My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
On this Corpus Christi Sunday, we continue to pray for peace and justice in our country and for everyone who is suffering as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.
And as I was reflecting on the first reading on today’s Mass that we heard, it made me think that during these months of the pandemic, the Church has been like Israel in the desert, being afflicted and tested.
Moses tells us today:
The Lord, your God,
has directed all your journeying in the desert,
so as to test you by affliction …
He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger.
In a sense, we have experienced what the Israelites felt. All the uncertainty about where we are going, all the hunger for our daily bread, for the sacraments; all the longing to come home and be joined together as one family around the Lord’s table.
As it was in the time of the Israelites, the Lord God has been “directing” this journey, in the mystery of his Providence, his divine plan for history.
In this pandemic, God has shown us, as he showed the Israelites, “that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”
So my brothers and sisters, maybe we had grown too comfortable, maybe the Eucharist has become something kind of casual for us, something we do without thinking, without love.
Our Lord used this time “in the desert,” under quarantine, to teach us to trust him totally, to depend on him for our very lives. On this journey, he wants us to come to realize the great gift we have in the Eucharist.
Jesus tells us today:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.
Jesus is the Word of God who came down from heaven and became man. He is the Word who was made flesh. And now he gives his flesh to feed us, to be our daily bread.
Jesus wants to remain with us in the Eucharist, until the end of the world, in his Body and Blood. The same Jesus who became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary is present to us in the Eucharist. Perfect God and Perfect Man!
In the Eucharist, our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross is made ever-present before our eyes — so we never forget how much God loves each one of us.
For those of us who are priests, this time of the pandemic has been a time when God has asked us to reflect deeply on the meaning of our priesthood. Because we the priests — we alone have this awesome privilege of celebrating the sacrifice of the Holy Mass.
The Eucharist is the source and the reason for our priestly ministry. We know that in our family, the family of God, our brothers and sisters cannot live by bread alone. God’s family cannot be fed without the ministry of our spiritual fathers.
Jesus Christ knows the hunger of his people — he knows our hunger for God, for holiness, for life and love. And through the ministry of the priest, Jesus satisfies that hunger. We are — the priests are the ones that he entrusts to bring his children the bread of life and the chalice of salvation.
So today let us especially pray for our priests, as they continue to be the ministers of the Eucharist and bringing Jesus to all of us in the Church.
And in the same way all of us should ask for the grace to renew our desire to center our lives in the Eucharist.
As Jesus says in today’s Gospel:
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.
And as we know, our Christian lives are a journey of conversion, as we are following Jesus and becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ.
Jesus humbled himself to share in our humanity, to come down from heaven and show us how to live. Now, he humbles himself to come down to our altars, to be our food — so that we can have communion with him; so that we can share in the divine life of the Most Blessed Trinity.
It’s interesting to think that when we eat ordinary food, that food becomes a part of us. That food keeps us alive and makes us strong.
When we eat the supernatural food of the Eucharist, the bread and wine become a part of us. His flesh becomes our flesh, our lives are joined with his life. This is a beautiful exchange. He remains in us, and we remain in him.
In the Eucharist, we are being made one body, one flesh with Jesus, and one body of Christ in the Church. That’s what St. Paul is talking about in that second reading today:
We though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.
The Body of Christ that we take at the altar makes us the Body of Christ that is the Church. And as the Eucharist is the sacrament of Christ’s love, in every Eucharist he invites us to imitate his love, to love as he loves.
As Jesus gave his life for us on the cross, and as he continues to give his life to us in the Eucharist, he is calling us give our lives in the service of others. Just as he did.
He is calling us to feed people and comfort people, to heal and to liberate, to gather all men and women in the communion of love that is the Church.
And of course, as we see in the unrest in our society and the continued effects of this pandemic, the world, especially the people around us, needs more love, more compassion. The world needs the Church and every one of us.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate this great solemnity of Corpus Christi today — let’s have extraordinary new gratitude, a beautiful new appreciation for this gift of God’s love. The Eucharist — the real gift of God’s love in the Eucharist.
In his humility our Lord Jesus Christ comes to feed us on the journey of our lives, as he fed the Israelites with manna in the desert.
But the food he gives us is not only for the health of our natural body. He gives us food to do His will in our society and food for the salvation of our soul.
Let us ask our Lord today, to never again allow us to take this Sacrament of his love for granted. That the Eucharist will be really the center of our unity with Jesus and that we always will be well-prepared to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Eucharist.
May our Blessed Mother Mary, in whom the Word became flesh, help us to make the Eucharist and the Holy Mass the center of our lives.
1. Readings: Deut. 8:2-3, 14b-16a; Ps. 147:12-15, 19-20; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; John 6:51-58.