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June 3, 2018 - You Are What You Eat!

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Scripture Readings

Every so often, I am in total awe at things that connects us to ancient history. The Feast of Corpus Christi is one of those celebrations. The history of this goes as far back as 498 AD. In the early church, Holy Thursday came to be known as Natalis Calicis, or the Birth of the Chalice. However, since the focus of Holy week was on the passion and death of Jesus, the main event of Holy Thursday, the Last Supper at which Jesus gave us his body and blood, did not get the importance it deserved. Into the picture comes St. Juliana of Mount Cornillion, in the late 12thCentury. Her devotion to Blessed Sacrament, a vision she had, and her personal efforts led to a special day being set aside celebrate Corpus Christi. By mid 13thCentury, the Feast of Corpus Christi was an established celebration in the church. On Sept 8, 1264, Pope Urban and IV declared the annual celebration of the Feast of Corpus to be celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. 

It would not be an exaggeration to say that without our faith in the real presence of Christ in bread and wine that Catholicism would be dead. Our Church, our worship, our faith, and our life is based on the reality of the Body of Christ. Let us draw three practical implications from this central feast of the Church.  

a) A Feast of Presence. At the most basic level, this feast is about presence. If you have lost someone you love deeply, you know the value of presence. In the bread and wine, Jesus found a way continue his physical presence among us. In spite of the brutal treatment that Jesus got at the hands of humanity, he could not stop loving humanity. Jesus could not stop loving everyone and each one of us. The Feast of Corpus Christi is humanity’s gratitude to God for being present among us. Today, let our worship, our receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in communion be an act of sublime gratitude. 

b) The Meal. In modern society, particularly, in American society, the meal has lost its meaning. People eat food at their work table, in the car, standing at the kitchen and even in restrooms! Our lives have become so busy that, even with the people we love,  we do not have the time to sit down and eat a meal. The fast-food industry has essentially rendered family kitchen useless and made nutrition and elite pursuit. Do you know that only 26% of Catholics think that it is important to go to church every Sunday? I wonder if there is a co-relation between the loss of the meaning of a family meal and the lower attendance at mass. If we do have the time to sit down and have a meal with the family, why would we take the time to sit down and have a meal with God? The Feast of Corpus Christi is an invitation to dine with God. Today’s feast is an invitation to reclaim the importance of the family meal, not just at home, but here at this table.  

c) We Are What We Eat! Talking about a meal, perhaps we are aware of the saying, “You are what you eat!” The saying could not be truer than of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Church becomes what it eats – the Body of Christ. That is why, in Catholicism, we honor Jesus not only the Blessed Sacrament but also in the community. In those times when incense was widely used in Catholic worship, after incensing the altar, the deacon would incense the priest, and finally the entire congregation.  This is because Catholics believe that Christ is present in the worshipping community and indeed in every person who participates in the One Bread and One Cup. This has very real implications for us. Christ has chosen to be present to humanity and to the world not only in bread and wine but in and through every Catholic. It is as if every place you and I go after receiving the Body and Blood of Christ there is a tabernacle. This means that you and I are the sacrament of Christ. This means that we treat each other with the same reverence that we treat the Blessed Sacrament. 

As we celebrate this Eucharist, may our worship be an act of gratitude to God. May it also be a commitment on our part to be a presence of Christ to the world. For indeed, we are what we eat!

- Fr. Satish Joseph