Gospel reflections – Solemnity of Corpus Christi
14 June 2020
The Solemnity of the Corpus Christi is a day of celebration for this Parish which bears its name, the Blessed Sacrament Parish. However, this year’s celebration is put aside due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The country has been closed for the past three months and is now in the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) period from 10 June. In the last three months, Catholics have been following and attending Mass online. Most are looking forward to coming back to the Church and attending Mass “live” rather than online via live-streaming. Since the easing of restrictions, I have asked those whom I met why they were looking forward to coming back to Church and to attend Mass. All of them have one common answer – they miss the Eucharist.
Indeed, we yearn for the Eucharist for it is the very essence of our worship and who we are as Catholics. The Church calls it the “source and summit” of the Church’s life and activity. Through the Eucharist we take part in the divine life of the Trinity. The Eucharist also unites us as a Church, the People of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1327) says this “The Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking”( St Irenaeus)”.
The Eucharist is Christ himself, body and blood, soul and divinity. It is of him that we partake each time we receive the Eucharist in Holy Communion. In the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims that he is the “living bread which has come down from heaven” (Jn. 6:51). He is bread of life. To eat this bread then is to have a share in the life of God himself. It is also to participate in eternal life.
Jesus gave us this bread at the Last Supper when he gave himself as food and drink. He told his disciples: “This is my body which will be given up for you. This is my blood which will be shed for you. Do this in memory of me” (Lk. 22:7-20. Mk 14:12-25). From the Last Supper onwards, all believers will be able to partake of Jesus’ body and blood in a sacramental manner. The apostles have kept this memory of Jesus alive by gathering together to break bread, the Eucharist. The Church continues to do this today in the Eucharistic celebration, or commonly known as the Mass. Our coming together at Mass makes this memory of Jesus present. It is our celebration and in celebrating the Mass, we are renewed in our journey of life with this living bread of Jesus, the Eucharist, that sustains us for eternal life. A person is thus called to believe and accept this.
The Mass is our place of encountering the broken flesh and spilled blood of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. We are therefore called to make a decision for or against this encounter – do we believe it, or do we reject it? In making this decision, the recent stay-at- home experience has helped us come to a faith-filled decision. For many of us, it has reminded us of the importance of the Eucharist in our lives. And this is something that we all missed today.
I conclude with this sad but beautiful story of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nyugen Van Thuan, Archbishop Coadjutor of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh). He spent 13 years in prison (1975-1988) under the Communist regime, nine of which was in solitary confinement. He died in 2002. This is a story that he had shared many times.
“When I was arrested, I had to leave immediately with empty hands. The next day, I was permitted to write to my people in order to ask for the most necessary things: clothes, toothpaste ..… I wrote, ‘Please send me a little wine as medicine for my stomach-ache.’ The faithful understood right away.
They sent me a small bottle of wine for Mass with a label that read, ‘medicine for stomach-aches.’ They also sent some hosts, which they hid in a flashlight for protection against the humidity. The police asked me, ‘You have stomach-aches?’ ‘Yes. Here’s some medicine for you.’
I will never be able to express my great joy! Every day, with three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of my hand, I would celebrate Mass. This was my altar, and this was my cathedral! ……… Each time I celebrate the Mass, I had the opportunity to extend my hands and nail myself to the cross with Jesus, to drink with him the bitter chalice. Each day in reciting the words of consecration, I confirmed with all my heart and soul a new pact, an eternal pact between Jesus and me through his blood mixed with mine. Those were the most beautiful Masses of my life!”
In a little while more, we will be able to go back to our Churches and attend Mass. Once again, we will be able to receive the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist, to hold the Bread of Life, in the palm of our hands. Until then, let us be thankful for this privilege God has bestowed upon us.
gloria et laus
Fr Patrick Heng
Blessed Sacrament Church, BDC, Kuching
Video: (watch from minutes 10.22- 34.20)
World Over – 2013-07-18 – The Late François-Xavier Cardinal Nguyên Van Thuán with Raymond Arroyo