The Banquet of Corpus Christi

Centuries ago, St. Thomas Aquinas asked the question, “Why did Jesus give us His Body and Blood?” If the Lord wanted to leave us a memorial of Himself, He could have given us some spectacular power — like the ability to cure the sick, multiply food, change water into wine or raise the dead.

Why did He not do this? The answer is because if He did, we would think about Jesus only as often as we think about our auto mechanic — that is, only when our car breaks down. And since Christ’s supernatural powers in us would never fail, we would soon not give a thought to the Source of those miraculous abilities.

Thus, we need Christ’s Body and Blood in order to be mindful of and intimately united to Him. Jesus does not want us to share simply His abilities; rather, He wants us to share in His very Self. That is why He gave us His Body and Blood. The human flesh of Jesus continues to link us and the people of every age with the timeless sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. It fills us with a lasting sense of connectedness with Him and with one another. The gift of Corpus Christi makes Holy Communion with Jesus Christ possible in three ways.

First of all, Jesus promises that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood “remains in Me and I in him.” One of the worst punishments imaginable is solitary confinement. Being deprived of the physical presence of other persons can easily lead to the agony of loneliness and isolation. The void of physical absence quickly degenerates into the many forms of psychological absence that we suffer: fear, self-doubt, depression, resentment, antagonism and so on. The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the sacrament of His Body and Blood, overcomes the “real absence” that often besets our life. In fact, we were created for communion — with others, and above all, with God. Our sharing in the Body and Blood of the Lord is the high point of our vocation to communion, to intimacy with Jesus Christ.

Second, everything that we know comes through our bodily senses. The body is the gateway to knowledge. This is also true of the Eucharist. Jesus saves us according to the distinctiveness of our human condition. Without the Body and Blood of Christ, we might be tempted to reduce Jesus to some abstract, impersonal, symbolic concept, notion or idea, as many people unfortunately do. The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist enables us to know His divine Person. When we eat the “true food” of the Holy Eucharist, the Lord changes the way we know: the Eucharistic Lord transforms our view of life, He helps us to grow in faith, He deepens our love, He comes to strengthen us and accompany us on our life’s pilgrimage.

Finally, the “bread that came down from heaven” imparts to us “eternal life”; right now, we begin to “live forever” through our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist anticipates and is a foretaste of the life we hope to share in heaven. As we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus, we come to be more and more like Him and so partake, here on earth, of the eternal banquet of heaven. The Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of His Body and Blood guarantees His promise: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day…. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Fr. De Ladurantaye is director of the Office of Sacred Liturgy, secretary for diocesan religious education, a professor of theology at Notre Dame Graduate School and in residence at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, Virginia.

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

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