Readings: Deut 8:2-3,14-16; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; Jn 6:51-58
A real presence, communion with Christ, with each other and within the Body of Christ, spiritual nourishment, the bread of eternal life. This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Sacrament of the Eucharist that signifies and brings about communion with Christ. The institution of this solemnity developed over years mainly because of Eucharistic faith and devotion to the real presence of Christ. In 1264, Pope Urban IV issued a Decree instituting the Solemnity of Corpus Christi for the Universal Church. What do we celebrate on this solemnity? On Corpus Christi, we not only affirm our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist: Body and Blood; Soul and Divinity, but we also celebrate our unity in Christ, who is the Body, and we his members. The Holy Eucharist by its very nature signifies the unity it brings about. We know from experience that when there is unity in a family, there is a great sense of belonging and a sharing of life. Similarly, when there is harmony within a body, there is strength, joy and happiness. In the first reading of this Sunday, we are told of how God fed the people of Israel with manna in the wilderness. The second reading speaks about the effects of sharing the Eucharist together. It brings about communion with Christ and with one another. "The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in the one loaf". The Gospel reading focuses on the Eucharist as the bread of life. "Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world". Jesus is therefore our food and drink, giving us spiritual nourishment on our earthly journey and a guarantee of eternal life. The Eucharist is a great sign of unity with Christ and with one another. We believe that in the Eucharist Jesus is truly present, body soul and divinity. We also believe that by eating this heavenly food, we become one with Christ, sharing in his life, his purpose and mission. In the Eucharist we find true nourishment and source of eternal life. "Anyone who eats this bread will live forever". The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that all the Church's sacraments and ministries are oriented to the Eucharist, "the source and summit of Christian life". In the Eucharist, the whole spiritual good of the Church (Christ himself) is contained (#1324). Next in #1325-1327, the Catechism says: that the Church is kept in being by the Eucharist (the sign and cause of the unity of God's People). In the Eucharist we are united with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life with God. Saint Irenaeus sums that teaching in saying, "Our thinking is attuned to the Eucharist and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking".
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is much more remembered for its colorful procession of the Blessed Sacrament publicly proclaiming in song and prayer. The procession is a sacred moment of prayer and reflection on the mystery of Christ’s real presence. Traditionally the procession took place at four different altars symbolizing the four corners of the world. At these altars, Benediction was offered. The procession then ended at the last altar. One of the ways in which the Church celebrates its faith and devotion to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is through Eucharistic Congresses every four years. The central message of Corpus Christi – the Body of Christ may be summed up in three points. 1) In the celebration of the Eucharist, Christ reminds us of his enduring real presence in our midst, nourishing and strengthening us in our stewardship and witness to him. 2) The Eucharist is a great sign of unity with Christ and with one another especially the less fortunate. Therefore, we cannot receive the Eucharist and remain indifferent towards the poor; those without food and those without drink 3) In the Eucharist we become one with Christ, sharing in his life, his vision, mission and purpose.
©2017 John S. Mbinda