Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Once I facilitated a recollection, and the theme of one of my talks was on giving ourselves to others in service. At the end of the talk, I asked the participants to express how they intend to share themselves to others by using symbols. The most striking sharing I heard from that activity came from a young man who had come from the kitchen bringing with him a cup of rice which he used as his symbol. He said, “I’d like to be RICE for others.” “Just as rice satisfies a basic need of people for food, I hope to be able to respond to the needs of my neighbor.” I do not know if the one who said that got his inspiration from the words and example of Jesus.
We celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This feast actually celebrates the Eucharist. The feast of Corpus Christi celebrates the love of Jesus who gives us his Body to eat and his Blood to drink. This is what Jesus says in today’s gospel reading: “Take it; this is my body.” “This my blood of the covenant, which be shed for many.”
St. Augustine says that the Eucharist is a different kind of food. Because when we eat the Eucharistic food, we do not ‘digest’ the Body of Christ, we do not transform the Body of Christ to become us. Rather, we are the ones transformed. We become the Body of Christ. We who celebrate and receive the Eucharist, just like the bread and wine, are substantially transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Our celebration of Corpus Christi has to be relevant and must have a significant impact on our life today – as we face this pandemic and the crises it has caused, as we cope with fears, anxieties, and insecurities, as we deal with a series of problems and misfortunes, as we experience deep woundedness and brokenness, as we struggle with physical illness or mental health issue, and as we strive to find any sense or meaning in all of this. It is in this context that we must see our need to be substantially transformed in the Eucharist and by the Eucharist for it to be really relevant to us. Jesus, in the Eucharist, is giving us his Body and Blood to be our power to work with God in this situation and make something beautiful out of this.
Let us go back to the teaching of St. Augustine on the Eucharist: We become what we worthily receive in the Eucharist. Every time we participate in the Eucharistic celebration, every time we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we must be transformed into Christ. We must become the Body of Christ.
We have to translate this into practical terms. Let me put it this way: We must be transformed and become food and drink ourselves. I consider our community pantry as a manifestation of this – or even as an extension of the Eucharist, in which Jesus gives himself as food to the needy with us and through us – through our generosity. It gives each of us an opportunity to translate or concretize the spirit of the Eucharist – “to be rice for others” – by sharing food and drink, by giving anything that can make the poor and the hungry realize that the Lord continues to give of himself through us. We must be transformed and become good news to others. We must first be saturated by the Good News to counter the overload of bad news and fake news we are bombarded with every day, especially on social media. It is only when we are imbued with the Good News of God that we can truly become good news to others – by giving hope to those who despair, affirmation to those who are discouraged, inspiration to those who are weak. We must be transformed and become Christ’s love. By loving not just the loving and lovable, but even the seemingly unloving and unlovable. Magmahal, hindi batay sa naramdaman natin sa isang tao, kundi batay sa pag-ibig ni Kristo sa atin. To love as Jesus loves.
The Eucharist is not a private act of devotion, meant to square our debts with God. Rather, it is a call to, and a grace for, service. The Eucharist is meant to send us out into the world ready to give expression to Christ’s selfless ways – his humble service and self-giving love. The Eucharist is both an invitation that calls us and a grace that empowers us to service.
The Lord is asking us to help share him out as true food and true drink. He wants our assistance as he gives himself to be shared – to satisfy the deepest hungers and thirsts of people – for happiness and joy, for peace of mind and heart, for meaning and purpose, for fulfillment and fullness of life. We are called to be eucharist ourselves – to be christs to others.