Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi - Year A - Jn. 6:51-58
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
" Jesus said: «I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.»
" The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, «How can this man give us his flesh to eat?» So Jesus said to them, «Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.» "
" «I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.» "
In this year dedicated to the Eucharist by Pope John Paul II, the solemnity of Corpus Christi has a special importance. For us, it is an opportunity to try to understand a little better what the Eucharist is in the life of the Church and of the world.
The Council of Trent, in the 16th century, defined the number of sacraments recognized by the Catholic Church. There are seven: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, marriage, holy orders, penance, and extreme unction. Today, these last two sacraments are referred to by names that are a little more appropriate: we call them reconciliation and the anointing of the sick.
All of these sacraments exist only within us, in our soul, in the spiritual soul of everyone who receives them. But there is an exception to this rule: it is the Eucharist, which at first exists outside of us, before we eat it, under the form of bread, or before we drink it, under the form of wine. This is where the difficulty lies, and above all this is what makes it a great mystery!
During the Eucharistic celebration, the priest takes some bread and says, speaking in the name of Christ, and in his person: "This is my Body." Then he takes a cup filled with wine, and says, similarly: "This is the cup of my Blood..." This is what we call the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. So, after the consecration, what we see is no longer bread or wine, but rather the Body and Blood of Christ.
All the difficulty is there, all the mystery is there! What we see is not bread, what we see is not wine! We can discuss this in every possible and imaginable way, but in the end we will always come to the same conclusion: what we see, what we touch, what we smell, what we taste, and even, in a certain measure, what we hear, is neither bread nor wine, but rather the Body and Blood of Christ!
Why? Because Christ, who is God, said so, through the person of the priest: "This is my Body... This is my Blood..." Let us not forget: Christ is God, and God is never wrong. When he says something, it is true! When he says that what we see is not bread, but the Body of Christ, we must believe it!
We are not the masters of the Eucharist, the Church is not the master of the Eucharist: the Church received the Eucharist from the Lord's hands. By giving his Body and Blood to his disciples, the Apostles, on the evening of Holy Thursday, Christ gave them, at the same time, the power to perpetuate his Eucharistic memorial. By this very fact, we can say, in a certain sense, that the Church - in the person of her ordained ministers, who are the bishops and priests - is unceasingly receiving this power from her Lord.
Indeed, we must not believe that it is sufficient to be ordained a priest in order to be able to celebrate the Eucharist. The sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ must always be celebrated in obedience to Christ, receiving from him all power over his Body and Blood; an obedience that is not just an empty word, but one that is made concrete by fidelity and submission to the Roman Pontiff, the representative of Christ on earth.
Nothing is more beautiful, nothing is greater, nothing is more complete than the celebration of the Eucharist! When we celebrate the Eucharist, already the Lord comes to judge the world, already he resurrects us, already he welcomes us at his feet and draws us into his Sacred Heart, in order that by partaking of his Passion we might continue his Work of Love and Peace! May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the "woman of the Eucharist" (H.H. John Paul II, Encyclical on the Eucharist, "Ecclesia de Eucharistia"), help us to live this great mystery a little better each day!