“While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’” (Mark 14:22-24)
Dear friends, today we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ which in Latin is known as “Corpus Christi.” You may wonder, why is there a special feast to celebrate something we do every day be it morning Mass or Sunday Mass. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. The great abuses we find today are a testament to the fact that it is possible for us to take this great gift for granted. Today’s Feast serves three purposes: reminder, renewal, and re-awakening.
1. Holy Communion is a Covenant
The first purpose of today’s feast is to serve as a reminder that Holy Communion is a blood covenant. Our first reading this morning traces the origin of the Holy Communion in the Old Testament. Moses built an Altar, he took the blood of all the oxen offered by the people, half of the blood he poured in basins, half he threw on the Altar.
Moses then took the book of the covenant, the book containing God’s instructions, read it to the people and they all said, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do and we will be obedient.” Having received their consent, Moses took the blood in the basin and sprinkled it on the people.
Come to think of it, this is exactly what happens at every mass. First, we listen to the readings read from the book of the covenant as well as the homily. Then we rise to profess the Creed – agreeing to do everything contained in the readings. Then we proceed to the Eucharist. Now the priest does not sprinkle ordinary blood on us, we get to drink the blood of Christ and eat His flesh.
This is what our second reading today teaches us. “When Christ came as a high priest, He entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls sanctifies those who have been defiled, how much more, will the blood of Christ purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!” (Hebrews 9:11-14)
2. Holy Communion Purifies Our Conscience
As the book of Hebrews says, in Holy Communion, we are sprinkled with the blood of Christ which purifies our conscience from dead works to the worship of the living God. This is the point Jesus Christ himself made when He 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.” (John 6:53). In other words, if we stay away from Holy Communion, we become living dead – we have no life in us.
Meanwhile, if we must come forward for Holy Communion, we must ensure that we are in a State of Grace; that is, that we have prepared ourselves by abstaining from sin or by going for confession. And as we have seen above, before we step forward for communion, we must have made up our minds to obey all that is written in the book of the covenant (the Holy Bible).
Without this spiritual preparation, we would be doing great harm to ourselves. In the words of St. Paul, “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29).
Do not come forward if you do not believe that it is Jesus Christ you are about to receive. Do not come forward just to give others the impression that you are holy. It is not a show. Do not come forward if you have no intention of repenting from your sins or beginning a new life. Holy Communion works great wonders but without active faith on your part, it would seem like eating ordinary bread.
3. Jesus is Truly Present in the Holy Communion
The second purpose of today’s feast is the renewal of our faith in God’s true presence the Holy Eucharist. As we can see in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus did not say “this is like my body” he didn’t say “this reminds you of my body” neither did he say “this is an image or a symbol of my body”. No. Jesus said: “This is My Body! This is My Blood.”
Holy Communion is not merely a symbol of the body and blood of Jesus. It is Jesus’ real flesh and blood. This is why we worship Jesus in the Eucharist. We know that He is fully present in the tabernacle. If you see me kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament or fully prostrated or even using my head to touch the floor in front of the monstrance, it is because I recognize the presence of God inside that Host. If you consider this to be idolatry, then what would you say of Moses’ action in our first reading of today?
We may sing and dance to all the worship songs in the world, read the entire bible, pray in all the languages of the world, etc. but without Holy Communion, our worship is not complete. As a Catholic, I do not turn the church into an entertainment centre of sorts or dress half-naked because I know I am coming into the presence of God. I do not shout at the top of my voice when I pray because I know that God is not far away but is right here with me in the Tabernacle. I touch God and kiss Him when I come to receive Holy Communion. This is why I love my Catholic Faith.
4. Holy Communion is our Ticket to Heaven.
Today’s feast re-awakens us spiritually to our true identity. As Jesus tells us in John 6:54, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” If we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, we are no longer ordinary human beings. Just as a covenant makes us entitled to certain benefits, Holy Communion makes us recipients of the promised eternal inheritance.
Do you wonder what gave the saints so much power to do these extraordinary deeds for which we remember them today? It is the faithful and fervent reception of Holy Communion worthily over the course of their lives. Look at it this way, when we strive each day to receive Jesus in a state of purity, Jesus comes into us to further strengthen us with His special grace to live above sin. As such with Jesus working inside us, we are able to resist temptations and when the evildoers come near us, they would flee because light and darkness cannot intermingle.
With constant Holy Communion, you just cannot miss heaven. This is why Jesus gave it to us in the first place. Jesus knows that we are humans, flesh and blood, weak creatures. He knows that left to our own strength and willpower, we cannot resist sin. He knows we would need supernatural strength all the time so Jesus decided to give us Himself in Holy Communion. Without communion, you have no life in you.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, increase my love and devotion to your true presence in the Holy Eucharist. Amen.
Bible Study: Exodus 24:3-8, Psalm 116:12-18, Hebrew 9:11-15, Mark 14:12-26).