The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus begins our Gospel telling the gathered crowd: ”I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Also in John’s Gospel, Jesus says: ”This is my Body; this is My Blood.” He never presents, or qualifies these statements as being metaphorical or symbolic. Mysteriously, mystically, divinely, this is a truth that is central to our Catholic faith.

We all need to be aware that a central tenet of our Catholic Faith is the belief that Jesus is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the consecrated bread of the Eucharist. The consecrated Host that we gaze upon in the monstrance with great reverence at a Holy Hour, is the same Jesus we receive on the tongue, or in our hand, when we receive Holy Communion at Mass.

When I was a kid, growing up in the early 40’s, very few adults went to Communion on Sunday morning. For the most part, the ones that went to Communion, were the ones that went to confession the evening before. This ‘custom of the times’ reflected the great awe that people felt for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Today, the great majority of those attending Mass, come forward to receive that Body of our Creator, without feeling a need for the cleansing Sacrament of Confession prior to receiving the Body of Christ. However the words of St. Paul clearly warn us to be cleansed and sin-free: ”Whoever receives the Body and Blood of our Savior unworthily, brings condemnation upon himself.” Wow! That’s clear enough for me!

Sadly, recent findings from the Pew Research Forum, indicate that 50% of Catholics do not know the Church’s teaching regarding the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. And, 37%, whether they knew the teaching or not, just flat do not believe that it really is the Real Presence. But the study shows that 63% do personally believe that the bread and wine literally become the Body and Blood of our Savior at the Consecration (and that includes 17% who had no idea that the Church actually taught that this is true; they were simply moved by the Spirit to believe).

So, today…the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ…is an excellent day to reflect on and assess our embrace of this core belief. Unlike the 1940’s, today over 95% of Mass attendees, do come forward to receive Holy Communion. We need to regularly pray to increase and reaffirm our faith in this truth, and begin by committing to always receive with a mental reminder that it is really God we are about to receive. Strive to block out, at least momentarily, all the visual and audible distractions. This is no time for eye contact and/or greeting of friends; that can wait. Our responses after receipt of each of the species (the Body and Blood) is “Amen.” I have noticed that several neglect this required liturgical response. “Amen” is a Greek word meaning: “So be it.” It implies assent, or a “Yes” to the words the priest, deacon, or extra-ordinary Eucharistic minister relates to us: “The Body of Christ”. It also implies commitment. With that little “Amen!”, we profess our belief that Jesus Christ, God and Man, is truly present in the trans-substantiated Bread and Wine.

Our “Amen” however, does more than profess our faith in the Real Presence of Christ. We also pledge to befriend Him in the poor, the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned, in our families, neighbors, friends, and adversaries. We commit to honor and glorify our Savior, fully aware that what we do (or do not do) to them, we do to Him. In His Eucharistic presence, let us be poised between intimacy and awe. This is as it should be for God is at once infinitely distant and awesomely close to us. Let us bear in mind that this is the Lord who brings all things into being and sustains them. And…this is the Carpenter from Nazareth, who welcomes us as friends. With our “Amen”, we acknowledge all of this.

Lord, I do Believe, help me in my unbelief!