In mid-June, we celebrated the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This is always one of the most beautiful and at the same time, awe-inspiring festivals of the Roman Catholic Church. It is awe-inspiring because it brings about what Jesus said at the Last Supper, “This is my body. This is my blood.” We know from the Gospels that when Jesus said something, it happened. “Come out of the grave! Be healed! Get up and walk again. Demons come out.” If these things happened because Jesus said words that make them happen, then Jesus is the Son of God. What he said regarding the bread and wine is pretty awesome as well.
It is beautiful to me in terms of revealing how much God loves us. I have used the image of mom giving me chicken soup when I am sick. I get the soup because I am sick. I do not get the soup because I am well and deserve it. So, in Communion I get the food to help me become well, not because I am already well. I hear Pope Francis struggling with this as he would like to have everyone receive, while at the same time knowing the people must realize how sinful they are before they approach the altar. No person is holy enough to deserve communion. We receive it because it is God’s gift to us.
The question of how does it change from bread to Body and wine to Blood has changed over the centuries. In earliest times people tended to believe that what God has said, happens the way God says it is going to happen. Later in church history folks asked at what part of the Mass did this happen? Today we tend to get more technical. How come I can look at this under a microscope and it looks, tastes and feels the same after the consecration as before? Maybe our questions today are the reason there are so many Eucharistic miracles all over the world.
In some of those miracles the Bread starts bleeding. Scientists analyze the blood type and discover that all of the miracles where there is blood, it is all the same type. They analyze the DNA of the blood and discover it is all the same DNA. They look at the host and discover it is real body part that all come from the same portion of the same heart. It is stunning to realize that there are so many miracles concerning the host all over the world.They all seem to prove the same thing: this IS the Body of Jesus.
Scripturally we find that the manna, which the Israelites received while spending 40 years in the desert, is a foretaste of the Eucharist. The ritual around celebrating that food, at the Passover, is the foundation of our Eucharistic celebration. In the Book of Revelation we get another picture of this same fabulous meal taking place in Heaven. The miracles of the multiplication of fish and bread is another example of how Jesus is slowly trying to open the minds of his followers so that when they get to the Last Supper they can begin to understand what the Eucharist is for us as Christians.
What about us today? Are we looking at the Eucharist as something that we need scientific proof to believe that what Jesus said is true? Are we looking for a time during the Mass when we see it change from bread to Body? A continuing miracle is that when the person is giving us the Host they say, “The Body of Christ”. The wording indicates that the Host is truly the Body of Christ. But so is the person who is receiving the Body of Christ. Jesus repeatedly stresses to his followers that everyone we meet has Christ within them. We are called to see Christ in everyone.
With the introduction of the Tabernacle where Jesus is kept for delivery to those who are homebound or in the hospital, we seem to stress now that Jesus is in that spot. We have relegated Christ in the other person to second place. Jesus kept them on an equal basis. Perhaps we need to find a way to restore our understanding of Christ in people as well as in the Sacred Species.
Perhaps during these summer months we can make a conscious decision to look for Christ in those we know the best. Do we become a better person because Christ comes to visit us in the form of our spouse, our child, our parents, another Cursillista? If we see Christ in them, can we tell them? What a wonderful affirmation to another person to say, “I see Christ in you when ….” My experience is the more we do that, the more the individual strives to do the same thing repeatedly. The early disciples built one another up by proclaiming Christ in each other. Today you would think that those who are involved in Curisillo would be able to see Christ more clearly and more often in others after their experience on a weekend. For those who made their Cursillo years ago, we have the opportunity to be the leaders in daily life by telling more people how we see Christ in others.
When we do this regularly then the Eucharist will move from the Church building to the world as a whole. Will you be part of the movement that brings Christ to the world?
Fr Mike Sullivan