Father James with a recent SJS graduate
We celebrate Corpus Christi today. The Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ our Savior, which means the Eucharist is powerful. It has a real effect on us. There are three things the Eucharist does, each corresponding with one of the readings.
1) The Eucharist gives us strength to perform our duties and obligations in life. Abram had just defeated several tribes in the Palestine region to establish his position. Soon after, a priest named Melchizedek brings an offering of bread and wine (cf. Gen 14:18-20). In turn, Abram gives the priest a tenth of his spoils. The bread and wine offered by this priest Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. It not only celebrated Abram's success, it gave Abram strength to be both King and father of the Israelite people. When we go to Mass or pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we are given strength to be the best spouse, parent, sibling, student, worker, priest that we are called to be.
2) The Eucharist makes our relationships healthy. A bit of context on Paul's letter to the Corinthians. The early Christians didn't have churches to celebrate Mass in. Instead, they went to people's homes, and often wealthy peoples' homes, since they were larger and could accommodate the congregation. The wealthy people would be up in the kitchen area, the middle class in the living room, and the poorer people outside. And sometimes the poorer people wouldn't even be able to receive communion since it would all be consumed before they had a chance to come forward. (People would also get drunk at these Masses—something else Paul admonished them on!) So, Paul tells the Corinthians to stop the division and become one body of people around the table. The Eucharist unites us likewise. It doesn't matter here in church how much money you make, what street you live on, whether you're a Cubs or Sox fan (well, maybe), or Democrat or Republican. The Eucharist unites us. And beyond just uniting us, it makes our relationships as strong and healthy as they can be.
3) The Eucharist gives us the greatest satisfaction and consolation. If you notice in the Gospel, the Twelve want to send the crowd away since it's getting late and they are in a deserted area: "Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms." They're basically admitting the people are better off somewhere else. "What, are you crazy!" responds Jesus. The loaves and fishes—another prefigurement of the Eucharist—is the best possible scenario for the crowd. Coming to Mass, likewise, is the best thing you could do for yourself. You're better of coming here than sleeping in, going to a travel baseball game, working overtime, going on vacation or to the beach. Those things might give you more instant pleasure, but the Mass will sustain you much longer.
Hopefully on this Feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord we can appreciate just how powerful the Eucharist is!
As I mentioned in last week's bulletin, I am currently away on silent retreat and will be away until this Friday. (In case you're wondering, I did not cheat and use electronics while on retreat to write this column...I wrote this bulletin letter before I left. I know, genius!) I hope the buildings are still intact, the rectory isn't a Lord of the Flies situation with Fr. Emanuel ruling tyrannically and Deacon Hank shivering in the corner in the basement, and the Cubs are on an 8-game winning streak. One thing I do know for sure is that I'm spending quality time with God and praying for you all!
Yours in Christ,