the prayer of Consecration, the priest was amazed to see the Host (sacred bread) stained with Blood. He reported this to the Pope and subsequent studies verified it was true flesh and true blood. From that time the specific celebration of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ has been a part of the liturgy of the Church. The actual belief in the Church in the Real Presence can be traced back to its early beginnings and the Gospel. Numerous other studied and verified Eucharistic miracles have occurred in continuing witness to this beautiful and holy affirmation of the Presence of Christ our Lord.
But many more doubts and challenges to this most holy and needed Presence of God have continued as well. And none of this is new. The promises of God regarding the Presence of His Son in the consecrated bread and wine are rooted in the Gospels. The Gospel of St. John, chapter six, shares this grace of Jesus with His followers. He makes very clear that the Bread, the Wine are truly His Body and His Blood as given in the Eucharist at the Last Supper. The other Gospels and St. Paul all affirm this witness with the sharing of the familiar word “This IS my Body…” This holy, sacred and beautiful moment occurs during the Eucharistic Prayer and the moment of consecration (the Epiclesis) in which the priest invokes the Holy Spirit to change the simple bread and wine into the Real and True Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
But as it was then so it is now and will be until Christ returns. There are those who doubt this truly occurs. Doubt is often a part of a faith that is seeking and growing. Even among practicing Catholics faith may be distracted and weakened to focus minds and hearts upon matters of lesser significance. Some may simply be unsure of this very ancient teaching of the Church. Others may believe but are more focused, not on Christ being Present, but upon their perceptions of the lack of reverence in others or the unworthiness of others to receive Holy Communion. Some even become very troubled over receiving Holy Communion in the hand instead of in the mouth.
With all the great moral and spiritual challenges in our world, there is intense debate, among some, that unless one is in clear agreement and accord with the teachings of the Church one should not be allowed to receive Christ. It is seen as a matter of unworthiness and as a wrong St. Paul taught in his letter to the Corinthians. Indeed we should always seek to be worthy followers of Christ who died and rose for us in redeeming love.
But to say one must be in accord with all the teachings of the Church before receiving Holy Communion would first ignore the reality that our faith and understanding is a journey and we are not all in the same place in our seeking and following of God. It would also ignore the reality none of us at Mass is perfect. If we wait until that occurs before we receive Holy Communion it will be a long wait. To require that level of purity and maturity would also deny the lesson of those present with Jesus in the Upper Room when He gave the Eucharist as a sacrament. All the Apostles would flee, except, John the Beloved. Peter, the first Pope, would deny Christ three times. Judas would betray Him. Yet Jesus washed all their feet and shared His Body and Blood with them. It is in His sharing we realize this is a Sacrament of mercy, forgiveness, and healing. It is a Sacrament of God’s peace. For as we all acclaim prior to coming to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world…”
The very Real Presence of Jesus does not qualify us to become judges. The Real Presence of Jesus would, instead, enable us, call us, TOGETHER, to be a very diverse group of people made one in Christ. In sharing Holy Communion we share in Holy Common-Union in and becoming the Body Of Christ. We are meant to be a people who would see as God would see, would forgive, as Jesus forgives, would challenge us to grow in the beauty of holiness and to welcome others into His holy, healing, and very Real presence.