When Jesus preached about His Body and Blood as His real food and drink from heaven that we must receive for the salvation of our souls, many of the Jews were shocked by His Words and responded, “How could anyone accept such intolerable language?” Jesus then turned to His Apostles and asked them, “Are you also upset?” Peter then answered, “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know You are the Holy One of God.”
We have all come here today to celebrate the Eucharist. And like Peter the Apostle, we also say, “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life . . .” God knows that even as we believe in His Real Presence in the Eucharist, to help us believe more deeply, from time to time, He has allowed visible Eucharistic miracles to occur in the Church. These are miracles that occurred during Mass when the bread is changed into the form of flesh and the wine changed into the form of blood during the consecration. Many such Eucharistic Miracles have occurred in various parts of the world and throughout the two millennia of Christian history and have been authenticated by the Church.
In the year 1263 a priest from Prague was on route to Rome making a pilgrimage asking God for help to strengthen his faith since he was having doubts about his vocation and in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Along the way he stopped in Bolsena 70 miles north of Rome. While celebrating Mass there, as he raised the host during the consecration, the bread turned into flesh and began to bleed. The drops of blood fell onto the small white cloth on the altar, called the corporal.
This event was brought to the attention of Pope Urban IV, who called for an investigation. In the following year, 1264, the Pope instituted the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Jesus. In fact, many centuries earlier; around the year 700 AD a monk in a place called Lanciano, in Italy who also feared that he was losing his vocation was celebrating Mass, and during the consecration the host turned into flesh and the wine turned into blood.
Despite the fact that the miracle took place almost 1300 years ago, the flesh of Jesus’ Body in a monstrance which is exposed every day and the blood in a glass chalice are still visible and present. The blood has congealed and is now in five clots in the glass chalice. In 1971 and 1981 when a hospital laboratory tested the flesh and blood they discovered that the flesh is myocardium, which is heart muscular tissue; the heart tissue of Jesus, the Sacred Heart, and the blood was tested to belong to is of the blood group AB.
In 1978 NASA scientists tested the blood on the Turin Shroud and interestingly also discovered that it is of the blood group AB. Despite the fact that these human flesh and blood have been preserved for 1300 years, the hospital lab tests found no trace of any preservatives. Moreover, when each of the five blood clots in the chalice was weighed individually, they all weighed the same. But, when they were all weighed together, regardless of how you combined them, they still weighed the same. This is a mystery that wants to affirm that the full Jesus is present in a particle of the Eucharist no matter how small it may be. These Eucharistic miracles, amongst many others have been authenticated by the Church after investigation.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, even as we believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated Bread and Wine, such Eucharistic miracles do help us affirm our faith, especially for those of us who tend to take His divine Miracle of Jesus for granted. When we receive Jesus, Jesus is in us and we are with Jesus. It is like what Genesis says about the marriage of man and woman; they are no longer two but one (Gen 2:24). It is the same when we receive Jesus. We are no longer two but one as Jesus says to us, “He who eats my flesh abides in me and I in him.” (John 6:57).
Unfortunately, not all Christians believe what we Catholics believe. There is a true story of professor Scott Hahn, a former Presbyterian who was received into the Catholic Church; a very prominent Biblical scholar and theologian, testified what happened to him. This is what he shared, “One day, I made a ‘fatal blunder’ – I decided that it was time for me to go to Mass on my own. I slipped quietly into the basement of Marquette University’s chapel for the Mass. I took a seat as an observer in the back pew.
All of a sudden a lot of ordinary people began coming in off the streets – rank-and-file type of folks. They came in, genuflected, knelt and prayed. Their simple but sincere devotion was impressive.
Then the bell rang and a priest walked out toward the altar. /I remained seated; I still wasn’t sure if it was safe to kneel. As an evangelical Calvanist, I had been taught that the Catholic Mass was the greatest sacrilege that a man could commit – to re-sacrifice Christ – so I wasn’t sure what to do.
I watched and listened as the readings, prayers and responses – so steeped in Scripture – made the Bible come alive. I almost wanted to stop the Mass and say, “Wait. That line is from Isaiah; the song is from the Psalms. Whoa, you’ve got another prophet in that prayer. I found numerous elements from the ancient Jewish liturgy that I had studied so intensely.
All of a sudden I realised, this is where the Bible belongs. . . I wanted to stop everything and shout, ‘this is great’! Instead, I just sat there, famished with the supernatural hunger for the Bread of Life.
After pronouncing the words of consecration, the priest held up the Host. I felt as if the last drop of doubt had drained from me. With all my heart, I whispered, ‘My Lord and my God. That’s really You! And if that’s You, then I want full communion with You. I don’t want to hold anything back.’ . . . and with that, I left the chapel, not telling a soul where I had been or what I had done. But, the next day I was back, and the next, and the next. Within a week or two I was hooked. I don’t know how to say it, but I had fallen head over heels in love with our Lord in the Eucharist! His presence to me in the Blessed Sacrament was powerful and personal. As I sat in the back I began to kneel and pray with the others whom I now knew to be my brothers and sisters. I wasn’t an orphan any longer. I had found my family – it was God’s family.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, to conclude, let us remind ourselves that as professor Scott Hahn discovered, through God’s Providence, the precious gift of the Real Presence of Jesus Body and Blood in the consecrated Bread and Wine, should we who have been receiving Holy Communion, since our early childhood, not be even more grateful for this divine gift of Jesus to us? Do we need the Bread and Wine to turn into the real flesh and real blood of Jesus in our midst as it happened in Lanciano, before we show our deeper gratitude to Him? In the history of the Church, thousands have experienced persecution and have been martyred for their strong faith in the Eucharist. What about us? What is Jesus challenge for us today?
(Ref: Adapted from: Fr Tommy Lane’s homily, on Corpus Christi Year C and Fr Neil Guillemette,S.J., “Hearts Burning –Homilies for Sundays, A,B,C of the year: Pub.St Pauls Philippines; pp267-268.)
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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