Corpus Christi

Fr Thomas’s homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (14 June)

Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

When Christ spoke these words they were truly shocking to those around him — at first they thought he was speaking in a metaphor, or in some symbolic sense, but as he repeated himself and emphasised that this is what he was really saying they were shocked and appalled. We even hear that many who had been following him responded by falling away — they abandoned Christ and his message rather than face up to this statement, that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have life.

These disciples knew the Old Testament, they knew that consuming any blood was strictly forbidden, because the life of every creature is in the blood (as God says in Leviticus). Blood of sacrificial animals was offered on the altar precisely because it held the life of the animal — in doing so it was made sacred.

Whatever else they were doing, they were certainly taking his words seriously. This should prompt us to consider how seriously we take these words. On approaching the Altar do we seriously believe that we are receiving the true Body and Blood of Christ — that his very flesh enters into us as we receive that small wafer which appears to be bread?

As the vast majority of Catholics have been kept away from this great Sacrament for some time now, it is a time to reflect on its importance for us all. How central it is to our lives — our lives of Faith, our relationship with God; but also our lives more generally. Christ, and the Blessed Sacrament, are far too important, far too powerful to be kept in a small box on Sunday mornings. Receiving the Body of Christ is something which should drive us out of Church, it should be the food which gives us the strength to live our entire lives: because the lives which we are called to live are lives which show Christ to the world. If we live by the power of Christ, by the power of the Eucharist, then people around us should look at us and see the way that God works in us.

By eating his flesh and drinking his blood we are inviting Christ into our lives — we are inviting him to become part of us. Truly we are what we eat, and so if we eat of Christ, then we should desire to become like Christ. If we drink of his Blood, we are taking into ourselves his life — we are also taking into ourselves the Blood offered in sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins. As we consider this, we can understand more why those disciples were so disquieted when they heard Christ say to them that they must drink his Blood.

It is to celebrate this offer which Christ makes that this great feast was introduced. The offer of eating and drinking him, that we may be transformed to be like him. The manifestation of his closeness to his people, his abiding presence in every Catholic tabernacle the world over and throughout time. By changing bread and wine into his Body and Blood, Christ continues to come into our world. He entered the material world two thousand years ago when he became incarnate in Our Lady’s womb — and since that time he has been with us the Blessed Sacrament. A great source of consolation to all who approach him in this Sacrament. How many thousands of prayers have been offered before this great presence?

It has been heart-breaking to see people deprived of this opportunity, derived of the chance to kneel and adore Christ’s presence among us, the chance to offer to him prayers, or simply to murmur words of love and affection. Thanks be to God that Catholics can again visit the Lord, can again offer those prayers before the Sacrament. Because this presence among us is the source of such strength to live the Christian life — this is no mere non-essential activity, it is the very heart of what it means to be a Catholic, this Sacrament sits at the heart of our relationship with God because it is his presence with us.

Until all are again able to receive Christ in Holy Communion, offering prayer in his presence is the best means to draw close to him. This is the place to reflect on the deep yearning to receive him in Communion, the place to ask for his strength to continue until (and may it be very soon indeed) we can all gather together for Mass.

This Sacrament is the source of our life as Christians — the words of Christ on that point are very clear. In this Sacrament we are given the chance to receive Christ’s life, the chance to become like him, the chance to live in his power so that we can carry him out to the rest of the world.

Blessed, praised, and hallowed be Jesus Christ on his throne of glory — and in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Video via YouTube