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.

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 51-58

Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “I am the Living Bread from heaven; whoever eats of this Bread will live forever. The Bread I shall give is My Flesh, and I will give it for the life of the world.”

The Jews were arguing among themselves, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, if you do not eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. The one who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood lives eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

“My Flesh is really food, and My Blood is truly drink. Those who eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, live in Me, and I in them. Just as the Father, Who is Life, sent Me, and I have life from the Father, so whoever eats Me will have life from Me. This is the Bread from heaven; not like that of your ancestors, who ate and later died. Those who eat this Bread will live forever.”

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 10 : 16-17

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion with the Blood of Christ? And the bread that we break, is it not a communion with the Body of Christ?

The bread is one, and so we, though many, form one body, sharing the one bread.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 14-15, 19-20

Exalt YHVH, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He grants peace on your borders and feeds you with the finest grain. He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word.

It is He, Who tells Jacob His words; His laws and decrees, to Israel. This, He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Deuteronomy 8 : 2-3, 14b-16a

Remember how YHVH, your God, brought you through the desert for forty years. He humbled you, to test you and know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He made you experience want, He made you experience hunger, but He gave you manna to eat which neither you nor your fathers had known, to show you that one does not live on bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the mouth of God.

Do not forget YHVH, your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery. It is He Who has led you across this great and terrible desert, full of fiery serpents and scorpions, an arid land where there is no water. But for you He made water gush forth from the hardest rock. And He fed you in the desert with manna which your fathers did not know.

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast day of St. Barnabas, who was counted among one of the Apostles, as he was a renowned early Church father and missionary, following and accompanying St. Paul in several of his missionary journeys, spreading the Good News and the Gospel to the many people in towns and cities across Eastern Mediterranean region. St. Barnabas accompanied St. Paul through the arduous journey, encountering good welcome from quite a few among the communities they visited, but they also encountered significant opposition and rejection from many other communities and places they visited.

As recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, and as what might have been even missed and uncounted in the Acts, St. Barnabas and St. Paul had encountered many great challenges, even moments when they were in danger of death. They were stoned in some occasions, and left for death. Only by the grace and love of God that they somehow escaped death, and they then still continued to labour and work hard for the Lord. They did not fear suffering and death, knowing what they had signed up for when they dedicated themselves to the missions of Christ.

They did what the Lord had told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, in sending them to towns and places to proclaim the Good News and the truth of God. They brought only the absolute necessities and did not bring spares with them, that they were able to focus on their mission, and depending on the good will of the people they visited, and when they encountered opposition and challenges, rejection and refusal, they left those places for other places that might be more willing to listen to them.

Through all of these and many other hard works that St. Barnabas had done together with St. Paul, and in other occasions when he travelled by himself and preaching to other communities and towns, many people became believers and were baptised as Christians. The Holy Spirit guided him and the other Apostles and disciples as they laboured hard for the greater glory of God. The Lord was with them and they were strengthened and empowered even in the moments of their greatest distress and sorrow.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate the great feast of St. Barnabas the Apostle today, we therefore recall his hard work and efforts, his dedication to the service of God, in spreading the Good News and in reaching out to the people, many of whom became believers through his efforts. He put himself through danger, even through danger of death just so that more souls could be saved through repentance, conversion and faith in the Lord.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us must realise that the works done by the Apostles were just the beginning of the works of the Church, and throughout time, countless people, some of whom now honoured as saints, martyrs and blesseds, had taken up the same works and gave themselves to the same ministry as the Apostles like St. Barnabas had done. They had endured much persecution and challenges, just as St. Barnabas had experienced, but they also led many people to God and to their salvation in Him.

We are all now called to follow in their footsteps, to continue the good labour and hard work that they had done for the Lord’s greater glory. We are all called to be witnesses of the Lord’s truth in our own respective communities, in our societies, and even within our own families and among our circle of friends. And it is often that we do not realise, that to be living out this mission of the Lord, which He entrusted to us, it is often not necessary for us to preach and speak. Instead, it is by our actions, all steeped in genuine faith, that we will speak the loudest for the Lord’s sake.

The Apostles themselves inspired us all by their tireless dedication to the Lord, the love they showed to one another, the mercy and compassion they had to all peoples, even to those who have rejected and persecuted them, as well as the patience they had shown throughout their works and ministries. And that is why all of us also need to show this sincerity in our faith, that everyone may know the Lord, His truth and love through our own examples and good faith.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Barnabas, dedicating ourselves to the Lord to spread the message of God’s truth in our own communities, by living a genuine and faithful Christian life. Let us all be exemplary with our lives and commit ourselves as genuine and true Christians from this moment onwards. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to serve Him, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 10 : 7-13

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give. Do not carry any gold or silver or money in your purses. Do not take a travelling bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick : workers deserve to be compensated.”

“When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person, and stay there until you leave. When you enter the house, wish it peace. If the people are worthy people, your peace will rest on them; if they are not worthy people, your blessing will come back to you.”

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 11 : 21b-26 and Acts 13 : 1-3

A great number believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, so they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the manifest signs of God’s favour, he rejoiced and urged them all to remain firmly faithful to the Lord; for he, himself, was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. Thus large crowds came to know the Lord.

Then Barnabas went off to Tarsus, to look for Saul; and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year, they had meetings with the Church and instructed many people. It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.

There were at Antioch – in the Church which was there – prophets and teachers : Barnabas, Symeon known as Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod, and Saul. On one occasion, while they were celebrating the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have called them.”

So, after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.