Engaging the Gospel – Corpus Christi

Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ: Gospel – John 6:51-58

Sunday’s Gospel provides resounding testimony from the Lord Himself about the sacrament of His Most Holy Body and Blood, confirming His true, real, substantial presence in the Eucharist:

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.

As if the Lord’s own uncompromising words weren’t sufficient to bolster our faith in the Real Presence, we have the witness of the Church Fathers.

Here are just three examples drawn from Mike Aquilina’s The Mass of the Early Christians:

St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107), a disciple of St. John the Apostle, confesses that the Eucharist is “the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again.”

St. Justin Martyr (d. ca. 165) explains that the food “blessed by the prayer of his word…is the flesh and blood of Jesus,” and that no one can partake of the Eucharist unless he “believes that our doctrines are true,” has been baptized, and “is living as Christ has commanded.”

The Eucharist was handled with great devotion. As Origen (d. 254) wrote of the customary practice, “when you receive the body of the Lord, you guard it with all care and reverence lest any small part should fall from it, lest any piece of the consecrated gift be lost.”

The martyrs proclaimed their belief in the Real Presence by paying the ultimate price.

Pope Benedict XVI cites the heroic example of the North African martyrs of the early fourth century: despite the ban on Christian worship, they continued to assemble on the Lord’s Day, regardless of the danger to their lives.

Why did they run such risks? They declared that “it was not possible for them to live without the Eucharist, the food of the Lord” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 95).

Question for reflection: How is the Eucharist essential to my life?