Always with us, as food for the journey

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Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi),
Year A: June 22, 2014

Deut 8:2-3, 14-16; Ps 147; 1 Cor 10:16-17; John 6:51-58

9 weeks ago, we were celebrating the Paschal Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

  • We recalled the original Passover and Exodus from Egypt, some 1400 years earlier, when the Lord rescued the People of Israel from slavery in Egypt. This was accomplished partly through the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb, and also through the parting of the Red Sea, so that they could pass through on dry land. And so they were rescued from Egypt and set on their way to the Promised Land.
  • And so we celebrated the fulfillment of this foreshadowing in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true Passover Lamb. For by giving himself in sacrifice, he set us free not merely from earthly slavery, but from Satan and sin and death. And he passed through, not merely an earthly sea, but death itself, to open the transformed life of the Resurrection. Thus we have been saved and set on our way to the New Heavens and the New Earth.

All of this was huge! And so we had so much to think about and celebrate during the Paschal Triduum and throughout the Easter Season, as we also recalled that Christ ascended into heaven, returning to the Father and blazing the trail for us to follow; and that he sent the Holy Spirit upon his Church.

But today we have the chance to focus in on a different aspect of this true story that makes us who we are. Because we are on a journey. We are a people on a journey to heaven. And where will we find the food that we need for this journey?

  • The first journey through the desert to the Promised Land took the People of Israel 40 years, as we heard in the first reading. And they were fed with manna. Manna was like small, round white seeds, that mysteriously appeared each morning upon the ground like dew. They called it “bread from heaven” since it seemed to come from the sky. And this mysterious manna kept them alive during their years of journey through the desert.

And what will sustain us on our journey to heaven? Or rather, who will sustain us? If the Israelites received manna, what will we receive?

And how will our Lord Jesus be with us? He has led the way to the Father; but before he ascended, he promised, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20) How is he with us?

  • In his divinity, in his nature as God, he is present everywhere. But that is not enough for him.
  • By his sending of the Holy Spirit, he is present with us through his power. He acts among us in many ways, especially in his sacraments: in each of these he accomplishes real actions, real transformations, working among us and in us by his power. But that is not enough for him.

Our Lord Jesus wants to be with us—in the fullness of who he is, not only his divinity but also his humanity. As we heard him say in the Gospel reading, he wants to remain in us and we in him. And he wants to give us himself as food—not only mysterious manna, but himself, his own flesh and blood. He wants to be true food and true drink for us.

And so he established the Eucharist. Not only as the true Passover meal; not only as the one perfect sacrifice to the Father; but so that he might be really present with us always, and so that he might feed us with himself, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, as we walk our pilgrim journey to the heavenly kingdom.

“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” asked those who heard him. By establishing this meal, this sacrifice: so that ordinary bread and wine might be brought to the altar; and his ministerial priest might speak again Jesus’ own words, “This is my Body,” “This is the chalice of my Blood”; and that Jesus might make it really so, really his Body and Blood, under the appearance of bread and wine, amazing spiritual food for the faithful. As St. Paul tells us, this truly is a participation in the body of Christ, a participation in the blood of Christ.

What a gift Jesus gives us! And how shall we respond to this gift? Above all, by receiving it. And let us consider two ways in which we can receive this gift of the Body and Blood of Christ.

First, by receiving it worthily (1 Cor 11:27ff). Before we welcome this divine guest, we need to prepare a beautiful, clean heart to receive him into. And so it is important that each of us examine ourselves; and if we find any mortal sin, any serious sin, that we have not yet brought to the sacrament of confession, then let us make sure that we do so before we receive our Lord in Holy Communion. And please know that confession is offered every day here at St. Martin’s. Our Lord himself will cleanse us, to make us beautiful and shining homes for himself—so that we may receive his gift worthily.

Second, by receiving the gift often. Certainly we are obligated to attend Mass every Sunday; and we can do so even every day! But we can extend the receiving of this gift even further by coming to pray in his real presence. Throughout every day of the week, you can come to pray here in the church, and in most Catholic churches, in front of our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle. And there is also a special form of Eucharistic Adoration, when our Lord is exposed for adoration in the monstrance. Our Adoration Chapel now has hours every day—every morning, 10-12, except Sunday; and every evening, 7-10; and also some afternoons. Check out the schedule, and ask the office for the door code.

What a gift our Lord gives us: his real presence with us as we walk our pilgrim journey, and his own flesh and blood as food. So let us turn our hearts to him, our Savior. Let us love him even as he loves us; let us receive him even as he gives himself to us: the true living bread again come down from heaven, as food for the faithful.

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