He said, "Take it; this is my body."
Then he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many (Gospel).
In June of 1950 near the close of my first year of formation in a French-Canadian school for boys, I had the privilege of attending my first real spectacular celebration of Corpus Christi as it was called in those days. The archbishop of Montreal was present and 400 students were lined in procession along with the students of other local Catholic educational facilities and the faithful of L’Assomption, a little town 25 miles north of Montreal. It was the procession of the Blessed Sacrament. It gathered under the archway of our college facilities where we could read the words I have always kept to my heart: “to prepare a perfect people of the Lord. The procession moved through the town Boulevard to three major destinations in front of a convent, the parish church and a local replica of an earlier church at the cemetery. Sacred songs accompanied the procession and solemnity was the word and the experience we felt. It was the best way we knew to express our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The procession was followed by a dinner fit for a prince.
Around 1977 this Feast of the Body of Christ and that of the Most Precious Blood were combined to be no long simply Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ), but the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. It remains a Eucharistic celebration in which is revealed the POWER, the PRESENCE and the PROMISE OF JESUS.
THE POWER OF JESUS is alluded to in the letter to the Hebrews where the author reminds us of the sacrifices of the Old Covenant. In those days, the temple in Jerusalem was like a slaughter house filled with the carcasses and the flowing blood of animals offered in sacrifice to God. It was believed that the sacrifice of animals was a gift to God to atone, give thanks, seek peace in war or to petition God for favors. The most perfect animal was sought for this sacrifice so as to make it ever more effective. It was felt that sacrificing at the altars called upon the power of God to touch the lives of the people. The purer the sacrifice, the more would God listen to prayer.
The author of Hebrews invites us to consider the gift of Jesus who in dying for us offered not just any form of sacrifice, but the most perfect form of sacrifice of his Body and Blood that has the power to heal the deepest needs of mankind.
Notice how people come in throngs to the Eucharist when evil is upon us, such as was the request on that historic day of 9/11 when disaster struck our country. So was it when the World War II ended and church doors were flung open for the people to gather in thanksgiving. People swarmed for entrance to the Church and demanded Masses only to disappear into tricklings once again a few short weeks later. We know the power of the sacrifice of Jesus but do not turn to it except when we find our power to be insufficient to cover our needs. Many have returned to the Eucharist after months and years of absence only to realize that what they needed most was already available in the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
THE PRESENCE OF JESUS is made possible as a constant reality to mankind’s need throughout the ages. There is no longer any need to go looking for other magical formulas as many will try to do through inordinate passion for other sources of comfort and satisfaction. The gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus assures us that as long as the Eucharist is present, so is Jesus present among us. We say that God lives in and through his people. While that is true, the presence of God in his people is limited by the purity of the people. But in the Eucharist, Jesus is unconditionally and totally present in the fullness of his being. Only in the Eucharist can we find the presence of Jesus as true and as complete as he is present in heaven before the Father. The Eucharist opens for us a new temple.
This time the sacrifice is different in that it is no longer a bloody sacrifice. The blood was shed 2000 years ago, but his gift continues throughout the centuries at the table of sacrifice in the Mass and in the tabernacle of Eucharistic repose in our churches. Over the centuries, the Church changes and must find new ways to proclaim the Good News. But change as the Church will do, there is one thing that will always remain the same through all the centuries in the Catholic Church: it is the sacramental presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus, his humanity and divinity in the form of bread and wine.
How can we then hesitate or what kind of excuse can we find that will in fact give us reason to abstract ourselves from this endless presence of God among his people? Is the Eucharistic Christ less than all the other reasons you might find to abstain from worship in the Holy Sacrifice of Christ in the Mass?
Finally, the Book of Exodus we find that all worthy sacrifice to God is accompanied by the word of God. GOD’S PROMISE is made a reality when we gather at the Altar of the Lamb of God. The reading of the book of the covenant in the framework of the offering of sacrifice tells us that in Eucharist the Word of God is fulfilled, just as at Mass we prepare for Communion with God by sharing the liturgy of the Word. God speaks and assures us of his promise to be faithful to all who worship him in love and in action.
In turn the Eucharist is also a place where we along with the people of God in the Old Testament make a promise to observe all that God requests of us. God makes his promise and we respond with our promise of fidelity to him. How can we expect God to care for our needs if we make to effort to remain faithful to him? Thus is it that just before entering into Communion with the Eucharistic presence of Jesus, we offer the Our Father as a summary of our need to be healed from our failures and sins that we might be able to once again submit ourselves and make true the words we claim: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” May our gift be as complete as that of Jesus to the Father.
Today we need to renew our commitment of fidelity to the Body and Blood of Christ: I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord. There is no other source more powerful, no divine presence more complete, no promise more fulfilling as what we find in the Eucharistic gift of Christ among us. How could we then dare to minimize the most essential need of our lives? How could the Sunday worship be complete without our communion in the mystery of all mysteries that renews us as Children of God and ministers of his eternal love?