Today the Church celebrates the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus et Sanguis Christi as it was once known. This solemnity celebrates the most precious gift Jesus ever gave to mankind; himself in the form of bread and wine. As we hear in the Gospel today, Jesus’ flesh is real food and His blood is real drink, anyone who eats and drinks from the Lord’s table will live in Jesus and Jesus will live in them.
For the past three months we have been denied the privilege of receiving Jesus Sacramentally in order to do our part in maintaining public health. We have only been able to make a Spiritual Communion (see the prayer at the end of the reflection) and this has left us hungry for the food which can bring us eternal life and a new appreciation of how much it means to us.
Those with access have been able to take part in the Mass through the internet. Jim McManus; a Redemptorist priest working in Scotland; describes our Eucharistic Celebration as follows
“The Mass is the eternal sacrifice of Christ made present to us sacramentally under the species of bread and wine. The priest, as he extends his hands over the bread and wine, prays in the words of the second Eucharistic Prayer
‘Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit like the dewfall, so that they may become for us, the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Just as Jesus was conceived in his Mother’s womb, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so through that same power of the Spirit the bread and wine are transformed into his Body and Blood.”1
Mass is central to our public worship and please God we may be able to resume celebrating this eternal sacrifice again to witness in the same room when the priest calls down the Holy Spirit to give us the food and drink of eternal life. As St Pope Paul VI said in his Encyclical Mysterium fidei –
“The Lord is immolated (sacrificed) in an unbloody way in the Sacrifice of the Mass and He re-presents the sacrifice of the Cross and applies its salvific (saving) power at the moment when he becomes sacramentally present— through the words of consecration—as the spiritual food of the faithful, under the appearances of bread and wine.”2
Notice how St Paul VI says re-presents, meaning to present again, each and every time the Mass is celebrated the priest doesn’t just recall the sacrifice of the cross; the priest renews the sacrifice by re-presenting it.3
During this time when we have been deprived of physically attending Mass, I have been so grateful for being able to access Mass online, my gratitude for the priests involved is immense, it cannot have been easy for them to celebrate in an empty church building, but I believe they will take comfort from knowing that the Church is not confined to buildings and that we the Faithful have been with them through the modern media links, which many of us take for granted. These priests have remembered another part of Paul VI’s document where he says that priests have to be
“mindful of the power they have received from the bishop who ordained them—the power of offering sacrifice to God and of celebrating Mass for the living and for the dead in the name of the Lord. We recommend that they celebrate Mass daily in a worthy and devout fashion, so that they themselves and the rest of the faithful may enjoy the benefits that flow in such abundance from the Sacrifice of the Cross. In doing so, they will also be making a great contribution toward the salvation of mankind.”
I believe that even those who do not have access to the internet will draw comfort from knowing that our priests are still celebrating the Eucharist every day and praying for us, the living and for our departed loved ones.
In his Homily for Corpus Christi last year, Pope Francis said the Eucharist is an example of doing big things with little; “for there we find God himself contained in a piece of bread. Being simple and essential, bread broken and shared, the Eucharist we receive allows us to see things as God does.”
“It inspires us to give ourselves to others,” he said, calling it “the antidote to the mindset that says: ‘Sorry, that is not my problem,’ or ‘I have no time, I can’t help you, it’s none of my business.’”4
In these days when there are so many people classed by our Government as ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Extremely Vulnerable’ how has our relationship with the Eucharist inspired us to help them? Are we aware of who is vulnerable around us? At the start of the lockdown, one parishioner who lives near me, put little notes through neighbours’ doors to offer to help with things like shopping or collecting medication. Some neighbours, who have no family living nearby, have benefitted from this lady’s generosity; she has replied to Pope Francis’ challenge with “It is my problem, I have time, I can help you.” I know that many others in our Communities are doing similar things.
As believers, we are inspired by God’s presence in the Eucharist, remembering the words of Jesus
“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.”
I pray that for all those who would have made their First Holy Communion during this pandemic and that this week we can all draw inspiration from our Spiritual Communion to give ourselves to others in a way that contributes to the salvation of mankind.
Deacon Tony Darroch, 12th June 2020.
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1 Jim McManus, The Healing Power of the SACRAMENTS, (Redemptorist Publications, Chawton, Hampshire, 2015)118.
2 Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, available fromhttp://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_03091965_mysterium.html accessed 12th June 2020
3 Raniero Cantalamesa, The Eucharist – Our Sanctification, (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1995)12-13.
4 Pope Francis, Homily Corpus Christi 2019 available from https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2019/06/on-corpus-christi-pope-says-eucharist-is-the-antidote-to-selfishness/ accessed 12th June 2020
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.