By Fr. Reginald, O.P.
Dear friends, today’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ always reminds me of the days when I was first becoming familiar with Catholicism and the Holy Mass. I’ve shared the story many times: I was not raised with much religion at all, but at 19 years old, I found myself at a small Catholic college in southern California. On the invitation of another student, I came to Mass one Sunday and was absolutely fascinated by what I experienced there: it was in a strange ancient language (it was Latin); there was mysterious music unlike anything I had ever heard before (that was Gregorian Chant); a fog of incense rose to the ceiling; there were periods of reverent silence; the people were on their knees for much of the time; and many of the women wore veils.
I knew next to nothing about Catholicism at the time, but I could tell that the people in that little chapel believed that something miraculous was happening on the altar. Later I learned what Catholics believe about the Holy Eucharist — that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, comes to us under the appearances of bread and wine. After learning about that, I could better understand what was happening at Mass. I remember watching the priest carefully wiping the vessels at the end of Mass — another subtle witness to our belief that these vessels have just contained the Body and Blood of our Lord. I also remember that the students loved to spend quiet hours adoring Jesus in the chapel and singing joyfully and following as he was carried around the campus in procession on Corpus Christi Sunday.
I thank God every day for the introduction that I received to Catholicism and the Eucharist. However, I’m sad to say that in the years since college I have sometimes seen the Eucharist treated quite casually, to the point that I’m not sure I would have known that Catholics believe it is anything special. Do we ever stop and think what an astonishing thing it is that we believe? It would surely be unbelievable had not Jesus himself said: “This is my Body … This is my Blood.” As St. Thomas Aquinas said in a hymn to Jesus in the Eucharist: “Sight, touch, and taste fall short in you … I believe what the Son of God has said.” It is only because of the great gift of faith that we can believe that, in the Eucharist, Jesus is as present to us today as he was to the Twelve Apostles.
If this is true, then the Eucharist is the most precious thing on earth. Maybe this Corpus Christi Sunday is a good day to examine our consciences: How do I treat Jesus in the Eucharist? Do I pay attention to his Real Presence? Do I prepare myself with prayer to receive him? Do I observe the Church’s law on fasting before communion? Do I confess my serious sins before going to communion? Do I give thanks after communion? Do I visit the Eucharistic Jesus in the tabernacle or during the many Holy Hours that are offered here at Newman? As a result of meeting Jesus in the Eucharist, do I let him change my heart to love God, myself, and my neighbor as he does?
On this Corpus Christi Sunday, let us pray for the millions who have lost faith in the Eucharist over the last several decades and no longer attend Mass; let us give thanks to Jesus for coming to us in his Body and Blood; and let us pray that God may increase our faith and our love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.