Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Feast of Corpus Christi (Jn. 6:51-58)


The Feast of Corpus Christi invites us to meditate on the most precious gift that is given to us.  Not a gift in the usual sense that one is given, but from the point of view that it is the gift of the invitation by God to full communion with Him.  God invites us to become one with Him, as He becomes one with us, when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ: “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn. 6:56). This is a mystery that is beyond our full comprehension, and a reality that we cannot just simply pass by or skip over!  It is the most important and beautiful reality on earth.


Sometimes we might think the Sacrifice of the Mass is only a symbol of some sort.  However there can be no doubt about the fact that we truly receive Jesus’ Body and Blood and so are invited into full communion with Him.  Jesus Himself was very clear about it in this week’s Gospel.  Why did Jesus, for example, let so many go away: "many of his disciples, when they heard it, said: "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"" (Jn. 6:60), and subsequently "many [...] drew back and no longer went about with him" (Jn. 6:66).  If it was only a symbolic gesture why did He not call them back and explain that He did not mean it literally?  Instead he asked the twelve: "Do you also wish to go away?" (Jn. 6:67).  We however, together with Simon Peter, utter the only right answer "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn. 6:68)

This section of Chapter 6 of John's Gospel is very rich and worth meditating on over and over again, especially today on this feast of Corpus Christi.  It helps enkindle a fire within us and makes us realise that the Mass should always be the most important moment of our week, or of our day, and that it should be the centre of our life.  Going to Mass can very easily become a habit and we can lose sight of the significance of the gift.  The apparent absence of a direct sensual experience does not mean there is nothing spiritual happening.  God is working in us and through us even when we do not directly experience it.  God wants to live with us; He comes down to us and awaits our consent to abide with us.   He always invites us to communion with Him and we only have to accept this invitation to be with Him, no matter how we experience the invitation.

This can still sound very superficial to some people, but our relationship with God is a reality, not some mere idealism.  Knowing God, and being in communion with Him, faithfully and fully receiving Him, makes a real difference in our lives.  Most of the time this encounter is not apparent in our sensual experience, but we do notice the effects in the long term, particularly when we are deprived of the privilege of receiving Holy Communion for some reason.  It is then we realise that something is missing, that there is an emptiness that was previously filled by God, and a deep desire for a renewed communion becomes noticeable.  It is an awareness and yearning for something more.  A searching for a grounding and source of life which seems to have dried up, a sense of completeness which is lost and which manifests itself in some kind of unrest or maybe even uneasiness.

This reminds us of the reality that we truly receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, and we should always treasure it.  The gift is given to us.  In a related passage in the Gospel of Luke we read "all ate and were satisfied" (Lk. 9:17) and there was plenty left over.  God gives us plenty if we open our hands to receive it.  It is only in God that true satisfaction and happiness can be found.

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