Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, often called simply Corpus Christi. It is a celebration that invites us to reflect on the nature of the Eucharist – the True and Abiding Presence of Jesus; but it also invites us to reflect on how fervent our own belief in the Eucharist is. This feast invites into the wonder, the awe, the amazement – the miracle – that is the Body and Blood of Christ before our very eyes.
This very old feast comes to us from the 13th century; an era in the history of the Church that was plagued by disbelief or incorrect belief about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It was the experience of a priest, Peter of Prague that would make this a universal feast for the Church. In 1263, Fr. Peter was on pilgrimage to Rome. He was a good, pious priest who strived for holiness, but his great cross was that he was riddled with doubts about the Holy Eucharist. He agonized over whether at the words of consecration, the bread and wine became really the true Body and Blood of Jesus.
During this time, he was celebrating Mass at the tomb of St. Christina and as soon as he said the words of consecration – “This is my Body” – the host in his hands began to bleed down his arms and onto the altar cloth below. He was awestruck and began to cry. Pope Urban IV was in the nearby town of Orvieto and he went to him. After investigating, the Pope declared a miracle and had the corporal brought to the cathedral in Orvieto. You can still go and see that blood-stained corporal in Orvieto’s Cathedral – almost 800 years later. One year after this miracle, the Pope extended the Solemnity to the universal church. It continues to be an important feast as we know that there are many still today who do not understand the Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. So, how can we renew our own fervor for Jesus in the Eucharist today and come to understand its value in our lives?
We begin by remembering a few things. First, the Eucharist is nourishment for us. Jesus gives us food for our souls. In John’s Gospel Jesus says, “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” By receiving regularly and with fervor, we thrive spiritually on the body and blood of Christ. Second, through the Eucharist Jesus unites us with Himself. This union began in our Baptism, was strengthened in Confirmation, but reaches its peak in Holy Communion; a peak we return to every time we receive Holy Communion. Third, in the Eucharist Jesus makes us one with each other. The Eucharist embraces the whole community. It is not just my personal communion with Christ; it is our shared communion with each other in Christ. As St. Paul said, “As there is one bread, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one bread.” This is a social sacrament, a circle that includes Christ, yourself and all of your brothers and sisters. When we approach the altar, it is a sign of our love for each other, a pledge of kindness and compassion towards each other – a love that finds its source in the Eucharist. Finally, the Eucharist gives us assurance of our Heavenly destiny. Jesus said, “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise them on the last day.”
And so, we pray today that through the great gift of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, that we may all be nourished, that we may be united with our Lord, united with one another and assured of our eternal home in Heaven. May God increase in us our love, our belief, our fervor for the Most Holy Body and Blood of His Son.
Cardinal Seán O'Malley invited the faithful of the Archdiocese of Boston to a Eucharistic Congress yesterday—June 18th at the Tsongas Center in Lowell—to remind us that "As Catholics, it is in the Eucharist that we learn our identity." The name of the conference was “Jesus is Here”. Jesus is Here was a graced opportunity for us to deepen our understanding of the mystery of Jesus’ presence with us—by listening to powerful talks on the Eucharist, by receiving Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass, and by adoring Him in a time of adoration and worship.
My friends, Jesus is here. At the very heart of the life at Saint John’s Seminary is the Eucharist. We gather in prayer around the Eucharistic Table daily to pray for the needs of the world and your intentions. We thank you for the many ways in which you support the Seminary and its Mission.
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