There are at least two celebrations that we observe in Corpus Christi. First and foremost, we celebrate the truth of our faith that Jesus is present with us in a continuous way. He is present in the Word of God that we read at Mass; He is present in the priest that celebrates the Mass; He is present in the Assembly of Faithful, the Congregation (Mt. 18:20 says to us wherever two or three are gathered in His name, Jesus is present among them).By far more importantly, Jesus is present – body, soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. He is present when we receive Him in Holy Communion during Mass, He continues to be present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar in the Tabernacle. Jesus is as present in the Holy Eucharist as he was present at their home in Nazareth, on the cross at Calvary and as he was preaching on the streets of Palestine.
The only difference between his presence in those places and His presence in the Holy Eucharist is that: then, His presence was physical presence, now He is present in the substance of the Holy Eucharist, i.e. He is present as that which lies behind what we can see and touch; He is present as the substance that underlies the host and the wine. His presence in the Holy Eucharist, as the substratum can be likened in an analogical way, imperfect analogy, to the presence of Vitamin C for example, in an orange. We can see and touch and eat the orange but we cannot see Vitamin C. You and I believe that there is Vitamin C in an orange because scientists tell us so. If we believe the word of the scientist, how much more should we believe the Word of God that tells us that Jesus is the substance behind the host and wine that we see in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus is really and truly present in the Holy Eucharist.
The Holy Eucharist is not a mere symbol of the presence of Jesus, it is the substantial presence of Jesus because the Scriptures tell us so and the Fathers of the Church have always believed it to be so, long before division arose in the Church. In our Gospel reading of today from John 6:51ff Jesus said: “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.”In spite of the protestations of the Jews present when he said so, even when some who had been following him said, they were leaving, Jesus continued “… if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The Word of God has power in it to make what it says to happen. It happened in Mark 5:41, when Jesus said “Talithakumi, little girl, I tell you get up” to the 12year old daughter of Jairus. So it happened also when on the night of the Last Supper Jesus made what he said in John 6:51ff that we read today to happen. On the night of the Last Supper while they were eating the Passover Meal, Jesus took the bread and said “Take and eat this is my body. Do it in memory of me.” He also took the cup and said “Take this all of you and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant. Do this in memory of me.” The words of Jesus on that night, uttered by Him as God, made the bread to become His Body and the wine His Blood.
Even though we continue to see physically the bread and the wine, the substance, the reality behind what we see is the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus gave His priests the authority to “do it in memory of me.” What he was actually saying to them was: every time you say the words that I said on the night of the Last Supper over bread and wine, by the power received at your ordination I will be come down and be present, really and truly, the substance behind what people can see. It is our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist that makes us Catholics to value the Sacrament more than any denomination or community of faith. There is this story of Archbishop Dominic Tang, a Chinese Archbishop. He spent 22 years in prison out of his 87 years in this world.
He spent 22 The True Essence of the Holy Eucharist years in solitary confinement because he paid allegiance to the Universal Church under the Pope and refused to cut ties with Rome. Without trial or conviction for any crime, he spent 22 years in a dark, solitary hell hole, without any companion. After 5 years of his solitary confinement, the authorities wanted to give him a treat and so they told him that they would let him out of his solitary confinement for a few hours to do whatever he liked. So they asked him what would he like to spend the time doing. If you were the one, I wonder what you would have wanted to do with those couple of hours. Perhaps, take a warm shower and change your clothes. May be ask for your favorite meal after which you would take a long walk and breathe in fresh air.
Perhaps you would like to call your family and friends or to visit them and their families. After 5 years in solitary confinement, these would have been legitimate requests. But for Archbishop Dominic Tang, his request was “I would like to say Mass.”That is an example of how much the Eucharist means to us. The celebration today should make all of us more devoted to the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament. One of the saddest fallouts of the COVID-19 Pandemic is that it has prevented the People of God from receiving the Holy Eucharist physically and stopped many from going to do Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar. There is one more thing that the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ reminds us of: The Body and Blood of Christ bring us into communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.
When we receive the Eucharist, physically or spiritually, it is called Holy Communion. The Body and Blood of Christ bring us into communion with God, when we receive Holy Communion, we become one with God, we are united with God in a mysterious way. This means that we must begin to make more efforts to live the new life of children of God. We cannot receive Holy Communion and live in hatred of other people. We must make serious efforts to avoid what St. Paul calls living in the flesh and all the signs of living in the flesh that he tells us about in Galatians 5:19-21. Let us find time to read that passage of the Scriptures and be acquainted with the signs that indicate that we may be living in the flesh. St. Paul warns that those who live in the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.
God forbid that anyone of us would be shut out of the Kingdom of God at the end of our sojourn in this world. We also enter into communion with our fellow men when we receive Holy Communion. Since we share in the one body and one cup we become one and are bound together in love of one another. St. Paul says to us in 1 Corinthians 16:17, that we read this morning: “The fact that there is one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form one single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.”If we are one then we must be united in heart and mind, in purpose and action. We who share one bread must set an example for a world that is so divided. For weeks now, there have been demonstrations all over the world against racism arising from the death of George Floyd, killed as a result of police brutality.
His death was only an example of institutionalized racism that has seen black people in the United States profiled negatively and therefore subjected to all kinds of racial injustice. The whole world was disgusted and many in our nation were angry and disgusted as the video of his murder went viral. However, we should also be angry and disgusted about the local version of racism which goes by the name “tribalism”. There is so much of it in our nation today. It shows itself when we boast about the merits and good qualities of our tribes but fail to see its faults and bad qualities. It shows when we fail to see the good qualities in other tribes and paint all the people with the same black brush. It shows when we give privileges only to people of our tribes and discriminate against others. These sorts of behaviours negate the essence of Holy Communion and we followers of Christ, in all Churches must make more efforts to give example of communion and unity in Christ.