WORSHIPING CHRIST IN THE HOLY EUCHARIST
Readings: 1st: Deu 8: 2-3.14-16; Ps 147:12-15.19-20; 2nd: 2Cor 20: 16-17; Gos Jh 6: 51-58
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today the Holy Mother Church celebrates the wonderful gift of God to her and the entire world – the Body and Blood of his only son Jesus Christ which is “Really Present” under the form of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist. The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is also known as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which means “Body of Christ.” This feast originated in France in the mid thirteenth century and was extended to the whole Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264. This feast calls us to focus on two manifestations of the Body of Christ: The Holy Eucharist as its primary purpose, and the Church.
In the study of Human Nutrition and other food related courses the following statements stand very true: “You are what you eat” and, “good food and nutrition nourishes the body.” In as much as these are true, however, physical food is limited to nourishing the physical body, even though it is usually said that a healthy soul or mind dwells in a healthy body. While the physical food we eat nourishes the body, the spiritual food – the Body and Blood of Christ nourishes our soul, prepares and preserves it for eternity. The Eucharist does not only make the mind or soul fit to dwell in a healthy body, but also makes it worthy or fit to appear before its Lord and God. The Eucharist (Body and Blood of Christ) is the food that God has providentially made available to us in order to nourish us on our spiritual journey. This is why in the case of the sick or those critically sick, when it is administered it is referred to as “via ticum, that is, food for the journey.” The Eucharist is one way through which God’s abiding presence continues to be with us. What this means therefore is that whenever we eat this food worthily we welcome God’s presence and he remains with, and nourishes us. In light of this, our worship of Jesus in His Body and Blood calls us to offer to God our Father a pledge of undivided faith, love and an offering of ourselves to the service of others.
In the first reading of this Sunday, God nourished and sustained his chosen people Israel through their journey in the desert by giving them food (Manna) and drink from heaven. In this reading, Moses reminded his brethrens of how good God was to them, by caring for all their needs especially, by providing them manna from heaven: “He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna…Do not forget the Lord your God…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.” In giving this food and drink to his people, God demonstrated his love for them, his willingness to see them through and of course, his ability to sustain them physically and spiritually. In like manner, in our own time God has given us his son Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. He has given us the body and blood of Christ for the life of the world as well as for our own life too. This is why the Church describes the Holy Eucharist as the “Sacrament of Universal Salvation” It is given to us for the salvation of the entire world: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (Jh 3, 16).
In the second reading Paul reminds us of the unity of the church orchestrated by sharing in the one Body and Blood of Christ. This is typical of what happens during the Eucharistic celebration, people, communities, races, and nations are united as they share in the Body and Blood of Christ. At every Mass our attention is called to the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Christ in it. The secondary focus of the feast of Corpus Christi which we celebrate today is upon the Body of Christ as it is present in the Church. The Church is called the Body of Christ because of the intimate communion which Jesus shares with his disciples. He expresses this in the gospels by using the metaphor of a body in which He is the head. This image helps keep in focus both the unity and the diversity of the Church. So each time we come together for the Eucharistic celebration, Christ makes himself available to us, he draws us closer to himself, unites us with one another as one body and He himself being the head of this one body. He equally offers himself to and for us, being both the victim and the priest.
In today’s gospel Jesus vehemently and fearlessly proclaimed: “I am the living bread…The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world…if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood; you will not have life in you.” One of the most serious and grievous accusations leveled against Jesus Christ and the Early believers was cannibalism. It was on the instance and account of this truth proclaimed by Jesus in today’s gospel that the Jews based their argument and accusation against Christ. Even some of Christ’s disciples on hearing this deserted him. “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” (Jn. 6:61). John says that after, many of His disciples stopped following Him altogether. Later on, the Romans (ca. 64- 313 AD) accused Christians of cannibalism, and that same charge has been made against Catholics in various ways ever since. Maybe, one of the most disconcerting and “scandalizing” Catholic doctrine is the “Real Presence” of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Many people and perhaps even Catholics with epileptic kind of faith today have the same reaction as those disciples who heard Jesus preach it for the first time in Capernaum and were scandalized. However, the truth is that as Christ has said it, His body is true food and his blood true wine. Nevertheless, it is different from the “ordinary food” we eat daily and the Manna that the Israelites eat in the desert and yet died because, “whoever eats the body and drinks the blood of the Son of Man will never die.” The Eucharist sustains our spiritual life, while the ordinary food we eat daily and the Manna that the Israelites eat sustains only the physical life which will definitely die.
According to Pope Francis, “The Eucharist is not just a weekly way of celebrating our faith, but should radically affect our relationship with others, especially with those most in need.” There are three ways of discovering how the Eucharist can make a real difference in our lives and in our relationships with those around us. The first is the way we look and behave towards people from all walks of life. Just as Christ loved to be with others and gave himself to all on the Cross, so we are called to give ourselves generously to our brothers and sisters, sharing in their joys and sorrows. Secondly, the Eucharist gives us the grace to feel forgiven and to be ready to forgive others. We go to Mass, not because we are worthy or want to appear better than others, but because we know that we always need God’s love and mercy that comes to us through the Body and Blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. Thirdly, the Eucharist affects the life of our Christian communities. It is from the Eucharist that we as a Church receive our identity and mission. It is not something we do simply to commemorate what Jesus did for us. Rather it is something that Christ does for us, filling us with grace and nourishing us with His own life. Therefore we must live and worship the Eucharistic Christ, in a spirit of faith and prayer, a spirit of forgiveness, joy and concern for all our brothers and sisters with whom “we form one single body.”
Peace be with you all!