Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, often referred to by its Latin name, Corpus Christi. This feast is the third in what we could call a triduum of big feasts: Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, and now Corpus Christi.
This feast celebrates the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. All the readings point to the great mystery and gift of the Eucharist. In the first reading, Melchizedek, who is both a king and a priest, offers bread and wine as he blesses Abram. The Church sees in this gesture an ancient prefiguring of the action of Christ in the Mass (cf. CCC 1333). The second reading gives us St. Paul’s account of the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. The Gospel recounts the occasion of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the crowd, a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.
Jesus spends a full day teaching the crowds about the Kingdom of God and healing the sick. While his heart is moved with pity for them, the disciples have a different attitude. They are worried about what the large crowd will eat, so they say, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” They want to scatter those whom Jesus has drawn together, a suggestion that contradicts his mission and their own deepest identity as his disciples.
Jesus challenges them to give the people something to eat. They complain that they only have five loaves and two fish, obviously not enough to feed such a crowd. Once their own limitations are exposed, Jesus takes charge of their meager supplies, looks up to Heaven, blesses the loaves, breaks them, and gives them back to the disciples for them to distribute. When everyone in the crowd has plenty to eat, it is clear that Jesus has performed a miracle. His multiplication of the loaves recalls the miraculous feeding of the Israelites with manna in the desert and prefigures the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Jesus is revealed as the new Moses, the new Melchizedek, the true King and High Priest whose sacrifice is more than enough to feed us and to save us.
The Eucharist, instituted by Christ, is “the source and summit of the Christian life. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself” (CCC 1324). It is both physical and mystical. St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes: “Do not, then, regard the eucharistic elements as ordinary bread and wine; they are in fact the Body and Blood of the Lord, as he himself has declared. Whatever your senses may tell you, be strong in faith. You have been taught and you are firmly convinced that what looks and tastes like bread and wine is not bread and wine but the Body and the Blood of Christ” (Jerusalem Catecheses 22, cf. Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, Saturday in the Octave of Easter).
Because of his love for us, Jesus wants to be in communion with us. The Eucharist is God’s Presence with us. This is part of the practical significance of today’s feast. We are not alone in our struggles. Christ is always with us, as he promised: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). The Eucharist is a visible, sacramental sign by which Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is remembered and made present for us always, until he comes again. Every time we go to Mass, we encounter in the Eucharist a powerful reminder that we are not alone: Jesus loves us and he is with us. Whenever we are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, at Mass or in a moment of Adoration, we rediscover the living, loving Heart of Jesus, and we are filled with gratitude.
The word eucharist is derived from the Greek eucharistia, meaning “thanksgiving.” One of the aims of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is to offer thanksgiving for the gift of our redemption. Pope Francis in this week’s Spiritual Reflection reminds us to receive the Eucharist in a spirit of thanksgiving. “The feast of Corpus Christi invites us to renew each year the wonder and joy of this wondrous gift of the Lord which is the Eucharist. Let us receive it with gratitude, not in a passive, habitual way…. Each time we approach the altar to receive the Eucharist, we must truly renew our ‘amen’ to the Body of Christ.” Jesus, meek and humble of Heart, make our hearts like unto thine.
How is my spiritual life being fed with the Feasts of Pentecost, Holy Trinity, and Corpus Christi? How do I respond to the challenges of faith that the Lord puts before me? In what ways have I truly encountered Jesus in the presence of the Eucharist?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 18, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.