In this month of June, we once again celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. This great feast day of the Eucharist is acknowledging the true presence of Christ in our midst at each Eucharistic celebration and the pilgrimage of our daily lives. Jesus has left for us his real, perpetual, and substantial presence in the Eucharist, so that He can be continuously present to and working through the Church and through each and every one of us to consecrate the world to God. This is why we call the celebration of the Eucharist the “Mass”—from the Latin word missio which means mission or to be sent. Jesus Christ comes to us in the Eucharist, fully present in his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to not only be intimately present to us in his love and mercy, but to transform us to become more like Him to then go out into the world to witness and evangelize: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
In these challenging days, as we face the many challenges of our daily lives, and especially the current threats to religious freedom, and threats to human life and dignity that are prevalent in our modern culture, we need all the more the transforming power of the Eucharistic Lord so that we can go out into the world to truly make a difference. Only when we truly participate and truly open ourselves fully to the Lord at each and every Mass can this transformation truly happen in us. As Pope Benedict XVI states:
We must all work together to celebrate the Eucharist ever more profoundly: not only as a rite, but as an existential process that touches me in the very depths of my being, more than any other thing, and changes me, transforms me. And in transforming me, it also begins the transformation of the world that the Lord desires and for which he wants to make us his instruments.
— Meeting with the clergy of the Archdiocese of Rome, Feb. 26, 2009
The word Eucharist also means “Thanksgiving,” and it is in the celebration of the Eucharist that the Body of Christ the Church gathers together to give thanks to God for the great gift of salvation that is accomplished in Christ. During the Mass we offer ourselves with Christ as a living sacrifice to the Father in the Holy Spirit, but specifically a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for all that God has given us in Christ: “Lift up your hearts…let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” As the Catechism states:
The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all “thanksgiving.” (1360)
Thus, this feast of Corpus Christi, which stands in the Church’s Liturgical Calendar before the long span of Ordinary Time begins, gives us the perfect occasion to reflect on thanksgiving and gratitude to God, especially for all of those who have ministered and served in our parishes, missions, and institutions these past months. May and June are full of so many celebrations: Confirmations, first holy Communions, graduations from our Catholic schools, diaconate and priesthood ordinations and more. None of these graced events could be accomplished without the faithful witness, dedication, and hours of work by our parish priests and deacons, pastoral ministers, directors of RCIA, catechists, sponsors, and more. To all of them, during the time of reflection on the Eucharist on the feast of Corpus Christi — we need to thank them personally for all they do and are. I want to personally thank all of you who work so faithfully and tirelessly in doing the good work of Christ in the parishes. Through your witness and dedication, you bring Christ to all of the lives that are entrusted to you and continue to build up the Body of Christ, the Church.
I also want to emphasize strongly the centrality of the Eucharist in any of our ministries and work in the Church. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, the Eucharist is the ‘“source and summit of the Christian life.” Therefore, the Eucharist is also the source and summit of our ministry and activity in the Church — our communion with the Real Presence of Christ is the source of his strength and power that encourages us and strengthens us in whatever the Lord has called us to do. As Pope Benedict teaches:
How very significant is the bond between the Church’s mission and the Eucharist. In fact, missionary and evangelizing action is the apostolic diffusion of love that is, as it were, concentrated in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Whoever receives Christ in the reality of his Body and Blood cannot keep this gift to himself, but is impelled to share it in courageous witness to the Gospel, in service to brothers and sisters in need, in pardoning offenses. For some, then, the Eucharist is the seed of a specific call to leave all and go to proclaim Christ to those who still do not know him.
— Angelus, October 23, 2005
This is also a time of year of change, often for our parishes and parish priests. Also it is not unusual for pastoral ministers to change position, or move for other reasons. All of this is a cause for reflection on who we are as the Body of Christ: not one individual institution or parish, but part of the greater body of Christ that is the communion of the Church. And in moments of change there are moments of grace and blessing as the Lord continues to work in our lives to build up his Body here on earth. Like the Eucharistic processions of Corpus Christi — we keep moving on toward the goal of a deeper union with Christ and his Church, and eternal life, because in the end, it is all about salvation:
For this reason, the Feast of Corpus Christi is characterized particularly by the tradition of carrying the Most Holy Sacrament in procession, an act of full meaning. By carrying the Eucharist though the streets and squares, we desire to immerse the Bread come down from heaven in our daily lives. We want Jesus to walk where we walk, to live where we live. Our world, our existence, must become his temple. On this feast day, the Christian Community proclaims that the Eucharist is its all, its very life, the source of life that triumphs over death.
— Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, June 18, 2006
I pray that you all have a blessed and joyful summer, and you and your families will remain in my prayers.
In this month of June, we once again celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. This great feast day of the Eucharist is acknowledging the true presence of Christ in our midst at each Eucharistic celebration and the pilgrimage of our daily lives...