06 June 2010

Do this in Remembrance of Me

Solemnity of the Body and Blood Christ – C – 6 June 2010

Readings: Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17

The Feast of Corpus Christi sums up three important doctrines of our faith:

1. God became physically present in Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, the fullness of the revelation of the Father.

2. God continues to be present in us, His people, as we form the Mystical Body of Christ.

3. God is real-ly present in the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist for our communion and adoration.

Since the time of the Apostles to the Church Fathers and the great ecumenical Councils, until now, the command of Christ at the Last Supper has always been taken literally by the true community of believers, that is, the bread and wine at the Eucharist has always been taken as His real body and blood.

To believe otherwise is to dilute the greatest revelation of our Christian faith: that we have a God who loves us and reaches out to us. He does this in the most wonderfully inspiring, eternally surprising ways: He became a man like us. He continues to form us into one body with Christ as head. He nourishes us even now with the food of His body and blood in the Eucharist.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta says: “When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now."

Communion and Generosity

In the Second Reading, in 1 Cor 11,24-25, St. Paul repeats the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: “Do this in remembrance of me.” What are we being asked to remember? We remember the very acts and symbols that tell us of God’s generosity and call to communion. This is the same message carried by this Sunday’s Gospel story of the feeding of the five thousand: generosity and communion.

By generosity we mean not just the willingness to give, but God’s self-giving. The highest expression of this is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice is not in order to appease a God aggrieved by our sins. His sacrifice is for us.

St. John Vianney writes: "All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man."

In the Gospel story, Jesus performs a miracle for at least five thousand people. In the Last Supper scene and in the Eucharists celebrated thereafter, He offers His body and blood as bread of life and spiritual drink for the many who has, is and will believe in Him through the ages.

By communion we mean not just being united in a communal way, but intimately sharing no less than the life of God. By receiving communion at Mass, our flesh is intimately united with Christ’s flesh, and we are nourished and strengthened in the journey towards fullness of communion with Him.

Sadly, there are those who claim to be Christian but do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic bread and wine. Yet even in the midst of doubt, the truth of Christ manages to break forth and inspire people back to faith.

Miracle and the Eucharist

In the 8th century, in a place that is now Lanciano, Italy, a monk was celebrating Mass and having a strong attack of doubt as to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. What he beheld as he consecrated the bread and wine caused his hands to shake, indeed his whole body. He stood for a long time with his back to the people, and then slowly turned around to them. Eventually, he composed himself enough to summon the congregation to witness the miracle that has just taken place.

The host had turned into Flesh. The wine had turned into Blood.

According to accounts, upon witnessing the miracle, the people began to wail, asking for forgiveness, crying for mercy. Others began beating their breasts, confessing their sins, declaring themselves unworthy to witness such a miracle. Still others went down on their knees in respect, and thanksgiving for the gift the Lord had bestowed on them. The story spreads throughout the town and surrounding villages.

The priest's faith had been renewed. The entire town, and the whole country for that matter, became aware of the miracle. Pilgrims flocked to Lanciano to venerate the Host turned flesh. Belief in the Eucharist had been reborn.

Investigations were conducted since 1574. In 1981, a study by renowned medical scientists reaffirmed the recognition of studies done in previous ages, and surfaced new discoveries:

“The Flesh is real Flesh. The Blood is real Blood. The Flesh and the Blood belong to the human species. The Flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart. In the Flesh we see present in section: the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve and also the left ventricle of the heart for the large thickness of the myocardium. The Flesh is a 'heart' complete in its essential structure.

The Flesh and the Blood have the same blood-type: AB. In the Blood there were found proteins in the same normal proportions (percentage-wise) as are found in the sero-proteic make-up of the fresh normal blood. In the Blood there were also found these minerals: chlorides, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium.

The preservation of the Flesh and of the Blood, which were left in their natural state for twelve centuries and exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, remains an extraordinary phenomenon.”

Our belief in the real presence of Christ is sustained both by the firm witness of the Church and our experience of God’s presence in our lives. When our experience of grace is deemed unexplainable by natural science, it is called a miracle.

Of course, the greatest miracle happening everyday is the daily changing of humble bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in Masses being offered throughout the world, "from the rising of the sun to its setting".

Our recognition of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist should lead to insight on its power to change our lives, indeed the whole world. Pope Leo XIII once exclaimed: "Our own belief is that the renovation of the world will be brought about only by the Holy Eucharist."

Does our partaking of Christ’s body lead us to devote more time to God in prayer? To more active participation in the Eucharist? To more acts of kindness and thoughtfulness to the people around us? To more pronounced solidarity with the hopes and dreams of our people? To more generous contribution to the Church in terms of time, talent and treasure?

When our participation in the Eucharist lead us to greater generosity and communion, the world will indeed be renewed by the Eucharist.

It doesn’t matter whether we think what we have or who we are may seem small and insignificant. In the Gospel story, Jesus says of the simple fare of loaves and fish: “Give them to me.” And a miracle is made that day.

Let us then deign to make ourselves worthy to receive Jesus at communion, and then give ourselves to Him as members of His Body. And He will make miracles of us all.

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