The Food of Christianity
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 10, 2012 (CorpusChristiB)
By Fr. Joseph Pellegrino
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Our society has perfected the concept that if a statement is made enough times, no matter how outlandish it might be, then the statement is given some degree of credibility. We particularly see this in politics where the facts often have little to nothing to do with the so-called truth of a situation. Lenin is quoted as saying: “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” So, in 1991 in an effort to prevent a pro-life vote from having a seat on the Supreme Court, a woman, Anita Hill, made an outlandish accusation against the nominee, Clarence Thomas. Even though her claims were shown to be thoroughly false, and even though parts of her testimony were shown to have come verbatim from a filthy novel, Justice Thomas has been permanently stained and Anita Hill remains a martyr to sexual harassment. Her outlandish statements were given credibility by sheer repetition.
On the other side of the political fence, Senator John Kerry was a decorated war hero receiving purple hearts for heroism during the Vietnam War. But even though every member of his Swift boat crew present during Kerry’s heroism asserted that the events did take place as the navy determined, ludicrous statements questioning the events were made over and over during the 2004 campaign by an opposing group of Swift boat veterans, none of whom were present. The result was that their statements were given a degree of credibility, probably costing Kerry the election.
Similarly, there are false statements made against Roman Catholics that gain credibility by their sheer repetition. One of these claims is that Catholicism is adverse to Sacred Scripture and that Scripture is not part of the Catholic prayer life. You will meet Catholics who believe this, even though two-thirds of every Mass is devoted to reading, praying over, and developing scripture, and even though every sacramental rite begins with scripture. The clergy, religious and many of the laity pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily, prayers made up of Psalms and readings from other sections of the bible. Most parishes have scripture study and prayer groups such as those led here by Deacons Edgerton and Moschetto, and Fr. Molloy and myself. Still, you will come upon Catholics who will state that we avoid scripture in the Catholic Church, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the inaccurate anti-Catholic statements.
I’m presenting this because one of the thoroughly false statements made against Catholics over and over again is that Catholics do not develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I really can’t think of anything more ludicrous. Not only do we speak directly to the Lord in our prayer life, the deepest treasure of our faith is our personal meeting with Christ every time we receive communion.
It is to remind us of the value we place on this personal contact with the Lord that the Church celebrates the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi. When we receive communion, we receive the real presence of Jesus Christ. This is our treasure. There is nothing we value more in our spiritual lives than our union with Christ in the Eucharist. A few years ago we were given the gift of a presentation by Fr. Thomas Hagan of Hands Together for Haiti. I remember he said that he loved being a Roman Catholic and that he could not get through a day without the Eucharistic presence of the Lord, without receiving communion.
Our sacramental communion with the Lord is fundamental to our prayer life. This desire to receive the Eucharist sets the course of our moral lives, as we reach out to others in charity and become a Eucharistic people, a people who wash the feet of their neighbors. At the same time, our desire to cultivate the presence of Jesus within us and share in his Eucharistic Presence determines the choices we make, choices to be a moral people open to the Presence of Christ not just in our statements of faith but in our living the faith.
The great prayer, the central prayer, of the Church is the Mass. It is in the Mass that we recreate the paschal mystery of the Last Supper, Death and Resurrection of the Lord and then share in this mystery by taking the Paschal Lamb within us. Every Mass is a battle for the Kingdom which we participate in through our determination to live the Eucharist we receive, our determination to be Christlike.
The reception of the Eucharist is also an act that is Catholic and Orthodox. Yes, other Christian faiths have communion celebrations, but for Catholics and Orthodox, the reception of the Eucharist is far more than a meal of fellowship. It is taking Jesus within us. When we receive communion our personal relationship with the Lord is brought to a new level. We have Jesus within us. We speak to Him. We celebrate Him.
And then, if we are truly Eucharistic, we bring Him to others. For to the degree that we bring the Presence of the Lord to others, to that degree we exercise our Catholic identity. So, when Fr. Hagan cares for the people of the slums of Haiti, when Blessed Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity and priests, religious and laity throughout the world care for the suffering, when we reach out to the hurting people of our own society, be it in our families, our country or our world, then we are living our Catholicism, we are living the Eucharist. We love Jesus so much that we want to make His Presence a reality for others. We bring this personal relationship with the Lord that is the heart of our faith to those who long for meaning, purpose, and for a love that does not end.
Today is a day when Catholics throughout the world will follow the Eucharist in a procession. There is a wonderful symbolism to this liturgical action. We follow the Eucharistic Presence wherever the Lord might lead us. This means making decisions to step away from the security of friends and into the arms of impoverished strangers. It means standing up for the unpopular way of Jesus Christ, in contra position to being immersed in the popular pagan way of life. It means choosing someone to make a life with based on his or her spiritual depth, not his or her external looks. It means choosing a life full of sacrifice rather than a life full of self indulgence.
To receive the Eucharist is to live the Life of Jesus Christ. We enter into the New Covenant with the Lord on a regular basis whenever we receive communion. Do we Catholics cultivate a personal relationship with the Lord? Of course. Our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is real, living and Eucharistic.