The Solemnity of the Most Holy
Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

June 6, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.B., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
 Washington, D.C.

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Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This important feast in the calendar, instituted during the Middle Ages, is sometimes said have been inspired by a Eucharistic miracle. A priest in Bolsena, Italy, who did not fully believe in the transubstantiation, that the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine becomes blood, was celebrating Mass when the host began to shed drops of blood.

As you know, we live at a time when many Catholics do not believe in the real presence of Christ. According to a study, just one third of all Catholics believe that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ. On this important feast day, we need to refresh our faith in the real presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

When I was a pastor in Portugal, First Communion was held on this feast. After the Mass, we used to have a procession of the Blessed Sacrament from the Little Shepherds’ Church, a brand new church we had built, to the old Saint Peter’s Church, about one mile away. Many people participated: all the children who had just received First Communion, their families and the whole parish. There were about 1,000 people in the street, walking with Jesus in the middle of the city. The bells rang and the people sang. Along the way, we met all kinds of people: enthusiasts, those who were indifferent and opponents. Some were throwing rose petals at the Blessed Sacrament and some throwing bad words at the passing procession. Some people knelt before the Blessed Sacrament and some people turned their backs. I still remember an old lady’s gaze, full of faith, as she watched the procession from her apartment window. Her expression was so impressive that I turned the monstrance toward her: immediately her face was filled with joy. For me, that procession was what the Church should be: a group of people carrying and bringing Jesus to the world.

“Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover?” Jesus’ question helps us understand the mystery of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is God’s action. It is a miracle made by God that requires our participation. For the Eucharist, we need Jesus and the congregation. In the celebration of the Eucharist, it is important to understand which part belongs to Jesus and which to us. In the Eucharist, Jesus is the guest. Who is the center of the Eucharist? Is it the priest? No. Is it the cantors? No. Is it the readers? No. Is it the altar servers? No. Is it the congregation? No. The center is only Christ. He is the only guest. We are all trying to receive him as best we can.

It is very important that everything should be well prepared: the homily, readings, music etc. However, we are all serving the guest. Our joy is in the guest who is arriving. The Eucharist is not our show. It is Jesus’ show. The Eucharist is not primarily a social gathering, for our entertainment. Of course, it is also a social gathering. However, it is much more. It is infinitely more. The Eucharist is our encounter with Christ, truly present in the bread and wine consecrated on the altar.

The Eucharist is not something that we make, something that is a result of our action. The Eucharist is something that God makes through us. The Eucharist is an astonishing miracle! We cannot fail to be astonished at the magnificent initiative and action of God, who renews his presence every time we gather to celebrate Mass.

Sometimes I pray to Our Lady to give me the simplicity and purity of heart that I had as an eight- years-old child, when I received my First Holy Communion. After twenty-six years in the priesthood, I pray to have the simplicity of a child before the Blessed Sacrament. We need to renew our perception of the presence of Jesus because we somehow find it difficult to grasp this mystery, to be touched by the glory of God, to be transformed by his holy presence.

In all the sacristies of the convents of the Missionaries of Charity, there is a famous quotation from Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “Priest of God, celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.” This is an important reminder to the priest before starting Mass. However, I think it could also be a good reminder for all of us. Every time we come to Mass, we need to be aware of the greatness of what we are celebrating.

“Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover […]?”

Jesus wants to be our guest. Let us pray that he will find a good “guest room” for his supper in each one of us and in our congregation.  Amen.