Today we celebrate the great feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, known in Latin as Corpus Christi. Praise God that on such a feast day we are able to gather to celebrate the Eucharist, albeit with some ongoing restrictions. Traditionally this feast has been known for its Eucharistic processions, in which Catholics proudly proclaim their faith in Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. I had hoped to organise for a procession to follow one of our parish Masses this weekend until the quarantine put all such plans on hold. Next year!
In our celebration of Corpus Christi, the Church invites us to prayerfully consider the central mystery of our Catholic faith. The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ draws our attention to the Eucharist: not only that we might understand it more fully, but also that we might participate in it more worthily.
The documents of the Second Vatican Council spoke of the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of the Church’s life – the high point towards which all of our prayer and devotion prepares us for, and the source from which all of our good works flow.
And the reason why the Eucharist stands at the centre of the Church’s life is that it contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth – namely, Jesus Christ himself: body, blood, soul and divinity. We have received the Eucharist from Jesus, not simply as one gift among others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself: of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work.
So it all starts with Jesus. During his ministry on earth, he not only called us into intimate union with himself and with each other, but he also left us something profound to keep us going after he ascended to the Father.
It’s as though he knew that, in our weakness, we would struggle to maintain our relationship with a God whom we couldn’t see or touch. And so he gave us his Body – he gave us the Eucharist.
A friend of mine likes to imagine that one time when Jesus was off by himself praying to the Father, his prayer went something like this: “I’ve been on reconnaissance here, I’ve looked around, I’ve looked at what we have to work with, and the one thing I can tell you is that whatever we leave them to keep them going when I’m gone… it had better be idiot-proof!”
Well I’m happy to tell you that the Eucharist is idiot-proof. It’s the most amazing thing, and in order for us to get it, all we have to do is do it… and keep on doing it. Theological reflection on the Eucharist certainly has its place, but it’s not our job to figure out the Eucharist. Jesus didn’t say, “Take this and figure it out.” He said, “Take this and eat it.” The Church has been carrying out this command of Jesus for two thousand years, and we get to do it again right here in a few minutes.
In the Eucharist, we are given a foretaste of the perfect union that we have been made for in heaven. It’s such an intimate—almost carnal—invitation. Think of how a person who is madly in love wants to be as close to their beloved as possible, to be inside them, to consume them, and to be consumed by them. Think of how many pet names that couples have for each other are foodstuffs! (e.g. honey, cupcake, etc.) We want to consume and become one with those that we truly love. And so Jesus gives us his very self, for us to consume.
Evangelical Christians often talk about the need to have an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. Well I would argue that it doesn’t get any more personal than what happens when we receive the Eucharist. We receive the body of Jesus into our very bodies. And as we learned as little children, you are what you eat. Regular food, when we eat it, it becomes part of our body. But the food that Jesus gives us, when we eat it, we become part of his Body.
Every time we receive the Body of Christ—if we are open to it—we are transformed a little more fully into what we receive, so that the divine love that flows into us in this Sacrament might flow through us into the world. For just as the bread and wine are miraculous transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so we who receive are transformed into the Body of Christ. It’s an amazing mystery, and it’s the closest we will get in this life to perfect union with God.
We have a heavenly Father who knows our every need and goes to great lengths to give us what we require. Our daily bread is not a symbol or mere earthly sustenance; it is true spiritual food, the very being of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is nourishment that transcends ceremony and finds its power in the very essence of God.
It is this astounding gift that we remember and celebrate on this feast of Corpus Christi. So I encourage you to cherish this gift, to hunger for it, and to never take it for granted. Receive our Lord with reverence, and let it truly be a glimpse of heaven on earth.
A few notices and links:
– Our first weekend of Sunday Masses since the quarantine went reasonably smoothly, with no-one needing to use the overflow seating in the hall. We will continue with the current sign-in system for now, and we thank you for your ongoing patience and cooperation. Please remember to leave your details on our sign-in sheets, to use the hand-sanitiser provided, and to maintain appropriate social distancing. Again, feel free to contact the office by midday Friday if you would like to reserve a spot at one of next Sunday’s Masses (we know this system is less-than-ideal, but hopefully we won’t have to do it for much longer). A reminder of our temporary Sunday schedule:
Sat 5:30pm – Reconciliation
Sat 6:30pm – Vigil Mass
Sun 7:30am – Mass
Sun 9:00am – Mass
Sun 9:30am – Mass (St Kevin’s, Serpentine)
Sun 10:30am – Mass
Sun 5:30pm – Reconciliation
Sun 6:00pm – Mass
– Wednesday 24th of June will mark the 13th anniversary of the dedication of our parish church in Hilbert. We will mark this occasion with a special Mass, and hopefully some form of appropriate celebration afterwards. More details next weekend.
– Apparently a few scam e-mails are doing the rounds at present, purporting to come from priests or parish offices. Please be on guard against such e-mails, especially those requesting money or iTunes cards.
– Check out this article highlighting the help that Deacon Patrick and his team at Stella Maris are offering to seafarers during the quarantine:
– Finally, for a glimpse of the beauty of our faith, check out this haunting rendition of Psalm 51(50) in Aramaic (Jesus’ native language), during Pope Francis’ 2016 visit to Georgia: https://youtu.be/961ihcx4PoQ