The Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ

1 Cor 10:1-4, 16-17 John 6:47-58

At the church where I grew up, there was an old Hispanic woman, I can’t remember her name now, but I remember thinking at the time that she was a bit eccentric. Because she would enter the sanctuary after every Mass, walk up to the tabernacle beside the Altar, and drop to her knees. She would close her eyes tightly, hold her hands open like this and pray, as fervently as I’ve ever seen anyone pray in my life, and she’d stay there for a long time. She’d still be there as I finished my duties as an altar server and left the church long after most of the other parishioners had gone.  I chalked it up to her eccentric tendencies, but as I think about it now, I realize she probably wasn’t as strange as I thought. She simply had a better understanding of what happens in the Mass than I did as a kid. That old woman understood that when we come together as the Church week after week, and day after day, to remember what Jesus did for us and to give thanks to God for all His blessings, something mysterious happens at the Altar.

The mystery of the Altar which drew that old lady to fall to her knees in awe and thanks week after week, sees the ordinary things of this life transformed by the power of God into something extraordinary, and that extraordinary gift changed her in turn.

The mystery that drew that holy woman in every Sunday is the mystery we remember today as we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we join with Christians throughout the world in contemplating and giving thanks for the gift of the Holy Eucharist: the Sacrament commanded by Christ for the continual remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection until his coming again. These events are made present here and now by the power of the Holy Spirit as we enter into eternity. It is as if we are in the Upper Room, at Calvary, and in the Empty Tomb just as the apostles were over two thousand years ago.  We participate in those events as they did. With the beloved disciple, we recline at the table with Jesus. With Mary, we stand by the cross. With Peter, we run to the empty tomb. It is not just past events we make present when we gather to celebrate the Holy Eucharist.

When we celebrate this Holy Sacrament we also reach into the future and make present the second coming and the renewed creation when the Kingdom comes in its fullness. As we make these events present, we ask God that their benefits may be applied to us and to the whole world anew. We present gifts of bread and wine, remembering what Jesus did at the Last Supper. We ask that God accept them as he accepted the bread and wine offered by the priest Melkezideck. Then we come to the rail for Holy Communion, eat and drink in remembrance of Christ, and receive the outward and visible signs of bread and wine. Yet the bread and wine we receive is not ordinary bread and wine because, in the Mass, the bread and wine offered to God are miraculously transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we eat the broken bread and drink the wine outpoured, something miraculous happens as the God of the universe- present in the common forms of bread and wine- enters into our very bodies and souls. We are nourished by the spiritual food of Christ’s Body and Blood, we receive the forgiveness of our sins, and our union with Jesus and with His Church is strengthened. The transformed gifts of bread and wine begin to change us as we are presented to the Father as a living sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. The change brought about in us by God’s gifts is not instantaneous. We don’t become Saints overnight, and often we won’t feel anything when we come to the rail. When that’s the case, It’s easy for Communion to become a habit, something we don’t think about and that just becomes another thing to check off our list of things to do. (Talk about the Covid fast and how it made you realize what you were missing and how easy it is to take Communion for granted.)

Whether you came back to Communion in July when the church opened again, or you’re coming back today, or you still haven’t come back, and you’re watching this online. My prayer on this holy feast is that the absence of the Eucharist we’ve experienced during the pandemic will help us to remember the great gift we have been given in the Eucharist because When we receive Communion, we are given the grace we need to live a Christian life and become Saints even when it doesn’t feel like it, or we can’t see the change. We are being made very members of the body of the son and heirs of his eternal Kingdom -to borrow a turn of phrase from the post-communion prayer. So I pray that we can perceive within ourselves the fruit of Christ’s redemption so that knowing the change being brought about in us, we like that crazy old lady may be moved to an attitude of awe and thanksgiving. So that, we may witness to the presence of the Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar and within us not just with our lips, but in the way we live, work, pray and serve here in the church, but more importantly out in the world, a world that needs the joy, hope, and love of the God who we receive in the Holy Eucharist