Today the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ — popularly known as the Feast of Corpus Christi (not to be confused with the Texas coastal town). Jesus Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist is the very center of the life of the Church. For me personally, not only as a priest but also as a Christian, the Eucharist is the very heart of my life.
Many of you know from my biography that I am a convert to the Catholic faith. One quality of Catholicism that attracted me most was Catholic worship: the rite, the beauty, and the timelessness of the holy Mass. Growing up, I had received some classes in Sunday school at Baptist and Presbyterian communities in Tyler, but the Catholic notion of the Eucharist just made sense to me. Not only did Jesus want to feed us with His word, but also He wanted to feed us with Himself. This is why the Catholic Mass is composed of two major parts: the Liturgy of the Word (the readings from the Holy Bible and the homily); and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the consecration of the Lord’s Body and Blood, and Holy Communion).
On the Feast of Corpus Christi, Mother Church asks us to reflect on the great mystery that is the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. At the hands of the priest, Jesus Christ takes ordinary bread and wine and transforms them into Himself. St. Thomas Aquinas called this change “transubstantiation,” a term that the Church still uses today (CCC 1376). This means that the bread and wine, while remaining such to our senses (sight, touch, taste, etc.), really change into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Savior. Later this summer (Year B), we will hear Sunday gospel readings of John 6 in which our Lord reveals in unambiguous language His plan to feed His disciples with His living Flesh and Blood. This will give me an opportunity to preach on the profound mystery of the Blessed Sacrament and also practical ways on how to pray the Mass and reverently receive Holy Communion.
The Eucharist is not merely a community meal or simple table fellowship. We as Catholics speak of the Mass as “sacrifice” (CCC 1365). In the gospel for this Sunday, we hear the institution narrative, “Take it; this is my body. . . This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many” (Mk 14:22, 24). Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary was the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice to redeem us from sin, the sacrifice of God for man. Therefore, it is essential to remember that the Mass is not an additional sacrifice, but the same sacrifice. It makes present what happened 2,000 years ago here and now. In the Mass, the sacrifice at Calvary is re-presented in an unbloody manner. And we are able to join our own humble sacrifices to Christ’s. This is why the priest after the offertory says, “Pray brethren that this, my sacrifice and yours, may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.” We should always be mindful of what our joys, difficulties, and crosses are, and prayerfully join these intentions at each and every Mass, so that the rest of our day and week will be an extension of the Mass — a joyful sacrifice of praise.
Reflection by Fr. Nolan Lowry, STL, pastor of St. Edward Parish in Athens, Texas.