June 21, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

Bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“What he did at supper seated, Christ ordained to be repeated, His memorial ne’er to cease: And his rule for guidance taking, Bread and wine we hallow, making Thus our sacrifice of peace. This the truth each Christian learns, Bread into his flesh he turns, To his precious blood the wine.” (From “Lauda Sion,” sequence for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ)

This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). As we sing in the sequence for this great feast, the Eucharist is the never-ending memorial of our redemption. It is our participation in the sacrificial action of our Lord’s outpouring of love for us.

In the Eucharist, the Word of God becomes flesh once again. Every time the Mass is celebrated, the Lord gives himself to us. Every time we gather to worship him and to partake in his marvelous act of self-giving, we encounter the person of Jesus Christ in the most intimate way possible.

When we eat his body and drink his blood, we become united with him in love and in truth. Could there be anything more wonderful? What an unimaginable privilege! We who are not worthy that the Lord should come into our hearts are given the most intimate access to him!

When ordinary bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood, something quite extraordinary happens. And when we who are ordinary human beings receive this sacrament, we are united with Christ, and with one another, in a most extraordinary way.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, an 18th-century Italian of Spanish descent, was a spiritual writer and theologian and an inspiring preacher. He founded Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin’s religious order, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), and, toward the end of his life, he was consecrated a bishop—a responsibility he accepted very reluctantly because of his advanced age and his poor health. Fortunately for us, St. Alphonsus devoted much of his time as a bishop to writing sermons, books and articles to encourage devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

One of the themes explored by St. Alphonsus was the presence of Jesus in the hiddenness of the Blessed Sacrament. Visit any parish church in our archdiocese, or any chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. There you will find the Lord—really present—dwelling in the hiddenness of the tabernacle night and day through all the weeks and months of the year (except Good Friday and Holy Saturday).

He waits there for us like a lover who silently, but eagerly, anticipates the return of a loved one who has been away—for a day, a week, a month or even years. How long have we kept him waiting? How long has it been since we recognized his real presence in the holy Eucharist and received him prayerfully at Mass? How long has it been since we knelt before him outside of Mass and acknowledged his gift-of-self to us?

St. Alphonsus once wrote that “a soul can do nothing that is more pleasing to God than to communicate in a state of grace.” This seemingly simple statement contains volumes of spiritual wisdom. God is pleased when we come to him—reverently, worthily, eagerly and conscious of the great love he has for us. When we communicate with him, we express our adoration, our humility, our tender affection, our need for forgiveness and our desire to be united with him in mind and heart, body and soul.

Have you given yourself to the Lord lately? Go to him. Communicate with him—by attending Mass, receiving the holy Eucharist, visiting an adoration chapel, and opening your heart to him. He may seem hidden, but our faith tells us with absolute certainty that Jesus Christ is really present, his body and blood made accessible to us in this great sacrament of love.

Our human weakness takes all this for granted. Too often, we go through the motions reflecting only the faintest acknowledgement of the wonderful thing that is happening to us as we receive holy Communion. We call this “our sacrifice of peace” because our communion with Jesus cost him dearly. He gave up everything so that we might be united with him.

Through this great sacrament, we encounter the person of Jesus Christ in the most intimate way possible. As we receive his body and blood, our bodies are refreshed and our souls are renewed in him.

Let’s renew our sense of wonder and amazement at the indescribable blessings we receive when Jesus’ humanity becomes one with ours and his divinity transforms us and makes us new. †

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