Today we celebrate Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord. We are going to study possibly the most shocking and even scandalous teaching of Christianity: the Real Presence of Jesus. Our readings today show us Jesus causing a terrible scandal. He tells the people,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)
Many of His disciples no longer follow him because they cannot truly believe that they should eat his body and drink his blood. It sounded like cannibalism and it scared them. We know what He meant. Jesus makes himself really and truly present but under the appearances of bread and wine. In other words, at the moment of Consecration Jesus works two miracles:
- He changes ordinary bread and wine into his body and blood (a miracle known by the spelling-bee-word Transubstantiation).
- He allows it to continue to appear and taste just like bread and wine.
This means that Jesus himself, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, is really, truly, sacramentally present in the Tabernacle. Our Savior said it and we believe He was telling the truth. The old joke is that the little sanctuary lamp burning beside the tabernacle says: “The Savior is… IN”; We know Jesus is home because His porch light is on. Most Catholics have never really reflected on this earth-shattering idea. It is a mystery that requires faith to believe. At Mass we are chewing the body of Jesus; we really “eat our Maker.” How awesome! How beautiful! How humbling.
As shocking and scandalous as this belief is, there is perhaps an even greater scandal. When we come forward to receive Communion, it really is Jesus: body, blood, soul, and Divinity who enters our body and thence into our soul. He shares his body and blood with us in the Eucharist and this makes us one flesh with Jesus Christ, almighty God and Savior. The two become “one flesh.”
When else does it happen that two people share their body and blood with each other? In marriage. A bride and a groom make a total gift of themselves by standing in front of a Church full of family and friends and promising to be true to you good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I will love you and honor you all the days of my life. That night their promises become reality as they share their body and blood with one another. Their words of consent created a Communion of life and love; sharing their body and blood made this Communion real.
In a similar way, at baptism we promised to be true to Christ in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. We were baptized into Christ. Then at our First Communion we share his body and blood. Our promise became a reality. Through receiving Jesus’ body and blood, and sharing ours with Him, we become One Flesh with Almighty God. No, we don’t lose who we are, but we become all we were meant to be. Being a Christian is not about being a good person. Everyone is called to be good, not just Christians. Being a Christian is about becoming Christ. We were Christened at Baptism – we took on the identity of Christ.
This is why both the Eucharist and the Church are referred to as the Body of Christ. The Eucharist is his Body sacramentally. The Church is his Body because she has become One Flesh with the One who loves her. When you receive Communion you are presented with the host and the priest says, “The Body of Christ.” It’s both a statement and a question: “This is the Body of Christ; are you?” Your Amen says both: “Yes I believe; Yes I am willing.”
What does it take to be the Body of Christ? We have to become worthy of our Savior’s love. That means we reject every form of sin and selfishness. It means that in our daily life, we are the face of Christ to our neighbors. Jesus lives in me, and I in him.
- Have you been the face of Jesus to your husband or wife?
- To your children or parents?
- Have you been Jesus at the office?
- Is he “one flesh” with you in your past times and private life, or are they things that Jesus wouldn’t do?
This is why we come to church every single Sunday. We can’t be Jesus without constantly returning to the source of his love and being refreshed by his Body and Blood. Only when we have received Him can we offer Him to others. Our words should come from the One who loves us. Our kindness should look like his. Our sacrifices should show his love. Most of all, our faces should glow with the joy of knowing we are loved by Almighty God. People should be able to look at your face and think: The Savior is… IN!