Corpus Christi…Well, how ‘bout that!

It’s one of my favorite memories from my days at Mother of Mercy House: We were celebrating Thanksgiving Day Mass in our tiny chapel.  An elderly man peeked in our window, saw us praying and decided to come in and join us. It was obvious that he wasn’t Catholic as he didn’t know the responses but that didn’t stop him from letting out an “Amen!” and a “uh huh” during the readings and homily. When it came time for Communion, the man, imitating everyone else, approached to receive Communion.  I said, “the Body of Christ,” and gave him the host which he received and consumed. Then, as he was returning to his seat, he stopped in the middle of the aisle, swayed his head from side to side and said right out loud, “The Body of Christ. Well, how ‘bout that!”

Indeed. The Eucharist, the Body of Christ, Christ under the appearances of bread and wine, Christ who comes to nourish us with Crucified and Living Love, with Love that creates and heals and forgives and recreates, with love that connects and unites all of us to God and to each other. Well, how ‘bout that!

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. It is indeed a great opportunity to reflect on the great mystery of the Eucharist, the wonderful gift that Jesus left us at the Last Supper. Just think how much our God loves us, that he comes to us in bread to feed our deepest hungers and to live within us! Christ gives us his Real Presence to assure us he is with us always. Well, how ‘bout that!

But there is more, so much more!

As many of you know, our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church are celebrating a “Eucharistic Revival.”  One of the purposes of this movement is to renew in believers an awareness of the truth that Jesus Christ is truly present in Communion, body, blood, soul and divinity— a “how ‘bout that!” sense of awe. Many bishops are fretting that too many Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence. (Although we must not forget that all of this started not with a true desire for authentic eucharistic revival, but with the bishops’ constant nagging urge to publicly humiliate President Biden and Nancy Pelosi.  When that plan egregiously failed and Rome told the bishops of the US to tamper down their unchristian rhetoric, all of a sudden the Church was sponsoring a positive Eucharistic Revival—a great example of the truth that good can come from evil, God can write straight with crooked lines!)

Now it is true that many no longer believe in or understand the Real Presence and it is certainly a noble idea to renew in people a sense of awe in the fact that God loves us so much that he truly comes to us, is present for us, in the Eucharist. And if processions with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets and all-night vigils of Adoration in churches helps foster that awe, wonderful! 

But the revival can’t stop there for any of us.  If at the end of this event, more people believe in the doctrine of the Real Presence, then the next question is: so, what? 

Yes! Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, in Communion! 

So what?

What about our lives has changed and deepened because of our awareness of the Real Presence? How has our devotion, not just to the Blessed Sacrament, but to our brothers and sisters and our planet Earth grown?  Because the truth is, Jesus didn’t leave us the wonderful gift of his Nourishing Presence just so we might intellectually assent to the truth that he is truly present in the host and cup. He did’t offer us so great a gift so that we would smother him with incense and kneel before him.  He didn’t give us the Eucharist just so we would say “Well how ‘bout that!” (As wonderful as that is!) He gave us the gift of Himself in food and drink so we would do what we do with food and drink: eat Him and drink Him. And then, so nourished, we would go forth and BE ourselves the Real Presence.

We receive the Real Presence to BE the Real Presence, to be Jesus’ healing, nurturing, forgiving, compassionate, unconditionally loving Presence for all—especially for the poor, the vulnerable, the forgotten, the rejected, the left-behind.

Remember what Pedro Arrupe, SJ said: “If there is hunger anywhere in the world, the celebration of the Eucharist is somehow incomplete everywhere in the world.” 

So, real Eucharistic Revival means that after we have been nourished by so great a gift, we look for any place around us where there is hunger for food, for understanding, for compassion, for love. It means we see our brother dirty and smelly and begging in the street and we say with awe, “The Body of Christ, well how ‘bout that!” And then we nourish him as we have been nourished with real food and drink.  Revival means we see our sister who is struggling with an unwanted pregnancy, confused and frightened and we say with compassion, “The Body of Christ. Well, how ‘bout that!” And we nourish her with comfort and help. Authentic Eucharistic Revival means we look at the immigrant doing all the landscaping, cleaning houses, cooking our food in the restaurant, anxiously crossing the border to find for their families a life free from fear, violence and poverty and we say with trembling admiration, “The Body of Christ. Well, how ‘bout that!” And we receive them with the same reverence with which we reach out our hands to receive the host.

So, my friends, this Solemnity truly is a great time and a necessary moment to reflect on all that it means to believe in and receive the awesome gift of the Body and Blood of Christ. We receive the Real Presence to BE the Real Presence. We see Christ present everywhere and we nurture him everywhere we see him hungry with reverence, compassion, mercy and love, satiating every thirst with the Love we ourselves have received as gift.

Now how ‘bout that!

Father Liam

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