Thursday, 11 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate the great Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, also commonly known as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which takes place traditionally on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, or in some places, to avail the celebration to more people, on the Sunday after the Trinity Sunday. And this celebration is a very important one for us, as besides the Holy Trinity, the Doctrine of the Real and Holy Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist is one of the key core tenets of our Christian faith.

Unlike the Trinitarian nature of Our God, which is acknowledged and the fundamental part of the faith for most of those who believed in God, the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist has not been accepted and was rejected by quite a few segments of the people who believed in God. However, this clearly did not show the sentiment and the belief of the Church fathers and all the early Christians, all of whom believed in the true, real and living Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that the bread and wine we offer at the celebration of the Holy Mass, and which the priest blesses and offers to God at the Consecration truly become the very Body and Blood of the Lord Himself, the very substance and essence of the Lord, although they may still appear to us in the form of bread and wine. This process is called Transubstantiation, in which ‘Trans’ meaning ‘change’ and ‘Substantiate’ meaning ‘substance or essence’.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the word ‘Transubstantiation’ means ‘the change of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the Body of Christ and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of His Blood. This change is brought about in the Eucharistic Prayer through the efficacy of the word of Christ and by the action of the Holy Spirit.’ From the Catechism we can see how the Church clearly teaches to us what the Eucharist means to us all.

This means that the very matter of the bread and the wine themselves have been changed, transformed and altered into the very substance, essence and reality of the Most Precious Body, and the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same Christ Who has offered Himself on the Cross at Calvary as a worthy Sacrifice, in atonement for our sins. In this bread and wine transformed into the Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, the Eucharist that we partake, we share in the same sacrifice of the Lord that day on the Cross.

That is why the Mass is more appropriately known as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as the priest celebrant acts ‘in persona Christi’ or in the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the authority that He Himself has given to His Apostles, and as the Mass itself is the entire same Sacrifice that the Lord had undergone, as He brought His Cross up to Calvary, be crucified and died up there for us mankind, the whole Mass represents us all living through that very same supreme Act of God’s love in saving us.

As the celebrant speaks the words of Consecration, by the power of God through the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine became the Most Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, and as the celebrant says, in the same words that the Lord Jesus had spoken on the Last Supper, ‘This is My Body, which has been given up for you’, and ‘This is the Chalice of My Blood, the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant, which has been poured for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins’ and elevate the Sacred Specie, it was the same offering that Christ made on the Cross, offering Himself in His Body, Soul and Divinity for our salvation.

Therefore, in the Holy Communion, we receive not just mere bread and/or wine, and not just merely ‘symbol’ of the Body and the Blood of the Lord as what some have otherwise believed and convinced themselves, but in truth and reality, the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Himself, in the Flesh and Blood. We may see them as the appearance of bread and wine, the taste of bread and wine, the smell of bread and wine, but in reality, the essence of it all have been transformed completely into something beyond our human capability of understanding, the Mystery of our Faith.

We believe in the Lord and in the mystery of the Transubstantiation, this most important doctrine of the Church from the very beginning and which was codified and formalised at the Fourth Council of the Lateran in the early thirteenth century, and which our brethren in the Eastern Orthodox Church also formalised on their Synod of Jerusalem five centuries later, believing that God Himself has given His own Precious and Holy Body and Blood for us to partake, to eat and drink as real food and drink, and not as something imaginary or merely symbolic, just as He highlighted it to the people in His discourse on the Bread of Life.

The Lord Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Life, as the True Bread from Heaven far superior to the heavenly bread manna that had been miraculously given by God to the ancestors of the Jewish people, the Israelites during their forty years journey to the Promised Land. He referred to that occasion, comparing how their ancestors died, but those who receive this new Bread of Life, that is Christ Himself, they would have eternal life through Him.

When the Lord referred to Himself as the Bread of Life, He thus also mentioned to the people that unless they eat of His Body and drink of His Blood then they would have no life and no part in Him. He also specifically mentioned that His Body is real Food, while His Blood is real Drink. He did not say that He was giving them a symbol to have or to celebrate with, but instead, doubled down on His own statement of the truth, to the point that many of His own followers left Him after this particular moment, which is ironically very similar to how some of our brethren in faith chose to abandon this same truth about the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

To those of His disciples that remained, to His Twelve Apostles, the Lord gave the power and authority on the Last Supper when He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. His commandment to them to ‘do this in the memory of Me’ is a very important mission, which the Apostles had faithfully carried out and which they passed on to all of their successors, the bishops and the priests of the Church, who have been ordained and received the same power and authority of the Lord to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

By the sharing and partaking of the Body and Blood of the Lord therefore we have this Holy and Sacred Communion in the Church, which then makes up the Body of Christ. For in sharing the same Body and Blood of the Lord, we have been united through Christ and made one as a people blessed by God and brought together our common partaking of the Bread of Life, Christ our Saviour, becoming the Mystical Body of Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

And from the earliest days of the Church we have very firm proofs and extensive evidences of the Real Presence from the Church fathers and leaders themselves, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch, the second Bishop of Antioch and St. Peter’s successor there, who said that ‘I desire the Bread of God, the Heavenly Bread, the Flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God… and I desire the Drink of God, namely His Blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.’ clearly echoing the Lord’s own words that His Body and Blood were real Food and real Drink.

St. Justin the Martyr and the other early Church fathers and saints also concurred with this truth, speaking of ‘not as common bread and common drink do we receive these, but in like manner as Jesus Christ Our Saviour, having been made Flesh by the Word of God, had both Flesh and Blood for our salvation… the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word… is the Flesh and Blood of that Jesus Who was made Flesh.’ And they also warned against heretics specifically mentioning how those heretics denied that the bread and the wine were truly the Body and Blood of the Lord.

St. Ambrose of Milan, one of the Four Original Doctors of the Church and one of the most pre-eminent Church fathers of the Western Christendom also spoke firmly and strongly on this matter, saying that, ‘For that Sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the Word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements?’ against all those who doubted that the bread and wine could have changed in either essence or Presence into the Real Presence of the Lord.

For God, everything is possible, and everything can be done, even turning the matter and essence, the reality of the bread and wine into that of His own Precious Body and Blood, to be given to us and to be partaken worthily for our salvation. And at the Last Supper, which St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Paul the Apostle earlier on mentioned, the Lord said, ‘This is My Body…’ and ‘This is the Chalice of My Blood’, as His own Real, Unchanging, Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood, not an imitation, not a symbol, not a representation, not even a spiritual union, but the exact same, real, complete and bloodied Sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross at Calvary.

It was a famous occurrence of a doubter of this truth which eventually led to the institution of this great celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. The famous Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena in what is today Italy marked one among the many other great miracles of the Eucharist that from time to time reminded us of this sacred truth and reality of the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. At that occasion, according to tradition, a priest was celebrating the Eucharist while doubting the Real Presence. Immediately upon Consecration, the bread and wine changed into real Body and Blood of the Lord, with drops of Holy Blood dripping onto the corporal used to contain the Sacred Species.

With the affirmation of these miracles, including earlier miracles at Lanciano and other places, where occurrences of ‘Bleeding Body of Christ in the Eucharistic Host’ happened, the Pope instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi to celebrate and to put ever greater emphasis on this core aspect of our faith and core belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, in the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, where the bread and wine in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are transformed, completely and fully, into the essence, matter and reality of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having deepened our understanding of the rich history of this one of the most important tenets of our faith, how are we then going to truly celebrate this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord? It is not enough that we just celebrate today with a reverent and solemn celebration of the Holy Mass. In fact, all of us need to have a great change in the way we treat the Eucharist and how we have to return the respect and adoration we are to give to the Lord being truly present in the Eucharist.

A prominent person who did not believe in the Real Presence once said that, if we have truly believed in the Lord truly and really being present in the Eucharist, then in the presence of the Lord, he would have bowed down, prostrated and humbled himself in great adoration and worship. Unfortunately, this was not seen among many of us Christians. Many of us treated the Lord’s Real Presence as if He was just merely a bread to be eaten, or worse still, as a burden because we treat going to Mass as a heavy burden of obligation for us to fulfil.

How many of us have received the Lord with faith and worthily receive His Body and Blood into our own bodies, into our hearts and into our very own beings? There is a great need for us to restore the reverence and proper worship and adoration we ought to give to the Lord, His Real Presence in the Eucharist, and it has to begin with us and from us. We must have a great and profound change on how we view the Holy Mass, to make it the most important part of our lives and to centre ourselves and our existence on the Lord.

And having received the Lord Himself unto us, as St. Paul said in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, we have become the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the very Temple of God present in the flesh, in our very own bodies. Here we have the very best and perfect Temples of His Presence, more perfect and better than the Temples built by Solomon and king Herod. But are we then treating our bodies and our beings as worthy dwelling place of Our Lord? Or have we instead defiled them with our disobedience, wickedness and sins?

Today therefore, on this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, let us all renew the zeal and faith which all of us must have in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the Lord’s own Most Holy Body and Blood which He has given us all for our salvation through the hands of His bishops and priests. Let us strive to be worthy to receive His Most Holy Body and Blood into ourselves, and be grateful for the loving Sacrifice He has gone through for us, by living a most virtuous and exemplary Christian life from now on.

O Sacrament most Holy, o Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine! O Christ, the Bread of Life, given freely as real Food for our salvation, Your Most Holy Body and Blood, flowing down from the Cross in atonement for our sins, have mercy on us sinners, and by our worthy partaking in this most Sacred Communion, unite us all as the One Body of Christ, the Church, and lead us all into eternal life. Amen.

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