Corpus Christi. Sixteen hundred years ago a Bishop of Jerusalem addressed some converts on the Holy Communion that they were to receive for the first time. He said, “When you come up to receive, make your left hand a throne for the right, for it is about to receive a King.” Cup your palm and so receive the Body of Christ, then answer “Amen.” Take care not to lose part of it. Such a loss would be like a mutilation of your own body. Why if you had been given gold dust, would you not take the utmost care to hold it fast? Be careful not to let a grain slip through your fingers, lest you be so much the poorer.
How much more carefully then will you guard against losing so much as a crumb of that which is more precious than gold or precious stones. Sixteen centuries later, we gather here to do what the Christians of Jerusalem did and what the apostles did in the upper room three centuries before that. On this special feast called Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. We shall do what the Lord commanded, take and eat, take and drink. Today in this church the first century, the fourth and the twentieth come together.
The details differ from the supper room, to the Church of the Bishop of Jerusalem, to this Church. But, the reality is the same, the basic truth that was expressed simply and profoundly by Jesus. This is my body, this is my blood. Incredible words that not all could accept. Jesus once told His followers; “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you.” For many of His disciples, this was too much. They drew back and no longer walked with Him. How can this man give us His flesh to eat? Down through the ages great minds have asked this question and have responded with more bad arguments than good.
Again, we turn to that Bishop of Jerusalem in his sermon on the Eucharist. He said, “Do not judge the reality by what you see, touch and taste. Judge by your unwavering faith for when the Master Himself has explicitly said, “This is my body, this is my blood, will anyone still dare to doubt?” This is the Eucharistic truth; that the bread and wine are really the body and blood of Christ; and that this Eucharist gives life. I am not saying that you cannot receive divine life without receiving Holy Communion. Jesus also said, “If you love Me, my Father will love you and We will come to you and make our home with you.”
The point is that here is a food which in its potential for giving life is unparalleled. When the Eucharistic Christ gives Himself to you as food, you are transformed into Him. St. Paul would echo this when he said, “It is no longer I who live but, Christ who lives in me. We become what we receive, Christ and I become one.” What should that say to us in our daily lives? What does this mean? With the wonderful knowledge that Christ is in me, can self-pity be possible? Can I leave this church down, depressed and miserable? Can you continue to moan and groan, to mope and sulk, because your little world passes you by?
The world will not always recognize how beautiful or brilliant you are. But in spite of this, in spite of what life brings, you are not alone. The one who suffered and died is in you and apart of you. He will help you live with disappointment-with that illness that saps your strength and your spirit-with the hard knocks that life gives you.
We are what we receive, the body of Christ. That means that the bread of life is not an individualistic thing, a solitary supper. It is not my private party but something between Jesus and me. Yes, there must be time for prayer when I receive the Lord. But its main function is to form community. St. Paul phrased it so well, because the bread is one, we though many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. The Lord who locks Himself in the tabernacle of my body is none other than the Lord who nourishes my next door neighbor. The same Christ who feeds the Lebanese, the Japanese, the African, the Cuban; Christ is not divided and Christ is not multiplied. He came for all people. There is one and the same body, one and the same Christ for all, in His flesh we are one.
We who feed on the Eucharistic Christ must realize that we do not keep His presence to ourselves, we spread it. We take that presence from church to world. We take that presence to a world that is hungry not only for food, but hungry for freedom, for peace and hungry for God. So the presence of Christ in me should at least make me think about my attitude towards the rest of the Body of Christ. Do I ever think about that person who lives alone? That neighbor who is sick and elderly? Do I ever shop for them or call them? Do I take time to listen when others need to talk? Does the presence of Christ in me make any difference to the way I live? Do I spread scandal and gossip ruining people’s reputations while I receive the One who said judge not and you shall not be judged? Do I use and abuse others while I receive the One who said, “Love others as you would yourselves.” In other words, does the Eucharist make a difference in our lives, or is it something that has become common place? Something we do every Sunday whether we want to or not.
We will never fully realize the full value of the Eucharistic presence. It is a presence which is a promise. A promise of good things which eyes have not seen or ears not yet heard; blessings that have not entered our minds to imagine. The Eucharist exists because of the love of Jesus, a love so strong that He is willing to come to us at every mass. We begin to understand something of what He meant when He said, “I am with you until the end of the world.” We begin to understand what the Psalmist meant when hundreds of years before Christ said, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”