The Wonder of the Eucharistic Mystery

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on June 10, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

The Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist is called the Sacrament of Charity. In his recent Post-synodal Exhortation entitled Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI writes: "The Sacrament of Charity, the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God's infinite love for every man and woman. … Jesus continues, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, to love us ‘to the end,' even to offering us his body and blood. What amazement must the Apostles have felt in witnessing what the Lord said and did during that Supper! What wonder must the Eucharistic mystery also awaken in our own hearts!"

Taking part in this Corpus Christi Mass and procession, we too are being invited to experience wonder in our hearts and in our lives as we focus on the Eucharistic mystery: (1) Jesus Christ renewing His dying and rising in our midst during the celebration of this Eucharistic Sacrifice; (2) Jesus Christ remaining among us in His Real Presence; (3) Jesus Christ journeying with us, the members of His Body the Church, into the activities and streets of our daily lives.

Today, during this celebration of the Holy Mass — and in every celebration of the Mass — the Lord Jesus renews in our midst His dying and rising. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present: the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present."

Moreover, "because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution. In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'." In today's second reading, Saint Paul recalls for us the words of institution which Christ Himself spoke and continues to speak through the priest.

So then, at this Mass, Jesus is making present His dying and rising by which He won the gift of redemption for each of us and also nourishes us, both by the living Word He speaks in the first part of our liturgy and by His very own self, body and blood, soul and divinity, which He gives us in Holy Communion under the signs of bread and wine. Yes, Jesus in the Eucharist is the source of our life! How can we live without Jesus? How can we willingly absent ourselves from the celebration of the Holy Mass, at least on Sunday? He is our life! We come at least once a week to be nourished with His Word, a Word that encourages us when we are weary and tired, and to be nourished with His very self. At the moment of Holy Communion, the Lord Jesus and each one of us become one! Because of this union, we walk together and, with Jesus living in us, we can face anything!

Jesus Christ, Eucharistically present, remains among us after the celebration of Mass has ended. "The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharist species subsist." So, the Lord Jesus remains among us in the Blessed Sacrament, which is reserved in the tabernacle. Just as once, in the Old Testament, God remained among His people as a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, or in the meeting tent and, later, the temple, so the Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, remains in the midst of His people in the Blessed Sacrament. Often, even daily, we must go to be with Him, there to listen to His Word, there to hear, as it were, the beating of His Sacred Heart, there to be transformed and energized for the work of Christian witness in the world and for making present in visible ways the love of His Sacred Heart.

The Lord Jesus, who makes Himself present in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and who then remains among us in the Blessed Sacrament, also journeys with us, his body the Church, as we live daily life. The Eucharistic procession, in which we shall take part following this Mass, is a tangible expression of this truth. Pope John Paul II, in referring to the Corpus Christi celebration, stated the Church "does not only celebrate the Eucharist but solemnly bears it in procession, publicly proclaiming that the sacrifice of Christ is for the salvation of the whole world." Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI added: "We bring Christ, present under the sign of bread, into the streets of our city. We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to his goodness. May our streets be streets of Jesus! May our homes be homes for him and with him! May our life of every day be penetrated by his presence." Yes, today's procession enables us to recommit ourselves to bringing Jesus, who lives within us when we remain in the state of grace, to every activity and event of our daily lives! We must bring His love to the family, the workplace, the parish, the community, to those worlds in which we live and move and interact.

Yes, the wonder of the Eucharistic mystery fills us with hope and joy as we take part in this Corpus Christi Mass and procession. This wonder must remain as we go back to our homes and to daily life! The Lord Jesus is with us — in the renewal of His dying and rising, in His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and in His journeying with us, His Church, into daily life.

We end this reflection, as did Our Holy Father two years ago: "Let us pray to her, our holy Mother [the Woman of the Eucharist], so that she may help us to open our entire being, always more, to Christ's presence; so that she may help us to follow him faithfully, day after day, on the streets of our life. Amen."

Bishop Paul S. Loverde


Bp. Paul S. Loverde is the bishop of the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia.

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