Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ – Year C – June 23rd, 2019
Gn 14, 18-20; Ps 109; 1 Cor 11, 23-26; Lk 9, 11-17
Second Sunday of Pentecost
Sir 18,1-12; Ps 135; Rom 8,18-25; Mt 6.25-33
1) The body of Christ, offered for us
At Christmas the Word became flesh, today we celebrate the fact that the “flesh becomes Word” (H.U. von Balthasar).
It would serve no purpose for the Word to become spirit. God can donate himself to us only becoming flesh. What God wants to tell us, he tells it with his flesh and his blood. This flesh and this blood are really a communication, a word, a gift, a delivery of quality that is special because it is divine. When we receive the Eucharist, often we think only of flesh and blood and forget that “the Word became flesh”. We forget that what we receive is the Word of God addressed to us. A Word full of meaning, full of presence, a Word made flesh to give himself to us
“I love you” is easy to say, but difficult to prove. Facts are what makes words real. Consequently, these facts must be corporeal. This is also true in the love between humans, where the word must become flesh to fulfill its truth: “There is no greater love than giving one’s life for a friend”. The Word became flesh to give life so that we might have Life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. Because my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. As the Father, who has life, sent me and I live for the Father, so he who eats me will live for me. This is the bread which came down from heaven; it is not like what the fathers ate and died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever “(Jn 6: 53-58).
The incarnation of the Word made possible the complete offering of his life for the salvation of those who eat his body and drink his blood becoming the One we eat and abiding in Him.
Therefore, allow me to speak of two Births of Christ. With the first one in Bethlehem (whose meaning is House of Bread), Jesus was born to temporal life, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and was laid down in a manger to signify that He too will be eaten. With the second Birth in Jerusalem (whose meaning is City of Peace), Jesus with the sacrifice on the Cross was born to celestial life. His naked Body was “completely covered by the Holy Spirit” (Saint John Chrysostom Homely VI) and given as bread of eternal life for all. The Cenacle, with the first holy banquet, and the Cross, with the divine sacrifice, are offered as places of mercy where to find grace, peace, forgiveness, and help.
In the liturgical year C, the readings of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ highlight the gift and the offering.
In the first reading taken from Genesis, we encounter Melchizedek, king of peace, who doesn’t do eccentric or conspicuous things but simply offers bread and wine with a benediction (to give thanks, to praise). Saint Paul, in the second reading taken from the 1st letter to the Corinthians, passes onto us what he has received as a gift. The Evangelist Saint Luke, presenting the multiplication of the loaves (third reading), makes Jesus say, “Give them some food yourselves”. The disciples answer “Five loaves are all we have,” but then obeying (listening) to the Messiah make the people sit allowing Jesus to do the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. At first sight, today’s Gospel seems to distance itself from the Eucharist. It tells us about the very well-known event of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and of the fish, which seems far away from the last supper of Easter eaten by Jesus in Jerusalem. In reality, the narrative of Luke speaks about a dinner, an improvised banquet in a desert land for quite unusual dining companions. Thanks to the obedient charity of the apostles, five thousand people received bread making them be able to live a temporal life. With the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, we received as a gift a miraculous food for eternal life.
With the wonderful gift of the Eucharist that is the fruit of the passion and death of Christ, our heart hungry for eternity is satisfied by Jesus who for us became live bread and celestial manna. The wheat planted in the ground produces bread of earth that allows us to live but doesn’t prevent us from dying. With his crucifixion the Redeemer is planted in heaven, becomes bread of heaven, eternal “Angelic Bread made Bread for mankind” that is a pilgrim of eternity restored by this Bread in strength of good and in fidelity to God. With Communion, we are indeed in God and God is in indeed in us.
2) The participation in the Eucharistic offering
The offering of the sacrificed Christ has been transformed in life for us. How could we participate in this? Saint John Chrysostom had the same question and once during a homely asked: “How could we make of our bodies a host?” His answer was: “Let your eyes not look at anything bad and you will have offered a sacrifice. Let your tongue not pronounce bad words and you will have made an offering. Let your hand not sin and you will have made a holocaust”. Let’s accompany the sacrifice of our existence to the offering of the body and the blood of Christ that is made on the altar. Let’s draw every day from the Body and the Blood of Christ the love free and pure that makes us worthy ministers (from the Latin minister= minus quam alter = inferior= servant) of Christ and witnesses of his joy.
In the Eucharist, the Redeemer comes to us not to reward our virtue, but to communicate the strength to become saints, persons guided by his wise love and who have him as constant Host in their hearts. We are saints not if we do extraordinary things but if we are united with Christ, if we make ours his behavior and his thoughts, and if we shape our life after his. The more we take Communion the more we’ll be in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters. Let’s us be guided by this divine love so that the “Amen” that we pronounce when we receive the consecrated Host may be affirmed not only with the mouth but also with the heart.
The Eucharistic bread is the fruit of Christ’s gift of himself, fruit of his passion and death, fruit of his “exaggerated” love. We can only thank and adore Him for having anchored us to eternity as his brothers, for having put us in the Father’s hands as sons in the Son and for having “revived” our flesh in his flesh. “Sharing in the Eucharist, the sacrament of the New Covenant is the culmination of our assimilation to Christ, the source of “eternal life” (John Paul II, Veritatis splendor 21).
3) Procession and adoration
If on Holy Thursday the close relationship that there is between the Last Supper and the mystery of Christ’s death on the cross is highlighted, on the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, with the procession and the communal adoration of the Eucharist, the attention is drawn to the fact that Christ had died for the entire humanity.
He is the God with us, the Emmanuel and we are invited to carry him into the world with the procession of today and every day with the testimony of the steps of the heart established in his love.
May his passage for us and by us among the houses and the roads of the world, be for us an offering of joy, eternal life, peace, and love.
The fact of showing Jesus among the roads of the world under the sacramental sign of the consecrated Bread becomes also an education to see him under the sign of every brother and of all events of our life. Carrying this Eucharistic Gospel into the world allows us to carry this divine Providence to the men and women of all times. In this way, we take to them the great and divine benediction: Jesus Christ.
It is Love that assembles us, invites us to walk following Christ with the steps of the heart, and calls us to adore Him. From the abyss of the fragile creatures that we are, the only thing that we can do is to adore him. “Adoration is the sentiment of our nothingness, but it is not a sentiment that discourages or humiliates. It is a sentiment of humility not of humiliation because the soul experiments its nothingness in so far as to make itself present in front of the absolute greatness” (Divo Barsotti). From adoration come familiarity and trust because the Eucharistic adoration is the adoration of God, of immeasurable love, infinite grace, and limitless mercy.
It is an adoration that make us live a true and complete acceptance of Christ as it is manifested by the consecrated Virgins who with the gift of themselves have entered in a relationship of a particular intimacy and union with Christ to the point of making Him the center of their life as did Mary who is the first Christian Consecrated Virgin and the personification of the adoration of Jesus.
There is a profound relationship between virginity and adoration. Both are permeated only by the passionate desire to see the Loved One face to face, to be able to embrace him and reach the yearned union with him. Like virginity, also adoration seems not to have any “practical” aim but “at least” it is a way of manifesting that the Lord is everything and it is worthy to donate oneself and spend time only for Him. Our body and our heart consecrated to God in virginity and the time passed in adoration in front of Jesus don’t take away anything from our life and our job. On the contrary, they take root intimately in God, put us deeply close to each other, intensify mutual love and make the God’s presence more alive and more real: it is something, or better, someone that truly unites us.
- Etymology of Eucharist and short story on the origin of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
“Eu” is an adverb and means “good”, “charis” means “grace, gift”.The Greek verb “eucharisteo” means “to give thanks” but the expression “eucharistia” can be interpreted either as thanksgiving to Jesus for his sacrifice and the salvation of humanity or as “good charity” in the sense of Christ’s act of suffering death to save humanity.
The Solemnity of the most Holy Body and Blood of Christ has its origin in the miracle of Bolsena (a village on the shore of the lake of Bolsena in Italy). In 1263 a Bohemian priest while celebrating Mass in the church of Saint Cristina, was tormented by doubts regarding the true presence of the Body of Christ in the consecrated host. When he broke the host under his stupefied look few drops of blood felt on his dress and on the floor. Pope Urban VI was immediately informed and he asked some of the greatest theologians of his time like Saint Thomas of Aquinas and Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio to investigate this prodigy. Once the miracle had been confirmed, the Pope established that the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Domini) should be celebrated every year in the Christian world.
- B) As a meditation, I’d like to propose the Sequence written by Saint Thomas of Aquinas that is read in today’s Mass. It is a wonderful essay that takes us in a clear and profound way into the Theological contents of the Eucharistic.
Lauda Sion: The Sequence of Corpus Christi by St Thomas Aquinas (13th Century)
Zion praise your Savior!
Praise your guide and your shepherd
In hymns and songs.
Dare to do as much as you can,
For he is greater than all praise,
And you do not do enough to praise him.
Today there is placed before us
A theme of special praise:
The living and lifegiving bread.
That it was given to that band of twelve brothers
At table during that holy supper
There is no doubt.
Let praise be full! Let it resound!
Let also the rejoicing of the spirit
Be pleasant and most fitting!
For that solemn day is here
In which the first institution
Of this meal is recalled.
In this meal of the new King,
The New Passover of the new law
Brings an end to the old Passover.
Newness drives away oldness;
Truth drives away its shadow;
Light puts an end to night.
What Christ did in that supper,
He commanded to be done
In his memory.
We who have been taught his sacred precepts
Consecrate bread and wine
As a saving victim.
This dogma is given to Christians:
That bread changes into flesh
And wine into blood.
What you do not grasp, what you do not see,
Courageous faith affirms,
Beyond the order of nature.
Beneath distinct species,
Which are only signs and not realities,
Tremendous realities lie hidden.
His flesh is food, his blood is drink,
Yet the whole Christ remains
Beneath either species.
By being received, he is not separated,
Not broken, not divided:
He is received wholly.
One receives, a thousand receive:
They as much as he,
And the one who is received is not reduced.
The good receive, the wicked receive:
Yet with an unequal lot,
Either of life or of damnation.
There is death for the wicked, life for the good.
See how from receiving the same thing
There is such a different result!
Then once the Sacrament is broken,
Do not waver but remember:
As much is beneath each fragment
As is hidden in the whole.
The reality is not divided;
Only the sign is broken
Yet neither the state nor the greatness
Of what is signified is diminished.
Behold the bread of angels
Has become the food of wayfarers.
Truly the bread of the children,
Not to be thrown to the dogs.
In figures, it is foreshadowed:
When Isaac is offered in sacrifice;
A lamb is designated for the passover;
Manna is given to our fathers.
O good shepherd, true bread,
Jesus, have mercy on us.
Shepherd us, defend us.
Make us to see good things
In the land of the living.
You, who know everything and can do everything,
Who shepherd us here as mortals,
Make us your companions at table,
Coheirs and friends
Of the holy citizens of Heaven.