One of the seminarians who gives tours of St. Peter’s told me once of an interesting incident. He was leading a group of Japanese tourists who knew absolutely nothing of our Faith. With particular care he explained the great masterpieces of art, sculpture and architecture. He finally concluded at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel trying his best to explain quickly what it was. As the group dispersed, an elderly man, who had been particularly attentive stayed behind, and said, “Pardon me. Would you explain again this ‘Blessed Sacrament?’” The student did, after which the man exclaimed, “Ah, if this is so, what is in this chapel is a greater work of art than anything else in this basilica.”
What is the purpose of the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ we celebrate today? This special Feast is celebrated in remembrance of Jesus who gave His life for the salvation of many. It is a Feast in remembrance of Jesus’ command to celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
As we heard during today’s Gospel Reading, “While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ “Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” Jesus commanded us to celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, to eat His Body and to drink His Blood.
Do you believe that when you consume the small, white Host offered you by the priest as Holy Communion you are really receiving the flesh of Jesus, his Body? Do you really believe it?
Supposedly only 30 percent of Catholics believe in real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
It is not a surprise than that some don’t come to Mass very often. If you don’t believe in the real presence, Mass is just a social gathering! Not very important one.
Some people try to explain it away with varying novel interpretations. They say it’s only a symbol for his Body and Blood. It only represents the flesh of Jesus. They give it a name like transignification which means basically that when the words of consecration are said the bread and wine take on a different significance – without actually changing into the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a symbol they say.
Well, we Catholics believe in transubstantiation which is a word given us by St Thomas Aquinas. It means that when the words of consecration are spoken the bread and wine retain all the elements of the appearance of bread and wine (smell, taste, look, etc) but the substance of the bread and wine is changed to the Body and Blood of Christ. To put it simple – the bread and wine IS Jesus – truly present in his body and blood, soul and divinity.
He is not more completely present in heaven than he is here on our altar and in our tabernacle. He will be seen or experienced more fully in heaven but he will be no more present than he is today, here in this church on this altar in this tabernacle.
Actually, this should help us respond to those strange people who say we don’t need to come to church to worship Jesus because ‘Jesus is everywhere.’ Yes, he is, everywhere spiritually. But in the fullness of his presence, body, blood, soul and divinity, he is present only in the tabernacle, or on the altar during Mass.
This is a profound truth. This is the heart of our faith.
While Jesus was on earth, He stated, “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [Jn. 6:51]
In the passage of the Gospel of John notice how Jesus speaks with the words, “Very truly.” “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” [Jn. 6:53-5]
In the Gospel of John, starting with the words “Very truly,” Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” [Jn. 3:5]
When Jesus used the words, “Very truly,” such not being on too many occasions, He was pointing out to something that was extremely important, something that must not be overlooked.
Jesus was indicating that we must receive the Sacrament of Baptism in order to qualify for the Kingdom of God. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we receive our new creation as the first installment towards salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we received the forgiveness of the original sin and our sins that were committed prior to being baptized, if we receive baptism later in life. At that moment, we became members of the Body of Christ. Through our free will, we were free to welcome Jesus in our lives in humility, obedience and servitude.
Once we have received the Sacrament of Baptism through faith in Christ, we are called to maintain our state of grace at all time. How do we do that? It is by receiving the Sacrament of Confession! Then, being in a state of grace, we are called to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ.
As Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” [Jn. 6:53] Some may say, “I have faith in Jesus and so I am saved!” Other may say, “I have been baptized and have become a new creation. As such, I am saved.”
Believe me, unless we receive the Body and Blood of Christ through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we are not sure we are saved! We may have become a new creation by dying with Christ, being buried with Christ and having resurrected with Christ, but the soul has no life in it without the Body and Blood of Christ.
Faith alone does not save anyone! The Sacrament of Baptism alone does not save anyone! The Sacrament of Confession alone does not save anyone! Nor does the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist alone save anyone! Each of the mentioned are required in the proper order for us to be saved and qualify to enjoy eternal life in the Kingdom of God. We are saved and we are being saved. This is our Catholic answer: being saved is a process for us, process that starts and continues through life.
If we do not walk our living faith in Christ and receive the Living Bread of life on a regular basis, by failing to obey the teachings of Jesus, we will not receive our final installment. It is as simple as that!
As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us be thankful to the Lord Jesus for His Body and Blood that assures us our salvation. And let us remember throughout the week that as new creations, we are called to feed on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist so the Body and Blood of Christ may transform us in His likeness.
I conclude with a word from Pope Benedict XVI: We, Christians, kneel only before God, before the Most Holy Sacrament, because we know and believe that in it is present the one true God…