The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) – June 11. 2023

 

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) – June 11. 2023

Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17; John 6: 51-58

 

Theme:  The Eucharist as the Spiritual Food and Real Presence of Christ

In reading the scriptures of today, I realize that there are two types of hunger that people suffer from in our societies. There are people who hunger for basic foods and those who hunger for presence or companionship. The people who struggle to find something to eat can understand today’s scripture readings better than those whose basic food is not a problem. To hear that God intervenes to feed the Israelites in the desert is a real sign of love and care for the poor because, for them, bread and water are a matter of life and death. On the other hand, other people hunger for values other than food and water. They suffer from absence where there should be presence. They hunger for companionship, love, concern, mercy, and respect which are not problems in great families of poor societies. So, these people who suffer from the absence will understand better what the evangelist John teaches us in our Gospel that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. In this liturgy of Corpus Christi, our Mother Church teaches us two mysteries of the Eucharist: The Eucharist (the Body and Blood of Christ) is the spiritual food that gives us eternal life, it is the real presence of Jesus who is our companion in our earthly journey, and it unites us with our Lord and with our brothers and sisters.  

The Eucharist is the spiritual food that gives us eternal life. Our first reading, taken from the book of Deuteronomy, tells us the story of how Moses used the experience of Exodus to call his people to observe the commandments of God that he enjoined on them. In v. 1, which is missing in our passage, Moses starts his exhortation with the words “Be careful to observe this whole commandment that I enjoin on you today” (Deuteronomy 8: 1). Then, in our passage, he reminds his fellow Israelites of how God took care of them in their exodus of forty years from Egypt to the promised land. When they were hungry, God fed them with Manna, the basics that they needed to continue their journey (see Exodus 16: 4-15). And when they were thirsty, God provided them with water (see Exodus 17: 1-7). Our first reading contains some allegories that need to be interpreted in order to understand how it connects to our topic of the Eucharist.

First, we need to note that the forty-year sojourn of the people of Israel in the desert from Egypt to the promised land symbolizes our spiritual journey from this world to heaven. Second, notice how the desert is described in this reading. It is described as “a vast and terrible wilderness with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground” (v. 15, NABRE). For forty years, God leads his people through this area that is hostile to human life. This description of the desert of the people of Israel applies also to our societies. We live in a world where there are all different kinds of dangerous things that make us weaker spiritually and so prevent us from moving on and from arriving at our “promised land” which is heaven. Thus, the way God provided his people with food and drink in the desert to give them strength so they could continue their journey to their destination is the same way Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist as food that sustains us in our earthy journey to get spiritual strength and continue our spiritual voyage from this “dangerous” world to our destination which is the kingdom of heaven.

Besides being our spiritual food, the Eucharist is also the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Note that the words “flesh” and “blood” that repeat many times in our gospel passage stand for the person of Jesus. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6: 56). The celebration of Mass is a celebration of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In the mystery of transubstantiation, we believe that the bread and wine become, not “like” the body and blood of Christ, but they really become the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Communion, we receive Jesus. Every time we take part in the celebration of the Eucharist, we enter a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  

The real presence of Christ is also manifested in the adoration of Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. We are encouraged to spend time in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to experience this real presence of Christ. In adoration, the Blessed Sacrament reminds us of the supreme sacrifice of our Lord on the cross for our salvation. Adoration is a mystical encounter between you and Jesus. It helps us to experience the presence of Jesus as our companion, love, and friend who cares for us and understands the situation we go through. Let us look at Christ who is present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. He is always ready to forgive us when the people condemn us. He wants to hold our hands and walk with us when we feel lonely. His companionship encourages us when we feel abandoned. So, the liturgy of the Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament are the great moments we experience the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist, which is our spiritual food and the real presence of Christ, unites us, not only with our Lord but also with our brothers and sisters when we celebrate it together as we do now. This is what Saint Paul teaches us in our second reading. He reminds and convinces the believers of Corinth and all of us that in the celebration of the Eucharist, the bread and wine that the priest consecrates and that we share in communion is really a participation in the body and blood of Christ. (1 Cor 10: 16). Our communion with the Lord alludes to our communion with our brothers and sisters. “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Cor 10: 17). When we attend Mass, we participate in the mysterious communion with Jesus and with our fellow brothers and sisters. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ that unites us with Jesus and with one another.  

Celebrating this solemnity of Corpus Christi, our Mother Church wants to remind us that this world is not our home. Our home is in heaven. Here, we are on our spiritual journey to our promised land, heaven. Like the journey of the people of Israel in the dangerous desert who needed God to provide them with food and drink, and who needed God to be present and walk with them, we too in our earthly journey to heaven need Jesus. When the “scorpions”, “serpents”, and all the dangerous things in our societies try to weaken us and so prevent us from reaching our “promised land, Jesus gives us his Body and Blood as food to strengthen us spiritually. He who is present in the Blessed Sacrament offers us his presence as our companion to walk with us, encourage, forgive, and love us whenever we feel lonely, abandoned, and depressed.  Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

 

     

    

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