As we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi: The celebration of the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ. We have this wonderful gift to have Christ present to us, in essence and in reality, the fullness in his divinity, right here on the altar today.
One of my favorite reflections on this is actually by our former Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus. He talks about the real presence in the Eucharist, and he gives us a kind of modern day understanding of it.
By His command, do this in remembrance of Me. Jesus asks us to respond to His gift and make it sacramentally present. When Jesus said this 2,000 years ago, he was not only asking, but commanding us, and giving us the authority, and the power to make His presence sacramentally present here at the altar. Body and Blood. Sole and Divinity.
In these words the Lord expresses, as it were, His expectation of the Church, born of His sacrifice, that we will receive this gift, developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the liturgical form that we have today in the sacrament of the Eucharist. The remembrance of His perfect gift consists not in the mere repetition of the Last Supper --so we are not just repeating the Last Supper here -- but in the Eucharist itself, that is, a radical newness of Christian worship.
Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, there is a radical newness of Christ coming into the world.
In this way, Jesus left us the task of entering into His hour. The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' self-oblation or sacrifice. More than just statically receiving the incarnate logos, we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving. Jesus, right now, draws us to Himself around the altar. The substantial conversion of bread and wine into His Body and Blood introduces within Christian principles a radical change.
During this moment of every mass, you are experiencing a miracle that is beyond miracles.
He goes on to call this a sort of "nuclear fission," to use an image that we are familiar with today, which penetrates to the hearts of all being. In nuclear fission, these particles are broken down, and a new creation takes place. Then out of this process, it explodes into this energy.
If you know anything about nuclear power, it is a million times more powerful than power that you get from gasoline or anything like that.
So "to use an image familiar today," he says, "which penetrates the heart of it is a change that is meant to set off a process which transforms reality."
On this altar, we have this explosion of energy which sets forth a process and a transforming of all reality. A process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all.
As the gifts of bread and wine are brought forward to the altar, and the priest lays hands over them, he says the words of Christ, "This is My Body. This is My Blood." Then the nuclear fission happens, that transformation happens, where the bread and wine become the Body and Blood. It becomes an explosion of grace. Not only does it explode to all of you who are here at the altar, like the blood sprinkled upon you, but your community too is going to be transformed, because you are going to walk out there today as the Body of Christ. All over the country that is going to happen today. All over the world that is going to happen today. This nuclear fission. This explosion of God's grace and energy comes forth into the world at every celebration of the Eucharist.
I am going to quote just a couple of things from the Catechism and some of my favorite sayings.
St. John Chrysostom wrote:
“It is by this conversion of bread and wine into Christ's Body and Blood, that Christ becomes present in the sacrament. It is a true presence. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the Faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ, and of the action of the Holy Spirit, to bring about this conversion.”
“It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but He who was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is My Body”, he says. This word transforms these things offered.
St. Ambrose says about this conversion:
"Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing, nature itself is changed. Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before?”
Think about it. Christ's Word, at the beginning of the universe, created the heavens and the Earth out of nothing. He brought all of creation into existence out of nothing by His Word. Could not His same word transform this bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.
The Council of Trent summarizes:
"Because Christ, our Redeemer, said that it was truly His Body that He was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this Holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ, and our Lord and the whole substance of the wine, into the substance of His blood. This change, the Holy Catholic Church has fittingly, and properly, called Transubstantiation.”
Jesus awaits us in the sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go and to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and to make amends for any serious offenses that we may have. Let our adoration never cease.
St. Thomas says that:
"This is the sacrament of the true Body and Blood of Christ, and it is something that cannot be apprehended by the senses, but only by Faith."
St. Cyril says:
"Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in Faith, for since He is truth, He cannot lie."
Our Lord Jesus said this very clearly to us: "This is My Body and this is My Blood." And yet I know this is one of the most doubted things in the Catholic Faith. One of the things that many Catholics struggle with is the reality and the belief in the true presence.
All I really wanted to do today is just help articulate that, to reaffirm that we do believe; that we do believe the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ; that in the sacrament, we experience the true presence of Jesus.
And finally, I am going to close with a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
"Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore, Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more, See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art. Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived: How says trusty hearing? That shall be believed; What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do; Truth Himself speaks truly or there's nothing true."
Please take a moment now just to pray for an increase of Faith, to pray for an increase of belief that we truly are receiving the true presence, the Body and Blood of Christ. If this is something that you struggle with or doubt, just ask God to give you the grace to experience it today, to have a felt experience of His true presence.