June 6, 2021 ~ Corpus Christi

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Welcome back! The dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days has been lifted, and we rejoice to be together for Mass. It is fitting that we do so on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, as the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of all life in the Church.

In the Roman Liturgy, this Feast was was marked by the gathering of people for Mass; a Eucharistic procession; and, finally, Eucharistic Adoration. But, the first action is to gather together in the Lord’s presence. In Roman times, this was called “statio”. Let us imagine that in Rome, there was just one altar and that all the city’s Christians gathered to celebrate the Savior, who died and was raised. In every Church, there was only one Bishop and around him, around the Eucharist that he celebrated, a community was formed, one, because one was the blessed Cup and one was the Bread broken (cf. 1Cor 10: 16-17). 

Another famous Pauline verse leaps to mind: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). In these words, the truth and power of the Christian revolution is heard: here people of different age groups, sex, social background, and political ideas gather together in the Lord’s presence. The Eucharist can never be a private event, reserved for people chosen through affinity, friendship, or because of some elite status. We did not choose to meet one another. We came here and find ourselves next to one another, united by faith and called to become one body, sharing the one Bread which is Christ. We are united over and above our differences. Opening ourselves to one another, we become one in Him. This has been a characteristic of Christianity from the outset, visibly fulfilled around the Eucharist. 

But the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is also a means for us to recall a central mystery of Catholic Faith. In the Eucharist, we do not receive mere bread and wine. We do not receive a symbol presence of the Lord. We do not receive both bread and wine and Jesus’ Body and Blood. We receive His Real Presence: Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. We receive Him who has the power to unite us. 

The Catechism (1374) states: “The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ … because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”

The words of the institution of the Eucharist which Jesus spoke at the Last Supper are repeated every time that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is renewed. This Sunday we hear them in Mark’s Gospel. They help us relive the spiritual atmosphere of the Upper Room, when the Lord mystically anticipated the sacrifice that was to be consummated the following day on the Cross. 

Jesus does not only say, “This is my Body,” He also says, “This is my Blood”. Here the reference to the sacrificial language of Israel is clear. Jesus presents Himself as the true and definitive sacrifice, in which was fulfilled the expiation of sins which was never fully completed through the Old Covenant. Jesus also says that His Blood “is poured out for many”, not for the few elite. He speaks of “blood of the Covenant”, making clear that through His death the prophesy of the new Covenant is fulfilled. This Covenant is stronger than all humanity’s sins. The old Covenant had been sealed on Sinai with a sacrificial rite of animals, as we hear in the First Reading. The Chosen People promised to obey all the commandments given to them by the Lord (cf. Ex 24: 3) but quickly fell into idolatry, fashioning a golden calf.

However, the Lord did not fail to keep his promise to His people, and, through the prophets, sought to recall the inner dimension of the Covenant and announced that he would write a new law upon the hearts of his faithful (see Jer 31: 33), transforming them with the gift of the Spirit (see Ez 36: 25-27). During the Last Supper, He made this new Covenant with his disciples and humanity, confirming it with His own Blood at Calvary. 

Today’s Second Reading, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, declares that Jesus is the “mediator of a new covenant”. He became so through the gift of Himself and the outpouring of His Blood. On the Cross, Jesus is both victim and priest: a victim worthy of God because He was unblemished, and a High Priest who offers Himself and intercedes for the whole of humanity. The Cross is a mystery of love and of salvation which cleanses us from “dead works” and sanctifies us by engraving the New Covenant upon our hearts. The Eucharist, making present the sacrifice of the Cross, makes us capable of living communion with God faithfully.

This is why I became a priest: to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice for the salvation and sanctification of the world. I am grateful to the many priests who nourished my faith over the years. I ask for your prayers for those who have served at St. Ignatius. This weekend, Fr. Snodgrass will celebrate his 45th anniversary. I am grateful for the extra help he has provided to our parish over the past year. Next weekend, on June 12th, Fr. Bolte, who served here as pastor for 13 years will celebrate the 9:15 Mass in honor of his priestly ordination (40 years, plus 1). May God grant them many more years.

Finally, I conclude as I began – welcoming all of you back! Our Eucharistic Lord is always waiting here for you – to listen to you and to speak to you. God is near to His People and makes His dwelling among us. I certainly hope that you all know that this is not only God’s home but your home. St. Alphonsus says, “Paradise for God is the human heart.” I pray that you would continue to come to Mass to receive Him into your heart. May you come to know God’s love in this great Sacrament of Charity.

– Fr. Fernandes

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