Feast of Corpus Christi – Does This Surprise You?
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“Mane Nobiscum, Domine – Stay with us, Lord” (Luke 24:29) are the words the late Pope John Paul II echoed during his anouncemnet of the year of the Eucharist in 2004! Those words “Mane Nobiscum, Domine” were first echoed by the two disciple on the road to Emaus begging Jesus to stay with them when they think the Lord would go further! Should not we continue to echo the same words as we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi – The true presence of Christ in the Eucharist!
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong (St. Anne Catholic Church – Columbus, GA)
Corpus Christi – Year B – (2009)
Does This Surprise You?
Recently, a Gallup poll was taken on Catholic attitudes toward Holy Communion. The poll showed serious confusion among Catholics about one of the most basic beliefs of the Church.
Only 30 percent of those surveyed believe they are actually receiving the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine.
29 percent think they are receiving bread and wine which symbolize the spirit and teachings of Jesus and, in so doing, are expressing their attachment to His person and words.
10 percent understand their action to be receiving bread and wine in which Jesus is present.
and 23 percent hold that they are receiving what has become the Body and Blood of Christ because of their personal belief.
Any well-informed Catholic will recognize that only the first option, chosen by the 30 percent, is true Catholic teaching. The other options represent various forms of Protestant belief. The Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharist, the communion bread and the altar wine are transformed and really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
So, what are so surprised about the poll? Nothing new actually! If you read the gospel of John, when Jesus spoke about eating his flesh and drinking his blood in John 6, his words met with less than an enthusiastic reception. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (V 52). “This is a hard saying who can listen to it?” (V60). In fact so many of his disciples abandoned him over this that Jesus had to ask the twelve if they also planned to quit. It is interesting that Jesus did not run after his disciples saying, “Don’t go – I was just speaking metaphorically!”
When trying to explain the Eucharist to the Roman Emperor around the year 155AD, St. Justin did not mince his words: “For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the word of prayer which comes from him . . . is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”
Not many Christians questioned the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist till the Middle Ages. In trying to explain how bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ, several theologians went astray and needed to be corrected by Church authority. Then St. Thomas Aquinas came along and offered an explanation that became classic. In all change that we observe in this life, he teaches, appearances change, but deep down, the essence of a thing stays the same. Example: if, in a fit of mid-life crisis, I traded my mini-van for a Ferrari, abandoned my wife and 5 kids to be beach bum, got tanned, bleached my hair blonde, spiked it, buffed up at the gym, and took a trip to the plastic surgeon, (I cannot be “I” it has to be “YOU”) I’d look a lot different on the surface. But for all my trouble, deep down I’d still substantially be the same old guy as when I started.
What makes this happen? The power of God’s Spirit and Word. After praying for the Spirit to come (epiklesis), the priest, who stands in the place of Christ, repeats the words of the God-man – named Jesus: “This is my Body, This is my Blood.” Sounds to me like Genesis 1: the mighty wind (read “Spirit”) whips over the surface of the water and God’s Word resounds. “Let there be light” and there was light. It is no harder to believe in the Eucharist than to believe in Creation.
But why did Jesus arrange for this transformation of bread and wine? Because he intended another kind of transformation. The bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ which are, in turn, meant to transform us. Ever hear the phrase: “you are what you eat?” The Lord desires us to be transformed from a motley crew of imperfect individuals into the Body of Christ, come to full stature.
Our evangelical brothers speak often of an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. But I ask you, how much more personal and intimate can you get? We receive the Lord’s body into our physical body that we may become Him whom we receive!
As you go to Communion today, allow me to offer one practical idea – bring someone with you. By that I mean always have someone that you are praying for as you go to communion. Keep them close to your heart and offer some of the graces you receive for that person. Perhaps they are sick or undergoing a spiritual crisis. What a better gift than to bring them to Jesus!
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong