A team of Russians and Americans were on a common expedition. Among their cabin foodstuff was Russian black bread. It was tasty but hard on the teeth. It happened during a meal that an American bit into a piece and snapped a tooth. He threw the bread overboard and growled: “Lousy Communist bread.” The Russian countered: “Is not lousy communist bread. Is rotten capitalist tooth.” If we do not experience the transforming power of the Eucharist it is probably not on account of a lousy Eucharist but on account of our rotten faith.
“One of the seminarians who gives tours of St. Peter’s told me of an interesting incident. He was leading a group of Japanese tourists who knew absolutely nothing of our faith. With particular care he explained the great masterpieces of art, sculpture and architecture. He finally concluded at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel trying his best to explain quickly what it was. As the group dispersed, an elderly man, who had been particularly attentive stayed behind, and said, ‘Pardon me. Would you explain again this “Blessed Sacrament?” ‘Our student did, after which the man exclaimed, ‘Ah, if this is so, what is in this chapel is a greater work of art than anything else in this basilica.’ Today’s feast of Corpus Christi is intended to make us value and appreciate the worth of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
Last Sunday we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity – a great mystery. Today we celebrate another great mystery: the real presence of Jesus under the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist. I honestly think this mystery is more difficult for many people to accept than the mystery of the Trinity. Yet it is clearly expressed in all four gospels and in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
I think people have trouble believing in the Eucharist primarily because four of our senses report that the bread we receive and the cup we drink are still bread and wine. Our sense of hearing, however, tells us the bread and wine are no longer ordinary bread and wine. They are different after they are blessed. Our ears hear the words of Jesus: “This is my body,” “this is my blood…do this in memory of me.”
When a child who is told to eat spinach and carrots instead of ice cream or cake which they might prefer, they may not see benefit in doing that. We may not see anything special about this small wafer and sip from a cup that we receive in Communion. We just have to take it on faith, a faith that is founded on one thing: the very clear words of our Lord: “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood.” “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Catholic Telegraph reported that 91% of young Catholics (ages 20-39) believe the bread and wine become the Body and blood of Christ at Mass. But it also reported that 77% say they can be a good Catholic without attending church every Sunday. It’s like saying I believe that a healthy diet and exercise are really important, but I can be healthy without it.
Most of us nourish our bodies three or more times a day. Yet we’re going to have to leave that part of us behind some day. What are we doing to nourish the spiritual part of us, the part of us that will live forever? Christ gives us himself because he knows we need him. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” Let us not deliberately miss this spiritual food Jesus gives us in every Mass. We come to Mass to be fed, for we need to feed our spirits with spiritual food as we feed our bodies with regular food.
On 2 June, cathedrals and churches across the world will organize an hour of Eucharistic adoration, coinciding with 5 and 6 pm Rome time, to join Pope Francis in prayer. This event is part of the Year of Faith and this is “the first time in history of the church,” it is taking place. I read the Vatican news: Even some islands in the middle of the ocean…at two in the morning – they don’t have electricity – but even with that they will be in communion with Pope Francis for one hour.
Here in our parish we have the adoration from 9.45 – 10.45 am. For one hour all the churches in the world will be united…We are united because the Eucharist makes us all one body and one spirit, so we enter into the deepest meaning of the Eucharist. This time of prayers can be very nourishing spiritually. In conclusion, I pray that today’s feast may revitalize and renew in us our faith in the Eucharist and our love for Christ’s presence with us. Amen