From the desk of Deacon Mike McCormick…
Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.
These are the words from today’s Gospel as we celebrate the day of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ the Lord, more exactly the Real Presence of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.
St. Julianna of Liege was instrumental in getting this Feast established. She was born in 1192 and orphaned at age five. She and her sister were raised by the Augustine nuns at the convent of Mont-Cornillon where Julianna developed a special veneration for the Blessed Sacrament. In 1208, she reported her first vision of Christ in which she was instructed to plead for the institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi. This vision was repeated for the next twenty years but she kept it a secret. She eventually relayed it to her confessor; he relayed it to the Bishop.
The Bishop created this Feast for his Diocese to be celebrated on the first Thursday after Holy Trinity Sunday. The Archdeacon of Leige became Pope Urban IV and at the urgency of St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, made the Feast of Corpus Christi recognized throughout the whole Latin Church in 1264.
Although we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, we also commemorate Christ’s washing of the disciples’ feet and the institution of the priesthood. In St. Julianna’s vision, Christ asked her to plead for the Feast of Corpus Christi that focuses entirely on the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, the Real Presence of Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.
In this country, it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, so it was moved to the following Sunday so that more of the faithful could partake in this celebration.
Since the 1960s, adoration for the Eucharist has fallen off sharply. I am forever thankful for Vatican II. It took the “I” out of our faith and substituted “we”, so that we are all responsible for the eternal reward of each other. On the down side, I think that it shadowed the mystic and reverence surrounding the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Holy Eucharist. Somehow, the clergy, teachers, and parents need to step up and reinforce the faith of our young people so that they can truly experience the great event that happens at every Mass.
At the Mass, the priest extends his hands over the gifts, the bread and wine, and blesses them saying, “Bless and approve our offering, make it acceptable to you, an offering in spirit and in truth. Let it become for us the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, your only Son our Lord.”
The priest, just like Jesus did, takes the host, raises it and says, “Take this all of you and eat it, this is My Body that will be given up for you.” Taking the cup, he says in part, “take this all of you and drink from it, this is the cup of My Blood.” Neither Jesus then nor the priest now says pretend that this is My Body and Blood.
In 2019, a Pew Survey found that 7 out of 10 Catholics attending Mass weren’t sure what they believed about the Eucharist. Somewhere along the line, we have dropped the ball.
Let us today, as we prepare to receive the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, ask for the grace to strengthen our own belief and to refresh the faith of our brothers and sisters that are on the fence.
God Bless you,