June 19 – Corpus Christi
On Corpus Christi we celebrate the sacrament of sacraments, the Eucharist! No other sacrament gets its own feast day in the liturgical calendar, probably because the Eucharist is the “fount and apex of the whole Christian life” (Lumen Gentium 11).
Now, let’s be honest. From the outside perspective, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist—his body, blood, soul, and divinity—is a very odd belief. The early Church refused to let the non-baptized attend the Eucharistic sacrifice because it is truly a sacrament for the initiated—so much so that attending the Eucharistic celebration each Sunday is a serious moral obligation for all Catholics under the penalty of mortal sin! (Save the serious exceptions like “illness or the care of infants” etc.; see Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181)
Why? Well, if we do not know or trust Jesus with our lives, we will probably be left like the crowds in John 6:60 who say, “This saying is σκληρός (skleros)”—the Greek word not just for ‘hard’ or ‘difficult’, but also harsh, physically dense, and even cruel and terrible! But if we trust that Jesus is who He says He is—both God and love incarnate—then when He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” we will probably begin by responding like Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).
But let’s look even deeper. The crowds said, “This λόγος (logos) is σκληρός (skleros)”. Now, if you’ve ever tried your hand at biblical Greek, you’d know that the beginning of John’s Gospel begins with calling Jesus the λόγος (logos), the Word who “was with God”, “was God”, and “became flesh and dwelt among us”. Thus, John the evangelist may be offering us a pun here in Greek: the crowd not only finds Jesus’ spoken words challenging to accept, they find Jesus the Word Himself challenging to accept! Hence why their reaction to His teachings on the Eucharist is as follows: “After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him” (Jn 6:66).
So too for us. If we misunderstand who Jesus truly is, who He is meant to be in our lives, then we will struggle with understanding the proper place of the Eucharist in our own lives as well. Yet, if we see Jesus as the one through whom all things were made (Jn 1:3), including ourselves, then we will see the Eucharist as not just any ritual, but as it is and ought to be: the fount and apex of our very lives.
Father James – Parochial Vicar