Have you ever been really hungry? What does Kohloe, the beautiful little girl who will be Baptized today, do when she is hungry? Krystal and Dave, her mom and dad know. She cries. What do you and I do? It all depends on the situation. I know what happens to us when we are on our annual canoe trip into the Quetico Provential Park in Canada after a few hours of paddling we can tell when it is lunch time. People's attitude changes. People aren't as happy as they were when they had their bellies full. We are in need of and longing for food. Today being the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, essentially the Eucharist, it brings back to me the memory of a lady who was taking instructions in an effort to become Catholic. When it came to Communion time, she would begin to cry realizing that the Church's man-made rule was that she couldn't receive Christ's Body and Blood until after she was accepted into the Church at Easter Vigil. Talk about a hunger, a longing!
Just like the belief in the Trinity, that there are three persons in one God, which we celebrated last Sunday, the belief that the consecrated bread and wine we receive at is in fact the living body and blood of Christ are doctrines of the Church. The first of these, the Trinity is a belief, as far as I know, is accepted as doctrine by all Christian Churches but the second is not. Both of these doctrines are mysteries, that is not easy to understand and accept but both are based on Scripture. It was a real surprise to me some time ago when I read the summary of a survey which concluded that only 30% of Catholics are not convinced about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in the Communion we receive. Difficult to understand in that that doctrine is not only based on Scripture, on the literal understanding of our readings today from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, our Gospel reading from John's Gospel, and Christ's words in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke but it is as well a belief held by the Church from the beginning of the Church and is the subject of many of the recorded miracles.
My wife Jane and I were privileged to see the results of one of the many of those miracles in Lanciano, Italy. We saw the host which had been turned into physical flesh and the wine which had been turned into blood. The miracle happened when a priest back in the 8th Century was celebrating Mass and he personally didn't believe in the real presence. Both the flesh, which has been found to be heart muscle and the blood, which is type AB, have not deteriorated. Details of that miracle and other Eucharistic Miracles are reported in a book by that name authored by Joan Carroll Cruz.
In spite of history it apparently, as the survey indicates many non-Catholic beliefs have become belief of Catholics. Some of those beliefs include:
That the consecrated bread only symbolizes the body and blood of Christ in that they believe Christ was not meaning literally what he said and in some cases they believe that;
It is only their personal belief which makes the bread and wine Christ's Body and Blood, but the fact is that if a person believes or not, the consecrated bread and wine is the living Body and Blood of Christ.
Who can fathom the mystery of God's love in the Eucharist? God could have provided us
the free gift of salvation from a distance, but God chose to come live with us and give us the food which empowers us to live in God. How does the Eucharist bring about union with Christ? As an atheist philosopher some time ago said and we know: "We are what we eat." The atheist expressed the Christian mystery in the best way. Isn't that a fantastic thought and fact? When we receive Communion we have God within us. What a great gift God has given to each of us, in addition to the free gift of salvation. Because of the Eucharist, a Catholic Christian is truly what that person eats and is called to be Christ to the world by what they do and what they say. Let's ask God today to help us accept these gifts and be Christ's hands, feet and voice by way of our compassion, love and forgiveness.