THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI) YEAR A 2020 (R. 1: Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14b-16a; Psalm 147:12-13,14-15,19-20; R. 2: 1Corinthians 10:16- 17; Gospel: John 6:51-58)

FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO

OUR GREATEST TREASURE

Today is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Corpus is the Latin word for “Body,” while Christi is the Latin word for “of Christ.” So, Corpus Christi means “The Body of Christ.” Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ present under the appearances of bread and wine. A person who is familiar with the Liturgy might wonder why the emphasis today on Corpus Christi since we celebrate the Holy Eucharist every day (except for Good Friday). What we celebrate today is the solemn commemoration of the institution of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Another person who is familiar with the liturgical calendar might query: did we not already take care of that on Holy Thursday? True, we marked the anniversary of the institution of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday, but the agony in the garden and the Passion of Jesus that followed suppressed the rejoicing that is proper to the celebration. So today’s feast brings out the joyful aspect of the institution of the Eucharist. The Most Blessed Sacrament is the greatest treasure of the Church. Take away the Blessed Sacrament; the Church becomes something else. This Sacrament has many names because no single name is able to express the richness of this Most Holy Sacrament completely. The Catechism of the Catholic Church shares the following names for this sacrament:

EUCHARIST: This comes from Greek, and it means “thanksgiving.” This name is used for the Sacrament because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving is one of the four actions of this sacrament. Jesus took bread, he gave thanks, he broke it, and he gave it to his disciples.

THE LORD’S SUPPER: This name reminds us that this sacrament was instituted within the context of the supper, which Jesus took with his disciples on the eve of his passion. On that night, he gave his followers the command to do the same always in his memory. When we celebrate it today, it is not a repetition but a prolongation of the same event; that is why to this day, even if when we celebrate this sacrament in the morning, we do not call it the Lord’s Breakfast, but the Lord’s Supper. It is also an anticipation of the wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven.

THE BREAKING OF BREAD: This was a common gesture among the Jews. This rite is part of a Jewish meal, carried out by the master at the table. Jesus used it at the Last Supper, and when used now in the Eucharistic celebration, it signifies the fact that Christ enters into communion with all who partake of the one broken bread and forms one body in them. The breaking of the bread on Holy Thursday also anticipated what Jesus would do on Good Friday; he would break himself on the Cross to mend us.

THE EUCHARISTIC ASSEMBLY: This explains that the Sacrament is not a private celebration, but a celebration amid the gathering of the faithful.

THE HOLY SACRIFICE: This expresses the point that the Sacrament makes present the one Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Mount Calvary. It is not a repetition of that sacrifice; it connects us to that sacrifice and also includes the Church’s offering.

THE HOLY AND DIVINE LITURGY: This name reminds us that it is in the celebration of this Sacrament that the whole Liturgy of the Church finds its center and most intense expression.  

HOLY COMMUNION: This brings out the unitive role of this Sacrament. By this Sacrament, we are united to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body. Among the Israelites and later the Jews, there are different kinds of sacrifices. For example, there is the Whole Burnt Offering, where God (Fire) consumes the entire sacrifice. There is the Sin Offering where God (Fire) consumes part of the sacrifice, and the priest consumes the other part. There is also the Peace Offering where God (Fire) consumes part of the offering, the priest consumes another part, and the people who brought the items for sacrifice consume the third part. The eating of the sacrifice by the three parties is the high point of the Peace Offering that brings about reconciliation both vertically (God and humans) and horizontally (humans and fellow humans). At the Eucharistic Celebration, we also reach that high point where the Sacrifice is offered to God, the priest takes his part, and the congregation also partakes of the Communion. This action binds us to Christ and all communicants in a unique way. By receiving this Sacrament, each of us becomes different parts of the One Body of Christ, just as St. Paul explains in the second reading. It implies that if after partaking of this Sacrament, we still go on discriminating against one another, we hurt the One Body of Christ. It also explains why non-Catholics do not receive the invitation to Holy Communion even when they attend the Mass. It is not out of selfishness on our part. This Sacrament is the last of the three Sacraments of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist). It is for those who have been initiated into this faith. My Bishop, Most Rev. Anthony A. Adaji, MSP of Idah Diocese, would say that the Catholic Church is not a buffet where you pick your choice. You either believe all the Church teaches, or you take a different name. During Holy Communion, the priest/minister/extraordinary minister says, “The Body of Christ,” and the communicant responds, “Amen.” The “Amen” we say means that we believe and accept all that the Church teaches about the One we are receiving, and by that, we renew our full communion with Christ, with his body the Church, and with each member of the Church.

THE HOLY MASS: This name comes from the conclusion of the Eucharistic celebration (ite missa est), which is the sending forth (missio) of the faithful that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives. Christ broke himself to feed us; he sends us to go and break ourselves for others. He expects us to break our egos, our pride, and our selfishness to help those who lack and to forgive those who offend us. The Mass is not complete until we share with others the love we have received from Christ. May the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ bring all of us to everlasting life. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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