Homily on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, 19 June 2022
When I was still a child, I remember going to Mass every Sunday with my parents and siblings. And my Mom made sure I would always sit beside her. And at the moment the priest would raise the big host above the altar during consecration, she would whisper to my ears and make me repeat after her the words “My Lord and my God!” At first I did not understood what those words really meant, but eventually those words made an impact on my faith esp. in Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist.
We recall that the words “My Lord and my God!” were said originally by St Thomas, the doubter. It was the eighth day after the resurrection when Jesus appeared for the second time to his apostles and said to Thomas “Come, touch my wounds, and put your hands on my side. Believe that I am really alive, and doubt no more.” After touching Jesus, Thomas knelt down in adoration and exclaimed “My Lord and my God!” These therefore are words expressing faith in the real presence of Jesus, the Risen Lord.
My dear brothers and sisters, happy feast day to all of you! We are gathered here to celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ. This feast is uniquely Catholic in the sense that only we Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians are celebrating it every year. While some Lutherans and Anglicans also celebrate it every year, most Protestant Churches do not. And so we consider ourselves privileged and blessed to celebrate this feast today as Corpus Christi reminds us of the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The Latin word Corpus means “Body” while Christi means “of Christ.” So may I ask you do you believe that Jesus is really present here with us whenever we celebrate the Mass? Do you believe that the bread and the wine that we offer to God on the altar really become the body and blood of Jesus? Allow me then to share with you this miracle story.
This was a miracle witnessed by a certain priest named Fr. Peter of Prague. It happened way back in the year 1263 while he was celebrating Mass at the Basilica of St. Christina in Bolsena, Italy. During consecration the sacred host he was holding suddenly started dripping with blood, thus staining the corporal laid on the altar. The priest was shocked, because for years he had been doubting the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. In fact at that time he was actually on a pilgrimage to Rome to pray at the tomb of St Peter to ask for the gift of faith. Having seen what had happened Fr Peter had the incident immediately reported to his Bishop at the Cathedral in Orvieto. Pope Urban IV who was coincidentally there in town for a pastoral visit was disturbed when the report reached him. And so he immediately sent the bishop and his team to conduct an investigation of the Eucharistic miracle that happened in the adjacent town.
Several days passed but there was still no update. So the Pope, who could hardly wait for the results of the investigation, decided to go to Bolsena together with his whole entourage, and along the way he met the Eucharistic procession led by the Bishop at the bridge of Rio Chiaro. The Pope then realized that the miracle was confirmed to be true as the Bishop gathered his people to walk in procession towards the Cathedral showing the blood-stained corporal to everyone along the way. Moved by the genuineness of the Eucharistic miracle in Bolsena, Pope Urban IV in 1264 decided to institute for the universal Church the liturgical FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI which was already being celebrated locally in the diocese of Liege (Belgium). The feast aims at inspiring the Catholic faithful to grow in their faith and their love for the Holy Eucharist, so that their lives may be transformed, and together as Church we may become Christ’s Body and Blood here on earth.
Sad to say, many Catholics today still do not believe. They continue to doubt the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. They think that the sacred host presented to them during Holy Communion is just a symbol of the Body of Christ, and Jesus’ presence is not real. Unless we like Fr Peter of Prague strive to resolve this doubt or correct this wrong understanding we will never experience fully the nourishing, healing and transforming power of the Eucharist in our lives.
The miracle story I have shared with you earlier is just one among the many Eucharistic miracles recorded in history. But our faith in Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist is not so much based on these miracles. Its solid foundation rests on the Bible itself, particularly on the words said by Jesus. In the second reading we hear St Paul teaching us what was handed over to him by the Lord himself. He wrote that during the last supper Jesus said very clear words over the bread that he took, blessed, broke and gave to them: “This is my body which is for you.” If Jesus did not really mean to change substance of the bread into his own flesh, then he should have simply said “This is the symbol of my body.” But the fact is that he did not use the word symbol or sign. He said in very plain words “This is my body….”
We recall that in chapter six of the fourth gospel St John gave an account of Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life after the miracle of the multiplication of loaves. Jesus said to the Jews, “I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he shall live forever. The bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…” Jesus did not actually say “The bread I will give is the symbol of my flesh…” Instead what he said was very clear “The bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…” And he said further that “The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
In both passages, what Jesus really meant was crystal clear: The Eucharist is Jesus himself. He is really present in the Blessed Sacrament. Moreover, the bread and wine that the priest consecrates at every Mass really become the Body and Blood of Jesus, our risen Lord. The Eucharistic miracle I narrated earlier, together with all other miracles, is a strong proof that what Jesus said is true. It is not fake. Indeed the solid foundation of our faith in the “Real Presence” is no other than the very words Jesus himself uttered in the Gospel.
In fact before Jesus began his discourse on the bread of life, he first performed the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves and the two fish for at least five thousand men. The food after having been blessed by Jesus multiplied out of proportion that amazingly thousands were able to eat to their heart’s content. And afterwards the apostles even collected a total of twelve baskets full of left-over. This is precisely the gospel passage proclaimed for us today. If Jesus could miraculously multiply loaves and fish, then what can prevent him from multiplying his real presence by changing bread and wine into his own body and blood in all the altars of the Catholic Church spread all over the world?
As we celebrate this Holy Mass on this special and solemn day of Corpus Christi, let us give thanks to the Lord for the precious gift of his real presence among us in the Eucharist. And let us pray that we individually and as a community may grow in appreciation of this very Catholic faith, and hence develop a strong devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. Let us allow him to transform us gradually to become his visible Body here on earth so that his real presence can go on multiplying even today. GiG…sss!
Note: To all fathers, Happy Fathers Day! Through you may God’s fatherly presence in this world continue to multiply.
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