Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

SOLEMNITY OF THE CORPUS CHRISTI: A FORETASTE OF THE HEAVENLY BANQUET

Jn 6: 51-58


THIS CELEBRATION OF the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood (the Body of Christ) originated in France in the mid-thirteenth century and was extended to the whole Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264. This feast focuses on two manifestations of the Body of Christ: the Holy Eucharist and the Church. In every Eucharistic celebration, we give attention to the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Christ in it. Likewise, we also give attention to the Body of Christ, being present in the Church.

However, we need to realize that the Church has encountered some problems when it comes to appreciating the Eucharist. Although, young Catholic churches have still enjoyed the commitment of people to regularly come to eucharistic celebrations. But in “old” Catholic churches, they have encountered the fall of the figures for Mass attendance. In these churches, most of the people find the eucharist as meaningless and boring.

We need to go back to the basics of this subject so that we can appreciate or re-appreciate the Eucharist which is distinctly a Catholic celebration.

Firstly, the Eucharist is a collective meal of the community of the baptized. Or as one theologian described it, it as a “reunion” of those who were “passed” (Passover) in Christ. We, people, love family reunions. It is something that we long, and we wish we could do often. We are so excited to see each other, and to talk to each other about many things. And these happen in the context of the meal. We have food and wine.

The Eucharist, as a common meal for those who were baptized, has also comparable elements. We have the bread and wine being offered. When these gifts are being consecrated, they become or are being transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The food in a meal gives us satisfaction to hunger. Similarly, the Body of Christ gives satisfaction to our spiritual hunger. The wine in a meal gives delight to the guests. The Blood of Christ comparably gives also delight to our weary soul.

But there is something more that happens the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is also our communion with Christ. In the gospel, we hear Jesus saying, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (Jn 6:56). By eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist we become united to the person of Christ through his humanity. Jesus continued, "Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me" (Jn 6:57). Thus, we are also united to Christ’s divinity. Our mortal nature is transformed by being joined to the source of life, who is God.

Secondly, the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. I remember the Church song, “Look Beyond”, written by Darryl Ducote. The chorus line says, “Look beyond the bread we eat. See your Savior and your Lord. Look beyond the cup we drink. See His love poured out as blood”.

The Church gathers to remember and to re-present the sacrifice of Christ in which we share through the action of the priest and the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, we are joined to Christ's sacrifice and receive its inexhaustible benefits. As Jesus has said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” Christ poured out his love by pouring out His blood. His purpose, his hope, was that the world might become alive. And that is also what we remember each time we celebrate the Eucharist.

Finally, there is another part of communion that we rarely think about.  When partaking of the Lord’s supper, we rightly think back to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  But God also intends for us to look forward to the heavenly banquet that is being prepared for us since the foundation of the world. Thus, the Eucharist is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

In some Greek Orthodox churches, we can find beautiful paintings on the ceilings. Often, we see angels on it. That is an indication that indeed, the eucharistic celebration is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. This theme was taught also by Pope Francis. He said that the eucharist renews “our heart, our existence, and our relationship with Christ and with our brothers, and gives us a foretaste of communion with the Father in the banquet of the King of heaven” (Feb 2014).

Thus, each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we also look forward to the Second Coming of Christ, who will bring us together to the heavenly banquet in the Father’s kingdom. Amen.


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