Today, we celebrate the great festival of the Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi. The great gift that Our Lord gave His disciples at the Last Supper is the same gift that He still continues to give us today: His Most Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Since Our Lord gives us this most precious gift of His Body and Blood, we must ask ourselves whether we take the time to appreciate what we have been given or whether we simply take it for granted. We must consider what we are receiving. Today, of all days, we need to stop and look, and then, listen — really listen – to the words spoken to you before you receive Holy Communion: “The Body of Christ.” Let that sink in: This is the Body of Christ.
Maybe it’s a hidden blessing that, in our diocese during this pandemic, our Bishop has told us to receive Holy Communion in the hand, the original way Christ presented Himself to his Apostles (not on their tongues), when He said, “Take and eat; this is my Body.” Just consider what you hold in your hand. Feel the weight of it. The host, that appears to be just a small sliver of bread, almost weightless But, at the same time, it is not. In reality, this is the Body of Christ. You hold in your hands the One who walked on water. You cradle the One who calmed the storm. Here is the Son of God! Here is the One who gave sight to the blind, raised the dead, and fed the hungry! Here, in the Eucharist, Our Lord comes to meet you. Jesus is waiting for you in this great sacrament of love. For those who insist on receiving it on their tongues because “the hands are dirty,” may I remind them that with our tongues come forth words of slander, calumny, lies, curses, foul language, gossip and blasphemies.
In our Gospel today, we hear the climax of the well-known Bread of Life discourse, in which Our Lord tells those who had gathered to hear Him while teaching in the Synagogue in Capernaum: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in Me, and I in him.”
With these words, Our Lord lays out the fundamental understanding of the Eucharist as true food and true drink. However, He doesn’t stop with telling us that the Eucharist will be the sustenance for our spiritual lives. Rather, He goes on to explain the divine relationship that is formed by those who receive Him in the Most Holy Eucharist, namely, that we remain in a relationship with Christ and, in turn, He remains in relationship with us.
At this point, some of his own disciples walked away from Him: the first in a long line of so-called “followers” that still walk out on Him today from Mass before it has concluded. In essence, they’re saying, “I came to church; God should be happy.” “I don’t really care about this. I have more important things to do now.” And off they go each week in the tradition of Judas, without even spending a few moments in thanksgiving for this Great Gift.
Given this understanding of our relationship with God and the love that we share with Him, we are called to bear witness to that love in our daily lives through living as true Christian disciples and sharing that love with those whom we encounter. This is how we ought to view our duty to be disciples of Jesus Christ: strengthened in our faith and love of God by our reception of the Eucharist, Jesus calls us to share that love with those around us. Then, when we bear witness to Christ as the center of our lives by our actions, we will influence those around us to live in a similar manner. Eventually, that reach will spread when they, too, live Christ-centered lives, and so on. In doing so, we will help to build up the kingdom of God as more and more people are inspired to live their lives focused on the love of Christ as His disciples. This is the life that the Lord invites us constantly to live. May we always bear witness to our love of Christ in our lives by living as true disciples of our Risen Lord.
Unfortunately, not everyone who is baptized Catholic can worthily receive Communion. Those who are in a marriage not approved by the Catholic Church; those who are in the state of serious sin; and those who knowingly deny or defy the teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals are unable to worthily receive the Holy Eucharist. If they attempt to do so, they compound the seriousness of their sin and jeopardize their salvation. By worthily receiving the Body and Blood of Christ into our hearts we are able to bring the living Lord into this world in three ways:
The first manifestation of Christ in our lives is our human presence to others. To be present to others is a simple and powerful act of self-giving. To be present to others in an attentive and kindly manner is to allow the grace of the Lord to be there at work in the world.
The second manifestation of Christ is in our speaking. Whenever our words are kind and thoughtful, patient and understanding, then the word of God is alive and active through us. People’s lives are nourished by the words they hear from us.
The third manifestation of Christ comes through the sharing of love and affection, kindness and consideration. Members of the Lord’s family, his brothers and sisters, live by this spirit.
St. Josemaría Escrivá, in his book, “Christ Is Passing By,” wrote: “Let us ask Our Lord, then, to make us souls devoted to the Blessed Eucharist, so that our relationship with Him brings forth joy and serenity and a desire for justice. In this way we will make it easier for others to recognize Christ when we put Christ at the center of all human activities.”