Readings: Gen. 14:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Lk. 9:11-17
Food for the Journey and for Life
1. Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist is for the soul what food is for the body. Jesus tells us, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Jn. 6:51). In the Eucharist, Christ is offered and received; through him, the Church continues to live and grow. The Eucharist proclaims the memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ; in it, the sacrifice of the cross is forever perpetuated. This is the summit and the source of all worship and Christian life. Through the Eucharist, the unity of God’s people is signified and brought about, and in it the building up of the body of Christ is perfected. Since priests are ordained to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, it is our duty, therefore, to teach the faithful the importance of fruitful participation at Mass. According to Canon 898, “Christ’s faithful are to hold the blessed Eucharist in highest honor. They should take an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice of the Mass; they should receive the sacrament with great devotion and frequently and should reverence it with the greatest adoration. In explaining the doctrine of this sacrament, pastors of souls are assiduously to instruct the faithful about their obligation in this regard.” On Thursday, June 23, 2022, I will celebrate 32 years in the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ. I was ordained to offer Mass for the salvation of the world. You, my parishioners, have been a part of my story. Thank you for allowing me to be your pastor and your priest.
2. In the first reading Melchizedek, the king of Salem exchanged bread with Abram, and fellowship is formed between them. In the Gospel, Jesus feeds the hungry with five loaves and a few fish through his divine power. And in the second reading, Jesus gives himself to us as food and drink and makes himself available in a perpetual sacrifice for the nourishment of our souls. The readings demonstrate that the eucharist is to the soul what food is for the body. Hence, after teaching them extensively, Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and a few fish. He fed them with his word before providing them food for the journey back to their destinations. We are Christians because of the resurrection of Christ but Catholics because of the Eucharist. Food is an absolute necessity for the growth of our bodies. And so is the Eucharist for our spiritual nourishment and growth. We need this food to strengthen us on our pilgrim journey to the kingdom of God. Jesus reminds us: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” (Jn. 6:54).
3. The teaching of the Church on the Eucharist is that Our Lord is truly, really, and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. To the disciples, Christ stressed, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven.” (Jn. 6:57-58). When some of his disciples stopped following him, Christ did not beg them to stay. Instead, he asked his apostles: “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn. 6:67). According to Pope John Paul ll, this teaching “is at the heart of the Church, the secret of her vigor; she must keep watch with jealous care over this mystery and affirm it in its fullness.” We should, therefore, prepare ourselves for fruitful participation at Mass. By eating the Body of Christ, we become the living Christ, and we are enabled to discover our own closeness and blessedness, acknowledge our brokenness, and live our life for others. Thus we, like Jesus Himself, become food for the world. We become what we eat. When we receive and eat the body of Christ and drink his blood, we become members of the body of Christ – we become Christ himself. We become bread to be broken and blood to be poured for the salvation of the world.
4. As we receive the body and blood of Christ, we are encouraged to identify our pains and joys with that of Christ. We must believe that he who is in us, whom we have received in the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, is above and beyond, far greater, and more powerful than he that is in the world. Christ in us is greater than the devil that seeks to destroy us. If we truly believe in what we receive, he will change us; He will make us holy, forgiving, loving, merciful, compassionate, devoted, caring, charitable, more human, and humane. We are not changed by the body and blood of Christ because we do not know who we are and whose we are. Eating the food of angels should make us act like angels. By eating the food of angels, we say with St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20).
5. To participate at Mass faithfully and fruitfully, it is recommended that we go through, beforehand, the readings, examine our consciences for any mortal sins we did not confess, and, if we plan to receive holy communion, confess them and be ready to receive the Eucharist timely and devotedly. After receiving Holy Communion, our Lord is present in us as long as the species remain. This can be as long as 8 to 10 minutes. According to the Sacred Congregation for the sacraments and divine worship, “The faithful are to be recommended not to omit to make a proper thanksgiving after communion. They may do this during the celebration with a period of silence, with a hymn, psalm, or other song of praise, or also after the celebration, if possible, by staying behind to pray for a suitable time.”
6. After Mass, the priest dismisses the people to “Go forth, the Mass is ended, or Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord or Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” We are, therefore, to take the Christ that we have received in the Eucharist to all and sundry. We must share Christ, the bread of life, with the poor, the homeless, the sick, the saints, and sinners alike. We are to make the body of Christ, broken and received, available at all times to add flavor to the lives of people around us. Let us pray that we may offer Christ’s body in us to those who need healing for their broken bodies; to public sinners, may we offer forgiveness, companionship to the lonely, conversion for those who hunger for Christ, and reconciliation for those who are on the streets. May we derive strength and nourishment from the bread of life so that we may live forever with our Lord now and always. Amen.
Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP