Corpus Christi 2017:
Today we celebrate the feast of the Lord’s Body and Blood. This special feast gives praise and honor to God for the very gift of the Eucharist. It’s an interesting feast. Normally we celebrate the Eucharist to venerate the great feasts of our Church year, like Easter, Christmas, Pentecost. But this feast is meant to foster devotion to the Blessed Sacrament itself.
This feast dates back to the 12th century, when a young Belgian Nun named Juliana had a great love and devotion to the Holy Eucharist. She felt called and challenged to ask the Church to celebrate a feast day devoted to the Holy Eucharist itself. The bishop of her diocese agreed and started a feast day in that diocese. It became more popular and was eventually made a universal feast in 1264 by Pope Urban IV. This feast is meant to foster devotion and love for the Holy Eucharist. But, believing in the Holy Eucharist has always been difficult for human beings. Today in the gospel we hear “how can this man give us his flesh to eat.” And, I know this is something we still need to do even in our days, because if the polls are correct, even lots of Catholics either don’t know about or don’t believe in the Holy Eucharist, which is quite sad if you ask me. How can he give us his flesh to eat? What is the Eucharist?
The Holy Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. He gave us this precious gift the night before he died on Holy Thursday. He continues to feed us with the Eucharist through the ministry of the apostles and their successors. At this mass, and at every Mass, simple elements of bread and wine are changed by the very power of the Holy Spirit. This mass and every mass is truly a miracle. Jesus gives us his flesh to eat. Jesus feeds us on our journey of life.
On this Corpus Christi Sunday we hear about Moses in the desert in our first reading. The story of Moses and the people of Israel being freed from Egypt is one of the most important stories in human history. God’s people were suffering mightily. God chooses to intervene. So he sends Moses to be his servant. Moses leads the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea. He guides them in the wilderness. And leads them to the Promised Land. Indeed, God worked many wonders for his people. But, one of the most important: God fed them with Manna from heaven. You see, it wasn’t simply enough for God to free Israel. He also took care of their needs in the desert. He gave them food for the journey. Without this food they never would have made it to the Promised Land.
Christian writers have seen this story of Moses as being a great parallel for the story of each human soul. All of us are born with the burden of Original Sin. All of us are born as slaves to sin. But, God sent his son to be the new Moses. Jesus leads us out of sin by his death, and we enter into his death through the waters of baptism. And where is he leading us? He’s leading us to the Promised Land of heaven. So, he freed us in baptism and he’s guiding us to heaven. What about now? Our life here on earth is like the time the Israelites spent in the desert. It’s a journey. And you know what, sometimes is quite hard. Sometimes it might feel like we are lost, wandering, and struggling. I know I feel that way sometimes. And without food for the journey, we wouldn’t be able to make it. Jesus knew that, so he gave us that food, he gave us the Eucharist.
I’m a big fan of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Do you remember when the hobbits set out from the Elves? The elves gave them some special presents to help them on their perilous journey. One such gift was the gift of bread, called Lembas. This magical bread was there for them in their most desperate moments so that they could reach their destination.
But, the Lord of the Rings is a fiction. Our lives are real. Our lembas is the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is for each one of us as we journey on our way to heaven. It’s there for us in our most difficult moments to give us strength, courage to continue on our journey. Turn to the Eucharist in your time of need. Do you know Catholics who have been away from Mass for a while? Maybe encourage them to turn back to the Eucharist. This journey of life is way too hard to try to live without Christ in the Eucharist.
So, on this feast of Corpus Christi we give thanks to Christ, who gave us his flesh to eat. We give him thanks for being with us on this journey of faith.