This reflection was taken from the Sunday Mass Readings of June 22, 2014:
Ten years ago today, I–for the first time in my life–had the extraordinary honor of receiving Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Not only was it the Feast of St. Anthony (the saint I later chose for my Confirmation name) that day, but it was also–as it is today–the Feast of Corpus Christi. I was blessed to be allowed to have my First Communion about a year early–and of all occasions, on the feast of the Sacrament itself!
This feast day of Corpus Christi was actually proclaimed in honor of a Eucharistic miracle that occurred back in 1263 (I’ve added a link below that recalls the history of the event). Miracles like it are awesome graces given to us by God, so that we may have ever-greater faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
When Jesus said, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), many Christians think that the main emphasis was on the “memory” part; and they are right, there is emphasis there–we are supposed to do it in memory of His Sacrifice. But “do” what, exactly?
That’s where the Real Presence comes into play. Jesus didn’t say to the Apostles, “reenact this in memory of me;” He didn’t say, “make this symbol in memory of me;” rather, He said “do this in memory of me”–meaning that we, too, should offer Him as a sacrifice. Jesus wasn’t just being symbolic when He said, “This is my body.” He meant it.
Yes, I’ve been listening to Scott Hahn–but that’s not the point!
I remember reading a side note in the New American Bible, which says that, in John’s Gospel (actually, in the Gospel Reading we hear today), when John wrote of the Lord speaking of “eating His Flesh,” John originally used a word for “eat” that meant something more like “munch” or “gnaw.” They believe that John may have used this term to put emphasis on the fact that Jesus really was present in the Eucharist–that we really are supposed to eat Him (perhaps it was the phrase that Jesus used Himself).
Jesus obviously meant the statement “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood shall have eternal life” literally. If He’d meant it figuratively, either the Jews He was talking to would have understood that, or–I would think–He would have made sure to explain it to them (or at least to the Apostles, as He did some of His parables). And speaking of the Apostles–the first ones inspired with teaching authority by the Holy Spirit–I would certainly think that they would have been informed, at some point or another, if Jesus had meant the statement figuratively.
Jesus says that, if we do not eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, we do not have life within us; for it is His life force which gives life to the rest of us. Obviously, He has given us all physical life; but consuming His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and really understanding the Sacrament as best as is humanly possible, feeds our souls–and thereby helps to give us richer spiritual life.
From most of what I’ve heard (between my pastor, EWTN online, and a book entitled Eucharistic Miracles), the best way to define the Blessed Sacrament is that the Eucharist–Communion–is Jesus’s True Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, under the “species” of bread and wine. What I get out of that (which is probably correct, but I’m not an authority), is that it is the unseen reality of the bread and wine which are transformed–transubstantiated–into the unseen (with the exception of Eucharistic miracles) reality of Jesus Christ.
Jesus has shown us many, many times through Eucharistic miracles–over a hundred if I’m not mistaken–that He is actually present in the Eucharist. What we receive–who we receive–is Jesus, nothing more, nothing less. Don’t miss the wonderful opportunity that God has given us to bring His Son, our Lord and Savior, under the very “roofs” of our beings–a gift He offers us every day, and a gift that we should put all our effort into accepting at least every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. He doesn’t ask this of us for His glory, but for our good. The graces that are given in the act of going to Mass and receiving Jesus are incredible and unimaginable–just as is Jesus Himself.
by Cameron Daly