Corpus Christi Year A
Deuteronomy 8:2‑3, 14‑16
Moses said to the people: “Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Do not then forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your fathers had not known”. The word of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:16‑17
Jesus said to the Jews: “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” Then the Jews started arguing with one another: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they said. Jesus replied: “I tell you most solemnly, 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 does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me. This is the bread come down from heaven; not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live forever.” The Gospel of the Lord.
The supreme gift of the Body and Blood of Christi
Among the various aspects of Catholic doctrine that we could examine, the Eucharist, an unknown food, which we celebrate today, is at the summit; it is the source and summit of Christian life. All the sacraments have their meaning because of the Eucharist and they all lead towards and move from the Eucharist. This is because Christ who gave his Body and Blood for us and died on the cross is the inventor of all the sacraments. But there is something very mystical about the food from heaven. The manna in the desert or the bread of the Eucharist is a bread unknown to man. This means that it is a bread that is not within the human being’s power to produce to satisfy his hunger when he feels the need. In other words, it is God, and only he, who grants it. Therefore it is not a bread that is available to our every whim, one more object of our passing fancy, however religious this fancy may seem. It is only available to our humble prayer, to our sincere cry for our great lack and our acute and urgent need.
It is also an unknown bread, for it did not exist and its effects were unknown until a certain time in history. Manna did not exist for the Israelites during their stay in Egypt, only in the desert did God give it to them so that they would not die of hunger on their way to the promised land. And after that period, manna ceased to be again. The Eucharist did not exist before Jesus instituted it at the Last Supper, and made it the most holy instrument of his personal presence among men. It came and remained forever because of the life it gives to those who eat it. Its effects are extraordinary as we are told in the Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 47, that the Eucharist is: “A sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given to us”.
Now, because we have been fed with it, we have a knowledge about the Eucharist and the knowledge in question is a complete knowledge, involving our intellect as much as our experience and our heart, so that it will flow into our actions and become us and we become it. With regard to experience, we must come to appreciate and savour the rare and extraordinary value of this food God grants us. With our experience of it, we must come to know all the theological, spiritual and moral riches that this food contains. But it is in no way possible to do without the knowledge of the heart, through an immense loving harmony with those who give us Jesus Christ our Lord as food. With this integral knowledge of the Eucharist, we will feel compelled to partake in it fervently and frequently and will succeed in forming one body, in common faith and reciprocal love. In fact, the more we eat the Eucharist, the more we should hunger for it. Whoever manages to know the Eucharist with all his being, will certainly live by the Eucharist and produce works of the Eucharist: unity, communion, spiritual strength, holiness of life, apostolic zeal, intimacy with God, etc.
To know the Eucharist then is a task we must all strive to fulfill. An ongoing and regular catechesis is necessary, especially at home for our children, in church through homilies, during religion classes, through personal contacts, so that an integral knowledge of the bread of life will constitute the underlying basis of Christian piety whose summit and source is the Eucharist. Let us emphasize three points here:
- One aspect of this richness is the real presence of Jesus in the tabernacle and as a result respect and the feeling of sacredness inside a church. Churches are and must be places of prayer, silence, recollection, worship and encounter with God. Our churches are not just any other hall.
- Then there is a theological aspect of the fruits of the Eucharist. We must promote visits to the Eucharist, especially early in the morning and at the end of the afternoon, to offer Jesus Christ all the hours of work and thank him for his help and comfort. We can encourage exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and adoration. The Eucharist transforms those who receive it with rectitude and fervor.
- Lastly, there is preparation for the fruitful reception of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist which every Christian must make. This preparation should cover reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, if the person is in a sinful state; reading and meditation on the word of God, as well as forgiveness, reconciliation and the service of one’s brothers and sisters.
Those who partake in this meal must get rid of the obstacles which impede the knowledge of the living bread, the bread which gives life to the world. Sometimes, the first obstacle can be the temptation to reduce food to pure physical and material needs, alienating or dispensing with any other sort of food. At other times it consists in treating the ministers of the Eucharist as mere humans, forgetting that they have been set apart and consecrated for a specific task. Those who are nourished on earthly realities alone cannot rise to knowledge of the bread of heaven, to them the Eucharistic language will seem a meaningless language lacking in value. Another possible difficulty is to make reception of the Eucharist “a social custom,” as congratulating newly married couples at their wedding can be, or going to a friend’s birthday party or popping a Champaign. The Eucharist is certainly a social event, that is, an ecclesial event, but it is above all a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Therefore let us enter into this banquet always with our personal and social dimensions.