Corpus Christi – 16
Gen.14:18-20, 1Cor.11:23-26, Lk.9:11-17
Augustinian nun Juliana of Liège had a vision in which a glistening full moon appeared to her. The moon was perfect but for some hollow dark spots which she was told represented the absence of a feast of the Eucharist. This led to the celebration of the feast of the Body of Christ, Corpus Christi, which was introduced into the church calendar in 1264.
Why do we need a feast of the Eucharist? A feast like this affords us the opportunity to give God collective thanks for Christ’s abiding presence with us which is made visible in the Eucharist. It is also an opportunity for us to seek a better understanding of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
What is our attitude to the sacrament? We need to order our attitude to it accordingly, since the Eucharist is a sacrament of life which, if misused, could bring about the opposite effect. As St Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“All who eat and drink in an unworthy manner, without discerning the Lord’s body eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason, many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1Cor.11:29-30).
In order to arrive at a better understanding of the Eucharist we need to ask why Jesus gave us this sacrament in the first place. A closer reading of today’s gospel or, better still, the whole of the Eucharistic discourse in John 6, provides useful answers.
From the reading we find that there are two main reasons Jesus gave us this sacrament. (1) Jesus promised to be with us until the end of time (Matt.28:20). In the Eucharist he provides a visible sign and an effective means of him being present to us and us being present to him. As Jesus himself said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”
(2) Jesus said that he came that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn.10:10). In the Eucharist he provides a visible means of communicating this life to us so that we can be fully alive both in this world and in the next.
As Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day” (Jn.6:53-54).
The Jews that Jesus was addressing in John 6 had gathered to ask him for more bread. Jesus promised to give them the sacramental bread and blood instead. But in their worldly frame of mind they could not understand or appreciate the sacrament.
We all have that longing for more and more. There seems to be this void in us that longs to be filled, and we will fill it with bargains, offers, pleasures, things, money, status. It is like a bottomless pit, a black hole which sucks in everything and yet leaves us longing for more.
Somehow, contentment and satisfaction seem to be missing in our vocabulary. At least they seem to be the words that we seldom use. There is a longing in our hearts, but do we know what we are really longing for?
In the gospel, we heard that a crowd of about 5000 followed Jesus. Now, that is not a small number of people. What were they looking for in Jesus? What do they want from Him? Yes, they were looking for something, they want something. But we also know what Jesus did for them.
Jesus taught them about the kingdom of God – about truth and justice, about mercy and compassion and forgiveness. And then He healed them of their troubles, their afflictions and their obsessions. And finally He fed them with simple food of fish and bread.
They ate as much as they wanted, and they knew what contentment and satisfaction was, because they ate as much as they wanted. We have come to the Mass to listen to the voice of God in the scripture readings.
The readings teach us about the kingdom of God and how we ought to live our lives. And today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi – Jesus feeds us with His Body. This is the one big event of the Church on every Sunday; in fact, it is happening every day at the daily Mass.
To be fed with the Body of Christ is our hearts’ deepest desire that will bring about true contentment. But we have to realize the contentment that the Body of Christ will give us.
There is a story of a man who was always grumbling about his wife and complaining about his life. So the Lord sent an angel to him to grant him 3 wishes. The angel asked him to make his first wish. Immediately the man wished that his wife would die so that he could marry a younger and better wife.
So his wish was granted, and his wife died. Then during the wake, his relatives and friends talked about how good a woman his wife was, caring for the home and his needs, docile and humble, always giving in to him and making sacrifices for him.
Then the man felt remorseful for taking his wife for granted and always grumbling and complaining about her. So for his second wish, he asked that his wife would come back to life, and so she did.
Then there was only one wish left, and he thought hard about it. Finally, he asked the angel what should he wish for. And the angel replied: Finally, you have come to your senses. Just ask to be contended and satisfied, and then you will be happy.
So we have heard the scripture readings which teach us about the kingdom of God. As we come forward later for communion, we will be given the Body of Christ. Let us ask that the Body of Christ will fill our hearts with contentment.
May the Body of Christ heal us of our afflictions of body and mind, and may the Body of Christ also heal us of our obsessions so that our hearts will be filled with joy and happiness.
And may we in turn be the Body of Christ for others so that they too will be filled and be contended. Let this be the great event today. And may it be the great event every day. Amen.