Food and drink are very essential for the physical functioning of the human being. The food and drink we take give us nutrients like vitamins, minerals, water, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. These are in turn helps in the building and reconstruction of our body tissues, organs, and the release of energy.
Without food and drink, our body metabolism slows down, the immune system is affected, and we become vulnerable to various kinds of diseases that could predispose us to death. Apart from eating, another concern is what we eat; “WE ARE WHAT WE EAT.” There is thus a strong relationship between what we eat and how we appear physically. Malnutrition could also have a mental consequence.
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which our Lord himself gives the appellation: “REAL FOOD AND REAL DRINK” (John 6:55). Why did our Lord Jesus Christ give us his body and blood to eat and to drink? How does this “Holy meal” affect our lives?
Rekindling our understanding of the Eucharist
The Holy Eucharist is the true body and blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist on the night before he was betrayed and arrested.
Before the institution proper, our Lord made statements pointing to the power and reality of the Eucharist. The Gospel John (6:53-59) says:
So Jesus said to them, “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; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.
Our Lord Jesus institutes the Holy Eucharist before he enters the passion that led to his death and eventually his resurrection. We could recall that the first sin of Adam and Eve came because of eating the wrong thing which brought death. Similarly, our Lord intends to give us eternal life through right eating; namely, his Body and Blood.
The Synoptic Gospels and the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians agree that our Lord took bread and after giving thanks (blessing it), he tells the apostles to take and eat his body. He also took a cup filled with wine, and after giving thanks (blessing it), he gave them to drink his blood. He added that they should do what he did in his memory. (Matt. 26:26-28, Mk.14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1Cor. 11:23-25).
The key learning about the Holy Eucharist is that in the sacrament, we receive the totality of Jesus Christ. We thus receive not only the incarnated Jesus Christ but also the resurrected and ascended Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that we maintain that in the Holy Eucharist we receive the TRUE BODY AND BLOOD, SOUL, AND DIVINITY of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Holy Eucharist, we receive the FULL PACKAGE of Jesus Christ. Even in the tiniest piece of consecrated bread contains the whole of Jesus Christ.
In the Holy Eucharist, we also receive the Holy Trinity; hence we not only receive the totality of Jesus Christ, but we also receive the entirety of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. We understand that we receive the Holy Trinity in the Holy Eucharist from our knowledge that the three divine persons share one essence. In the Holy Eucharist, we receive the divinity of Jesus Christ which he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
If you pay attention to the words of consecration, you will discover the action of the Holy Trinity in the action of TRANSUBSTANTIATION which means the change of the substance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ while still retaining the physical qualities of bread and wine. The preface prayer (IV), for instance, runs thus:
Therefore, O Lord, (God the Father) we pray: may this same Holy Spirit (God the Holy Spirit) graciously sanctify these offerings, that they may become the Body + and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (God the Son) for the celebration of this great mystery, which he himself left us as an eternal covenant. (The words in brackets are mine).
We shall use the rest of the space in this reflection to examine how the Holy Eucharist can become more meaningful for us as we make a daily encounter with this most wondrous sacrament that forms the source and summit of the Church’s life and ministry.
Rekindling a worthy reception
The first thing we should know is what the Centurion taught us in the Gospel of Matthew (8:8) “I am not worthy to receive you under my roof.” It should amaze us that God has given us the privilege to be his host; to have him under the roof of our mortal mouths.
If we can prepare and put our houses in perfect shape when someone very distinguished is coming for a visit to us, we are even more challenged to make a more detailed preparation to have the totality of Jesus Christ in us; his body, blood, soul, and divinity.
To rekindle a worthy reception, we need to prepare our souls by eliminating all known sins. This means that we need to avail ourselves the opportunity of receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. Why it is important that we cleanse ourselves of sins before we approach the Holy Eucharist, we are not expected to repeat the mistake of Judas Iscariot who received in an unworthy manner, and the devil entered him (John 13:27). Our disposition would determine the efficacy of the Holy Eucharist in our lives.
Rekindling our awareness of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is consistently present in the Holy Eucharist; we are only unaware of his presence. The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is not what we can verify physically because it is substantial. One of the Eucharistic miracles at Lanciano, Italy, in the eight century AD, tells us about the physical change of the bread and wine to real flesh and blood when a Basilian Monk was celebrating the Holy Eucharist and was doubtful of the Real Presence.
We do not need to see like Thomas, the apostle before believing and accept the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. When we recognize his Real Presence, we can transcend to another level which involves prayerful communication with him both at the raising of the body and the cup, when we receive him during communion, and when we adore him; the three most remarkable moments of our Eucharistic experience.
Rekindling our Communion with Jesus Christ and with one another
Our Lord Jesus Christ says to us “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (John 6:56). The statement above forms the basis of our description of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as communion.
We become what we eat! By participating in the Holy Eucharist, we enter communion with Jesus Christ whose body and blood, soul, and divinity we receive. This communion should also predispose us to communion with one another and thus realize the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father: “The glory you have given me I have given, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:22).
Our reception of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ should not only bring us closer to him but should also create a community of love amongst us. We cannot be partaking from the same table while living in anger and resentment with one another. We have one table, one sacrifice, one Lord and one community of love.
As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us take some time to re-examine our understanding and appreciation of the wonderful privilege we have in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Have a transforming celebration of “Corpus et Sanguinis Christi.”