On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we should all feel most joyful and exceedingly grateful to our Lord for letting his divine heart display all his meekness and humility. After all, we are celebrating the very core of our Catholic faith, the fact that our God, whom the whole universe cannot contain, has made himself totally accessible to us in a lowly wafer and, thus, also totally vulnerable to possible indifference and even abuse.
Yet, instead of elation, I feel the need to share with you the depth of the anguish that takes hold of my heart at every Eucharistic Celebration. I am painfully aware that, while the number of Catholics worldwide exceeds one billion, only about one third of that figure believes that Christ is truly present in the Eucharistic bread and wine with his body and blood, soul and divinity.
Now, I assume that your presence makes you part of that one third of genuinely Catholic faithful. But my heart is still anguished.
There are some who come to Mass late. I wonder, “Were they late because of a legitimate reason or because the Holy Mass is not that important to them? Are they not eager to be fed the words of life that only Jesus has?” Some are dressed so casually as to show that they are coming from the beach and have stopped by for a little while before heading for home. Others are dressed so scantily that, unmistakably, they evidence that they have forgotten that their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Still others do not reverence the Blessed Sacrament because they are too busy looking for “their spot” as if they were at a movie theater or at the ball park.
As my pain increases, I also think about the inner disposition, about what is not seen on the outside. I know that some stay away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation for years, do not attend Holy Mass every Sunday and all holy days of obligation, are addicted to pornography, and use artificial forms of birth control. Yet they receive the Lord in Holy Communion every time they go to church. My anguish is also due to the attitude of some who are “more Catholic than the Pope,” and they insist on fulfilling their obligation in a personal way as if they were a group of elite individuals rather than members of the ONE Body of Christ.
My dear brothers and sisters, I always try my best to preach with words that come straight from my heart, in total sincerity and as a challenge for all of us to live according to the awesome call we received from our Lord. For this reason I want to apologize for anything that might sound offensive or rude.
There is nothing on the face of the earth in which I believe more strongly than the real presence of our God under the humble species of bread and wine. There is nothing dearer to me. You should believe just as strongly. You should hold the Eucharist just as dearly. This is the core, the heart of our faith; without our firm belief in the real presence of Jesus, there is no Catholic Church, there are no Catholic believers.
Why am I sharing this with you? Why do I feel so strongly about the awesome, supernatural significance of the Eucharist? Because of what our Catholic Church has believed and lived from her inception and has handed down to us as her most precious gift.
Here it is: Every time we gather to break bread, we relive and share the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. After the graphic description of blood being drawn from slaughtered animals, being splashed on the altar and being sprinkled by Moses on the people of Israel, there must be no doubt that undoubtedly millions of animals were sacrificed on behalf of the chosen people. After the interpretation offered by the author of Hebrews as to the significance of Jesus’ blood poured out over all of us for the remission of our sins and for our salvation, there must be no doubt that his supreme sacrifice should be appreciated, honored and celebrated by all of us at every Holy Mass.
After we hear Jesus telling us that the bread IS truly his body and the wine IS truly his blood, how can somebody still hold that the bread is simply like his body, and the wine is simply like his blood? How can anyone not be overcome with awe and gratitude, and joy and comfort?
By saying to us: “This is my body, this is my blood,” Jesus is saying: “My brother, my sister, this is I given to you. This is my life sacrificed for you. This is I—abandoned, betrayed, broken, crushed, tortured, nailed to a cross, out of love. Here, take me into yourself, make me part of you, become one with me.
Therefore, should not our demeanor at every Mass be proper and becoming of the supreme sacrifice of Jesus for us? Shouldn’t we do all we can with our entire being, including our body, to give faithful evidence that we heed Christ’s desire for us to be one: to be silent, to be singing, to be dialoguing with the presiding priest, to be standing, kneeling and sitting as one Body, with one mind and one heart? Every single action that goes on in our church during the Eucharistic Celebration should be taken and lived out as the action of a worshiping community, as the one Body of Christ, sacrificing personal preferences for the sake of oneness.
It is, then, my wish and prayer that all of us may soon grasp the awesome significance of what we are to do together during each Mass. O that we may believe that, while we await our future of endless glory, we celebrate our ONE sacrifice, his and ours together. O that in the Eucharist we may realize that in our need, in our trials, in our dreams, in our sacrifice, in our hurts—whenever we are most human— our God comes to us, and we can hope and rejoice in Him.