YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
TOPIC: THE EUCHARIST
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Corpus Christi Sunday
Gospel: Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
Message # 377: “The Johns of the Eucharistic Jesus”
1. The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother reveals that Holy Thursday, when Jesus had His Last Supper at the Upper Room (Cenacle) in Jerusalem, is the feast of the Eucharist and the new priesthood (letter a). She is also the Mother of priests (letter b).
b) Mary also affirms the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. She invites us all to “go beyond appearances to experience in the soul the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist” (letter g), “to commune with Him through the powers of the soul” (letter h).
c) In letter l of the message, she expressed her desire regarding what we must do to give Jesus in the Eucharist the greatest respect and homage: transform the churches into royal palace of Jesus where He is honored and adored, surrounded by angels, saints and holy souls; adorn the tabernacle with flowers and lights to show our love and devotion; frequent exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; protect the Eucharist from profanation and sacrilegious activities.
2. Background Information
a) “Eucharist” is a Greek word, which means, “to give thanks”. This is not found in the Bible since the term used for this sacrament by the early Christians in the Acts of the Apostles is “breaking of bread”.
b) The term “Body of Christ” could mean three things: physical body, mystical body, and sacramental body. The physical body of Jesus is already glorified and is seated at the right hand of the Father. But He can be physically present anywhere and everywhere He wishes because it is already a glorified body. Nothing is impossible with Jesus. The mystical body of Jesus is the Church, the community of believers. He is the head of this Body. He is present with us in the Church: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” The sacramental body of Jesus is the Eucharist, the sacrament of His Body and Blood. This is not just a symbolic presence, but is actually the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
c) Pope John Paul II reminded us that in commemorating the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, the Church “does not only celebrate the Eucharist, but solemnly bears it in procession, publicly proclaiming that the sacrifice of Christ is for the salvation of the whole world.” The proper time to have the Eucharistic procession is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. In the provinces this is still being done. But in Metro Manila, most parishes hold the Eucharistic procession during the Feast of Christ the King. Most probably, it is because the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is held usually towards the end of May or early June when the rainy season has already started. What is important, however, is that every year, there is at least one Eucharistic procession held, either on Corpus Christi or Christ the King.
d) We remember that Jesus was a Jew. On the night before He died, He celebrated the Passover Meal with His apostles. This was the Last Supper where He instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. This is the reason why the date for Holy Week celebration varies every year since it usually coincides with the Jewish celebration of the Passover when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper. The Jewish Passover celebration is scheduled on a full moon. Hence, we notice that Holy Thursday is during or closest to the full moon.
e) The main components of a Passover Meal are the lamb, unleavened bread, wine from grapes and bitter herbs. The lamb is the sacrificial animal as stipulated in the Mosaic Law. The unleavened bread is a reminder of the flight of the Chosen People from Egypt. It is unleavened because they had to hurry and there is no more time to make the dough rise. The wine is traditionally the symbol of rejoicing and celebration. The bitter herbs remind the people of their sufferings and struggles during their slavery in Egypt. In the Last Supper, Jesus and the apostles only had unleavened bread and grape wine. There is no more need for the sacrificial lamb, since Jesus Himself is the Lamb of God: He is the victim being offered as sacrifice, and at the same time, the High Priest offering the sacrifice.
f) During the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of His apostles. The Apostle John gave more focus on this point. It is meant to teach the lesson that the Eucharist, to be truly meaningful, should always be geared towards love and service to one another, since “the Son of Man has come not to be served, but to serve.”
g) During the Last Supper, Jesus also instituted the Sacrament of the Ministerial Priesthood (Holy Orders). The three levels of Holy Orders (deacons, priests and bishops) are ordained towards serving (ministering to) the people of God who have the Common Priesthood received in Baptism. Ministerial Priesthood is for the service of the Common Priesthood. This is very evident in the case of the Eucharist. The reason why Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Holy Orders during the Last Supper where the Sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted was to make sure there will be ministers who will continue to celebrate the Eucharist after He is gone: “Do this in memory of me.”
We should not be surprised, therefore, that there are so many attacks on the priests and bishops ever since. In fact, throughout history, many of them were led astray and became enemies of the Church (many heretics were bishops and priests). When one priest is destroyed, many people are adversely affected. Worse still, the number of Masses decreases. Imagine the situation when there are only few priests left. Surely there will be much less Masses for the people. And imagine when there are many priests who are not celebrating the Mass correctly and devoutly due to culpable ignorance and errors, then ultimately, the victims are the people. That is the reason why the Blessed Mother urges us to help and pray for our priests and bishops. They are the targets of the enemy and many of them fall into the devil’s trap of pride, materialism, arrogance and errors. They need our prayers, support, understanding and fraternal correction when at times they are in error. This last point is important and urgent because a priest in error can lead more people astray.
3. The Sunday Gospel
a) The first reading from the book of Exodus tells us about the blood of the sacrificial bull sprinkled by Moses upon the people of Israel as the sign of the covenant with God. This was the era of the Old Testament.
b) In the second reading, Saint Paul is saying something about the New Testament era. Jesus is now the eternal high priest who offers sacrifice to the Father so that we will obtain eternal redemption. But this time, it is not anymore the blood of goats and bulls, but the blood of Jesus Christ himself. This blood of Christ will “cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”
c) In the Gospel, St. Mark relates the Last Supper event when Jesus formally instituted the sacrament of his Body and Blood: “This is my body; eat it. This is my blood; drink it.” The body and blood of Christ, therefore, is our heavenly and spiritual nourishment. It is real food and real drink. How does it happen that the bread becomes the body of Christ, and the wine becomes the blood of Christ? That question is immaterial. There is nothing impossible with God. Rather the question should be WHY? The answer is love. Nourishment or giving food has always been an expression of love. This kind of love gives life: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have everlasting life.”
d) Because of his love for us, it has been the desire and mission of Jesus to make us sharers in the life of God. Not only are we nourished with the heavenly food; we are also gradually elevated to a higher dignity as God’s children. The animal says to the plant: “Let me eat you. But you have to die.” When this happens, the plant is not anymore part of the plant kingdom; he becomes incorporated into the animal kingdom. The same is true with the animal. Man says to the animal: “Let me eat you. But you have to die” Then the animal becomes part of the human kingdom. This is the natural order of things in this world. But in the case of our relationship with God, the reverse is what happens. God doesn’t say to us: Let me eat you. Rather it is the other way around. He tells us: “Eat me! You will become part of me and you will have eternal life.” When we eat the body of Christ, He does not lose His being and identity as in the case of the plant and animal. Rather, we who eat His body are the ones being changed and incorporated into His Body. So we share in the divine life, we receive eternal life. We are elevated to the level of the divine. That is why we who receive the body of Christ in the Eucharist are always challenged to live up to this dignity. We should never again hide behind the excuse: “At kung iyan man ay kasalanan ay sapagkat kami ay tao lamang.”
e) The Eucharist is the heart of the life of every Christian. It is just sad to note that many people, even Catholics, are not very interested to come to Mass. In doing so, many people are committing “spiritual suicide” or “spiritual hunger strike”. If receiving the Eucharist gives us life, depriving ourselves of the Eucharist surely means spiritual starvation and death. Worse still, people are not aware of this or they simply do not care.
4. Some Important Pastoral and Doctrinal Considerations
a) Since the Eucharist is the most central sacrament in our life, we have to make sure that all errors and abuses related to it should be avoided. We need to remind ourselves about the important teachings on regular sacramental confession before receiving communion, Eucharistic fast, proper attire, silence and order in the church for a more reverent and solemn celebration, and active participation in the celebration.
“Active participation” does not mean that the priest and people can disregard the liturgical norms. Pope Benedict XVI wrote: "The first way with which the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite is fostered is the proper celebration of the rite itself. The 'ars celebrandi' is the best premise for the 'actuosa participatio.' The 'ars celebrandi' stems from faithful obedience to the liturgical norms in their plenitude, as it is precisely this way of celebrating which has ensured for two thousand years the life of faith of all believers, who are called to live the celebration as People of God, royal priesthood, holy nation” (cf. 1 P 2, 4-5.9). ("Sacramentum Caritatis," No. 38.) The General Instruction of the Roman Missal explicitly points out that, “the priest must remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass” (GIRM #24).
b) But the most important teaching of all is the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. That is why we dress properly when going to Mass; we genuflect and kneel in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament; we kneel if possible when receiving communion; we say “Amen!” when the sacred Host is being given to us; we go back to our seats and pray in silence after communion and avoid talking to our neighbor; we do not interrupt the time after communion with announcements and second collection. All these we will always do IF we truly believe that Jesus is truly and really present in the Eucharist. The reason why some priests and people celebrate Mass haphazardly and shabbily can be traced to the lack of faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The classic expression of this in Theology is: “Lex orandi, lex credendi” (The law of prayer is the law of belief). In other words, if we believe in the real presence of Christ, it is very natural for us to be sincere, proper and reverent all throughout the Eucharistic celebration. There are those who use their cell phones in the Church during Mass. Others leave the church, some during consecration and others during communion. Much worse are the ministers (lectors, Eucharistic ministers, altar servers, choir members and ushers), and especially priests who do not do their duties and functions properly and conscientiously. We have reason to doubt their motives and their faith in the real presence of Christ.
c) We have to make a clarification regarding the Eucharistic celebration (the Mass) and the sacrament of the Eucharist. Every Mass is the celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist. But even though there is no Mass, the sacrament of the Eucharist continues to be present, either in the closed tabernacle or exposed in the open tabernacle (simple exposition) or in the monstrance (solemn exposition). So the real presence of Jesus is not only during the celebration of the Mass, but also in the tabernacle. This is what it means when we say that the Eucharist is both a sacrifice and a sacrament. The Eucharist as sacrifice is the celebration of the Mass: it is the same sacrifice of Jesus on the cross in Calvary being made present to us. The Eucharist as sacrament is the body and blood of Christ we receive in Communion and reserved in the tabernacle. So we place the tabernacle in a prominent place in the sanctuary, and should not be put in a dark and secluded corner. We are also encouraged to regularly make the Eucharistic adoration either in church or in the Adoration Chapel. After the Mass, we are encouraged to spend some moments with Jesus in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Pope John Paul often referred to the Eucharistic Adoration as the “extension of the Mass”.
d) The bread becomes the real body of Christ. The wine becomes the real blood of Christ. It does not look and taste like the flesh and blood, and that’s for sure. This is explained by the doctrine of Transubstantiation. It is the substance that changes, not the outward appearance. The bread and wine still look and taste like bread and wine. But after consecration, their substances have already changed and have become the body and blood of Christ. This change is not perceived by the human eyes. The body of Christ is hidden in the form of bread; the Blood of Christ is hidden in the form of wine. What would happen if the outward appearance also changed? Will we still be willing to receive communion when the appearance of the host is a bloody flesh? Jesus willed it that He remains hidden in the form of bread and wine so that we will not have difficulty in receiving Him in Holy Communion.
e) There is proper position for every human activity. For example, when we eat and drink, we are expected to sit down at table. We can eat and drink while standing or walking. But that is not the regular position. The same is true with sleeping. The best position is lying down on bed. But we can sleep while sitting on a chair, or standing against the wall or walking! But these are not the proper and regular positions for sleeping. In the Mass, we are receiving not just ordinary food and drink. The proper position in receiving the Body of Christ in communion is kneeling down. But we can receive communion standing, especially when there is no communion rail or when there are too many people that may render kneeling down uncomfortable and impractical. But the people should be taught how to do it properly: they are to approach the sacrament in procession, and they have to make a gesture of reverence (such as genuflection, profound bow or at least making the sign of the cross) before receiving communion while standing. In the case with communion on the tongue, the issue here is more on making sure the sacred host is not exposed to unnecessary risk of desecration. And there are also conditions in giving communion in the hand: sufficient catechesis, clean hands, proper position of hands; consumes the sacred host in front of the minister and not while walking away; no possible risk of desecration of the sacred host. Nevertheless, we have to be reminded that receiving communion in the hand is only an indult (a permission, dispensation or privilege granted by a competent authority to do something not permitted by common law of the Church). In other words, it is not the rule; it is allowed by special permission, but only for a certain period of time. The rule in receiving holy communion is kneeling down and on the tongue.
5. Closing Recite the Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
(for the many transgressions and offenses of mankind against the Sacred Heart and the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.) GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
1. Ano ang mga hakbang na dapat nating gawin tuwing bago magsimba upang maging handa tayo para sa pagdiriwang ng Banal na Misa?
2. Pag-usapan ang wastong pagtanggap ng Banal na Komunyon sa Misa. Ano ang mga abuso at kamalian kaugnay sa Banal na Misa na inyong nakita? Pag-usapan kung paano ang mga ito maitutuwid.