On the eleventh of August 2013, something very remarkable and astonishing happened. It was a Sunday and I celebrated Mass for my vibrant congregation. I remember that my homily that day dwelt on the “SECRETS OF ETERNAL TREASURE” drawing from the gospel of Luke (12:32-48). Among other things our Lord Jesus Christ gave helpful instructions about storing our treasures eternally. In fact he said: “Provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is your heart will also be”
After the mass, I left to attend to some sick and aged people as I would do most Sundays. Of course I went with Holy Communion; the greatest treasure ever. I attended to two of them and was making my way back when a very striking mishap took place. I was driving behind a man on one of the major roads in the city when suddenly the man decided, without warning, to do a U-turn. His manoeuvre was unprecedented and sudden. I tried all I could to evade a head-on collision, but it was rather late and dangerously near. What followed was a collision that sent me and my car off the road to an unprecedented location (fortunately no car was behind me on that busy road); it was as if my whole being was switched off for a moment. When I regained consciousness, I saw some people surrounding me and asking me if I was alright. It was then that it dawned on me that I just had a very nasty accident that made the battery in my car to explode, the bonnet was rumpled like one could do to a piece of paper, the driver’s door was also ruptured.
I came out from the wreck without any scratch; in fact a medical examination afterwards declared me fit as a fiddle. But that was not the high point. The most amazing thing was that Holy Communion I was having in the car was untouched; in fact the place I kept Sacred Species was unaffected by the accident. There will be no need to ask why I came out from that dastardly ugly incident unhurt because the answer is not far-fetched. Our Lord Jesus Christ actually fulfilled his promise of Matthew (28:20b) “I will be with you always to the end of time”. He is absolutely with us but more profoundly in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. All these amazing graces brought about the erection of a magnificent chapel of perpetual adoration after my anniversary at the instance of my friends.
Today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Today we celebrate God’s most precious gift to us; the eternal treasure we must accept and appreciate. It all began in the gospel of John (6:33-58) when our Lord took time to tell his hearers about the real food and drink namely, his body and his blood. As was expected, they could not understand how one should eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have life; “are we cannibals?” They had asked. It was during the last Supper that our Lord Jesus Christ ritualized the Holy Eucharist when after the Supper he took bread and blessing it gave it to them saying “take and eat this is my body” and in the same way he took the cup filled with wine and said “take and drink this is my blood”. (Matt. 26:26-30 Mk. 14:22-26; Luke 22: 14-20; I Cor. 11:23-25).
It will be very necessary to make an active and committed reflection on the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. For instance He took the BREAD and after giving thanks (praying) he said: “take and eat this is my BODY!” He took bread and after giving thanks, that is after praying he said take and eat this is my body. We can notice here that after giving thanks (praying) the BREAD was no longer BREAD but became his BODY. This brings us to what happens at the instance of the prayer of consecration which is traditionally known as TRANSUBTANTIATION. This simply means the change of the substance of BREAD and WINE to the BODY and BLOOD (soul and divinity) of our Lord Jesus Christ while still retaining the same appearances of bread and wine.
This is yet another mystery which could be hard for human reason to grasp unaided by sublime faith. It is important to note that once there is a substantial change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the change remains even after the Eucharistic celebration. This is actually why the Sacred Species of Christ’s body are preserved in the tabernacle and (or) exposed for adoration.
Transubstantiation which is creedal to the Catholic faith is distinguishable and opposed to the following:
- Consubstantiation (an error which says that at the words of consecration the bread and wine exist together with the body and blood of Christ).
- Transignification (an error which says that at the words of consecration there is a change in the significance or meaning of the bread and wine to symbolize the body and blood of Christ).
- Transfinalization (an error which says that the purpose and end of the bread and wine is changed at the words of consecration).
Many people have found this doctrine a lot puzzling and difficult to contain. In response to this, some miraculous events had taken place to convince doubting minds; these are called the Eucharistic miracles.
- At Lanciano Italy about the 8th Century AD, a Basilian Monk was in doubt about the substantial change and real presence of Jesus Christ. One day while celebrating mass, after the twofold consecration the bread physically turned into real flesh and the wine turned into real blood. After many years of scientific examination involving pathological histology and clinical microscopy, it was discovered that the flesh is real flesh (muscular tissue of the heart) and the blood is real blood; blood type AB, The same that was found at the Holy Shroud of Turin. (The clothing that was used to wrap the body of Jesus at the burial). The flesh and blood are still preserved till date.
- Consecrated hosts have been found preserved for 250 years in Sienna Italy. (August 17, 1730).
- In Holland in 1345 the Holy Eucharist was found untouched within a fierce fire outbreak.
- The sacred host that felled from the mouth of a woman turns into blood in Blanot France (March 13th 1331).
THE EFFECTS OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST IN OUR LIVES.
We can use the analogy of what food does to our body to understand what the Holy Eucharist does for us. Food helps in our body metabolism just as the Holy Eucharist assists in our soul metabolism.
- UNITY: When we eat ordinary food it is assimilated into our body and blood stream. In the reception of the Holy Eucharist, we are assimilated into Christ and become one with him. For this reason in John 6:56 Jesus said:”Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood abides in me and I abide in him”. Our unity with Christ in the Holy Eucharist also brings about our unity with one another. That is why it is called Holy Communion. In the Holy Eucharist we see a fulfillment of the words and promise of Christ: “I will be with you till the end of time”. (Matt.28:20).
- Spiritual Growth and Development: As the ordinary food we eat helps us in physical growth and development, the Holy Eucharist assists us in our spiritual growth and development.
- 3. Spiritual Strength: Spiritual strength is given to us by our reception of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We ingest ordinary food in view of various nutrients to assist us in our daily lives. The Holy Eucharist helps us to gain spiritual vigour and energy.
- 4. Eternal Life: Eternal life is set in motion by our steadfast reception of the Holy Eucharist. In John 6: 54 our Lord said: “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.
- Safeguard against sin especially mortal sin: Ordinary food helps us to build antibodies and physical immunity. The Holy Eucharist received worthily continuously helps us to build immunity against sin. By becoming one with Christ, it becomes difficult for us to relapse into sin which is actually estrangement from God. It solidly builds a wall around us from the poisonous sting of sin.
These special attributes of the Holy Eucharist can only come to fruition in our lives if we are spiritually and inwardly ready to participate without the consciousness of any sin. Judas received and the devil entered into him. When you receive, do you experience something positive or do you relapse into further sin. What comes over you after partaking? Do you receive because other people are receiving or because you are in a state of grace? When last did you receive the Holy Eucharist in absolute state of innocence? It is called the sacrament of Holy Communion; do you experience by your reception a Holy Communion with Jesus Christ and with the members of the worshipping community? Will Jesus Christ be glad to dwell in you as you come along today to receive him?
There is a story about a group of Americans and Russians undertaking a joint exploration in the high sea. During lunch they usually bring along their respective country’s delicacies to share among themselves. One day a Russian came along with the Russian bread which is black, hard and sweet. An American took interest in the bread and taking a slice, he took a bite and instantly he snapped a tooth. In desperation he said: “What a lousy communist bread” and threw the piece over board. The Russian who brought the bread said: “No it is rather your rotten capitalist tooth that made you snap a tooth”. The Holy Eucharist is powerful itself as the true body and blood, soul and soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence if you do not get the spiritual effect from its reception then you must check your life very well.
May the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist help us to be more resolved and committed in its reception and adoration. Do have a most awesome celebration of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.