Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, and in today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the Living Bread come down from heaven and anyone who eats this Bread will live for ever . . . and if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you will not have life; eternal life in you.” (John 6:51-52). I have no doubt all of us here believe what Jesus said and believe that what we receive at Holy Communion truly Jesus Himself. However, how does this Truth affect our daily living?
When we fall sick and are hospitalised, we ask for a priest to receive the Sacrament of the Sick where we also receive Holy Communion. If someone we love dies and is a Catholic, we wish to have a meaningful Funeral Mass, so that we be consoled in our bereavement that our loved one is at peace with God for all eternity. Such deep feelings and desires are very real as a Catholic Christian.
And so, if for one reason or another the priest did not administer the Sacrament of the Sick or was not able to bring Holy Communion to us in the hospital, we get upset, and worse still if our loved ones die without these Sacraments, some of us may even think that the departed loved one may be deprived of the gift of eternal life.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, such feelings are very understandable because we all believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and that Jesus is truly and physically present to us in His Body and Blood in the form of Bread and Wine as He Himself promised in today’s Gospel. And, all of us need Jesus to nourish and strengthen us spiritually in our daily living on earth and to prepare ourselves for our death.
While this is the fundamental Truth of our faith in Jesus, we have to admit that this precious divine Gift of Jesus, evokes a wide variety of responses. For some of us, the Eucharist is the most precious gift that we can receive each day of our lives and nothing in this world can be more precious. Mother Theresa reminds us that every Eucharist should be celebrated with such attention, reverence and participation as though it is our first, our last and our only Eucharist. In the history of our Church, we have read of thousands upon thousands of believers who willingly suffered extreme persecution and happily died for their faith in the Eucharist, rather than deny its Truth or be deprived of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.
Corpus Christi 2014- Proccesssion of Blessed Sacrament at St Ignatius Church
On the other extreme of the spectrum, we find believers ignoring and taking this divine gift of Jesus Himself in the Eucharist for granted. Thousands upon thousands of Catholics do not come for Mass and have not received Holy Communion for some twenty, thirty or forty years. A great number of Catholics too who claim to come for Mass regularly, actually refers to coming “regularly” only twice a year: Christmas and Easter. Still, there are others who come to Church twice in their life time; once carried into the church their mother’s arms at Baptismand another wheeled into the church by undertakers during their Funeral Mass.
We can safely say that most of us fall in between these two extremes of the spectrum. And, if not for the Wisdom of the Church to make Sunday Mass attendance obligatory for us, how many of us do you think would still be coming for Mass and how many of us do you think would have lost our Catholic faith?
Entrance of the Blessed Sacrament into St Ignatius Church
The Wisdom of our Mother Church is that as She knows that even as we all believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, we each have the tendency to take God’s precious gift of the Eucharist for granted. The Wisdom of our Church too understands how easily you and I can be distracted and drawn away from the Eucharist by the attractions of the glamour and glory of the secular world and the possession and pride of the materialistic world. It is not so much that we do not value the Eucharist, but it is that we are more easily lured and attracted by the other needs and interests of our lives or rather, we have not yet put God at the centre of our lives and loves in our daily living.
Thus, our Holy Father, Pope Francis in his homily on the Feast of Corpus Christi last Thursday reminds us, “Some feed on money; others feed on success and vanity, and still others on power and pride. But, the food that truly feeds us and nourishes us is what the Lord gives us . . . He feeds us with food that satisfies our ‘spiritual hunger for eternity’ ”. Thus, while we all have physical hunger and while we attend to our material well-being, such hunger can also enslave us. . .” So, Pope Francis is asking you and I to ponder on this basic question, "At which table do I want to nourish myself? At the table of the Lord or, like the Jews in the desert, dreaming of tasty foods, but are in slavery?”
Pope Francis blessing the people with the Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Chisti 2014
Likewise, in today’s first Reading, Moses reminded the people, “man does not live on bread alone, but on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut. 8:3) You and I know that the challenges of living our faith are never straightforward and simple. So, “how can we be more fully committed in our love for Jesus”? I like us to reflect on what our Pope has said. As Pope Francis is a great football fan, and in the present world cup fever, he reflected on how soccer can be used to describe the Christian life. We may find them helpful as we face the challenges of living our faith as a Eucharistic people. This is what he said.
First: "Jesus asks us to follow Him all of our lives, He asks us to be His disciples and play in His team. However, in order to be on His team, we need to train and train a lot. That's also how our lives as disciples of the Lord are. The training needed to follow Jesus are: prayer, the Sacraments, and service towards others.”
Second: As any avid soccer fan can attest, teams have their ups and downs. The Pope used this as a reminder that the important thing is not to win, but to get up and try again after losing.
Third: "If you make a mistake in life, if you slip and fall, if you do something that's wrong, don't be afraid. Speak to Jesus from your heart and say to Him, ‘Jesus, look at what I've done. What do I have to do now?’ But always talk to Jesus, in good times and the bad.”
Children's Eucharistic Adoration on every 2nd Friday in a month at St Ignatius
Fourth: For any fan, the best view of the game is priceless. Likewise, there are no "free” access for Christians. Jesus does not ask us to pay, but to pray for the entrance fee. And that fee requires us to train ourselves, to 'stay in shape,' in order to face life's challenges without fear; and giving witness to our faith.”
Fifth: It's never easy to accept defeat, especially when the match isn't fair. But the key, is to always play clean. Then, "during a match, when you're on the field, you will find beauty, gratitude and teamwork. If a team does not have this, then it will lose its strength, even if it wins the game.”
Sixth: The goal for any championship is to win. A trophy is the ultimate symbol of victory, but for us Christians, we receive something even more important. "Jesus is offering us something greater than the World Cup! Jesus is offering us the opportunity for a fruitful and happy life, and a never-ending future by His side, in eternal life. That's what Jesus has is offering us.”
Today, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi; the divine Gift of the Body and Blood of Christ, that offers eternal life and happiness. And, as we conclude, let us open our hearts to be renewed in our desires to accept Jesus in the Eucharist with greater gratitude and not take Jesus for granted. Let us each promise Jesus personally that from today, you and I, will try our very best, with God’s grace, to attend, participate and value each Eucharistic celebration as though it is our first Eucharist, our last Eucharist, and our only Eucharist. When we can do this, as Jesus promised us in today’s Gospel, we will surely gain not only earthly happiness, but also, eternal life.
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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Celebration of Corpus Christi at St Ignatius Church with Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, ECM Day of Recollection and Commisioning of new ECMs
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