A team of Russians and Americans were on a common expedition. Among their cabin foodstuff was Russian black bread. It was tasty but hard on the teeth. It happened during a meal that an American bit into a piece and snapped a tooth. He threw the bread overboard and growled: “Lousy Communist bread.” The Russian countered: “It is not lousy communist bread, but a shaky capitalist tooth.” Some of us complain in a similar manner about the Eucharist. However, if we do not experience the transforming power of the Eucharist it is not on account of a lousy Eucharist but on account of our shaky faith and lack of understanding of what the Eucharist really means.
The feast of Corpus Christi has been interpreted to mean the feast of the Eucharist and while this is certainly true, it would be a mistake to restrict the understanding of the feast to the ritual of the Eucharist. The feast goes beyond the ritual to life itself just as the Eucharist does. Communion with Christ has always been a mark of the follower of Christ. We would make significant gains in our life of following or discipleship if we would focus on the Eucharist as the deepest expression of our communion with Christ and not simply a "going to" or "taking of" that begins and ends in the sanctuary.
The Eucharist is sacrament, sacrifice and covenant. The Eucharist is a sacrament, an outward sign in and through which we meet Christ who shares His life of grace with us. We meet him under signs of bread and wine to nourish and strengthen us for our journey through life. We see with human eyes what looks like bread and wine. We see with eyes of faith, not bread and wine, but the Risen Living Lord Jesus.
The Eucharist is a sacrifice, the re-presentation or re-living of Christ’s sacrificial death on Good Friday and of his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The scripture readings today stress how God made a covenant with his People, first through Moses which was manifested in a variety of ways. These included leading the people of Israel from slavery to freedom, from wilderness and barrenness to fertility, from waterless places to water even from rocks and through manna like they had never eaten before. This covenant had to be constantly renewed because God’s people kept going back on their word. However, in and through Christ it was made finally and forever, a covenant sealed and ratified by the shedding of blood. This covenant or bond of love between God and us is renewed and deepened through and in every Eucharist or Mass.
The second reading today, from Paul, is the earliest recorded story of anything Jesus did. And that earliest story is about a meal, the Last Supper, which Jesus shared with his disciples. In a very particular way, he made that meal a way to remember him. It brings forward his sacrifice and death and resurrection, his fellowship and unity with us, and everything he taught us. And he did not want his followers to eat it just that once on the night before he was handed over. Rather, he wanted us to do it again and again, so that we continue to remember.
St. Augustine often stressed to his parishioners a unique quality of the Eucharistic food we receive during mass. The ordinary food we eat daily at meal times becomes part of us. We are what we eat. But the Eucharist is unique in that we become part of it. We become more Christlike, more patient and kind, more forgiving and understanding. We still live our ordinary daily lives, but it is Our Lord who inspires our motives, attitudes and actions. We begin to see people and events through his eyes, to think as he did. When Jesus was on earth, he used his own human hands to reach out to people, but when he wants to feed the poor today, he uses my hands, your hands to do this. We are the descendants and we are doing – with Jesus – what he once did by himself: bringing the love of the Father to those we meet.
This Feast, then, of the Body of Christ, sums up three important confessions about our Faith. First, and most important, that God became physically present in the person of Christ - True God and True Man. Secondly, that God continues to be present in His people as they form the Mystical Body of Christ in his church. And, thirdly, the presence of God, under the form of bread and wine, is made real for us on the altar at Mass and preserved there for our nourishment and worship. When, then, at the conclusion of the prayers of consecration, we proclaim our "Amen", we must remember that we are saying "Yes" to the real and inseparable presence of Christ in time and in eternity.
Life in communion with Christ is not confined to a few moments in public worship but is a morning 'till evening, every waking moment feeding on the One who gives us his very self to feed upon and in the process becoming also bread for others.