Reflection – Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

These days we are all encouraged to eat healthily. However, for some though, this good advice seems to fall on deaf ears, and I would be the first to admit that in the past, I have often made poor choices when it comes to food. However, with a lot of hard work, self-sacrifice and determination, I am pleased to say that since the beginning of Lent this year, I have managed to lose a considerable amount of weight – almost three stones in fact! My goal is to lose another two, come the Autumn. I hope I can succeed. One of the ways I have achieved this weight loss, has been through a process called ‘Intermittent Fasting’. The idea being, is that one consumes food within a restricted time period of a day. Typically for me, this would be an eighteen/six, in other words, I would eat within a six hour period, say from 10am until 4pm and then fast completely until the following morning with breakfast at 10am. This may appear to be somewhat Spartan and believe me, going without food for eighteen hours a day has brought its challenges along the way. However, I must say the results have been amazing, not only through the weight loss that one is able to achieve, but also with other health benefits associated with fasting, such as the lowering of blood pressure and blood sugar levels. These can only be good things where our health is concerned.

As we know, the issue of obesity is often reported in the news, and there is growing concern in particular about children who are overweight. Measures are being looked at to encourage children to eat more healthily. We should applaud celebrities like Jamie Oliver for wanting to make a real difference in how children can eat healthily at school. I am sure that we would all applaud his efforts. There is a growing recognition that children need to be encouraged to choose well when it comes to what they eat and how often they eat. This is true of all of us. In past generations people ate because they were hungry. Nowadays there can be a tendency to eat for the sake of eating. This is one of the downsides of living in our present age of relative plenty and prosperity. Regrettably, there can be a tendency towards greed and I need not remind you that gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. I am sure that being under lockdown these past few months has not helped either. I would not be surprised to learn that people may have overindulged somewhat with food and probably with alcohol too!

In our first reading today, Moses calls on the people to remember the time in the wilderness when they were hungry. They had left Egypt, a land of plenty thanks to the life-giving presence of the river Nile, and entered a wilderness where food was scarce. Moses reminded them that in those scarce and lean times, the Lord provided for them. Moses wants the people to remember that when their own resources had run out in the wilderness, it was the Lord who kept them going. What kept them alive during those lean years was not so much the physical food that was miraculously provided, but rather the Lord who provided that food. There was a lesson here that the people needed to remember when the time of plenty came round again, as it would when they entered the promised land.

That lesson is summed up in the statement in today’s first reading, ‘We do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’. In times of plenty, it is easy to forget that we do not live on bread alone. When there are so many opportunities to satisfy our physical appetites, we can easily lose touch with the deeper appetites in our lives. In times when we have the resources to make great material progress, our spiritual progress can suffer.

The Book of Deuteronomy presents Moses as being very aware of this danger and as wanting to warn the people about it. Jesus was very aware of it too. In commenting on the seed that is choked by thorns, he refers to how the lure of wealth and the desire for other things can come in and choke the word. However, neither Moses nor Jesus advocated going back to the wilderness in response to this danger. Neither of them led a movement into the desert as a way of dealing with the downside of plenty. Both of them however, stressed that in the midst of plenty we need to remember that we do not live on physical bread alone. In such times we need to attend to the deeper hungers and thirsts in our lives.

During these past few months, I am conscious that you have not been able to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. Clearly, this has been a time of great sorrow and testing for all of you and no doubt for the entire Church as well. There is a sense in which you as the faithful People of God have been asked to fast from receiving Jesus who comes to us as the Bread of Life. I hope that as with me, in my goal of obtaining the benefits of improved physical health through Intermittent fasting, that in some way, you too through your Eucharistic fasting have also been able to strengthen and improve your relationship with Jesus, thereby intensifying your desire to eventually receive him sacramentally in Holy Communion. Please God, this will happen very soon as the lockdown eases and we can gather and celebrate Mass once again as a community of faith. Please be mindful that even though we may be allowed to gather, our experience of Mass will be significantly different from what we have been used to. How Mass will be celebrated will change considerably. I ask you then to be patient with the procedures which will have be implemented, so as to ensure that everyone who enters church will be kept safe.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus presents himself as the one who can ultimately satisfy those deeper hungers and thirsts that each of has. He speaks of himself as the living bread come down from heaven. It is above all in the Eucharist that Jesus offers himself to us as food and drink for the satisfying of those deeper hungers and thirsts. In coming to the Eucharist, we are opening our hearts to the one who declares that he is the Bread of Life and who invites us to take and eat.

If someone were to ask us why we go to Mass, we would have to say that we go to Mass because Jesus as Bread of Life has called on us to take and eat. We go to Mass because, in the words of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has said to us, ‘If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you’. You will recall, that it was at the last supper that Jesus first called on his disciples to take and eat, to take and drink, having identified the bread as his body given for them and the wine as his blood poured out for them. At the last supper Jesus gave himself to his disciples as food and drink. At every Eucharist, Jesus does the same for subsequent generations of disciples.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi reminds us that the Lord’s invitation to take and eat is as strong today as it was two thousand years ago. Please God, very soon we will once again come to Mass because we recognise Jesus as the Bread of Life who alone can respond to the deepest longings of our hearts, because, in the words of St Paul in today’s second reading, we want to be in communion with the body and blood of Christ, our real food and real drink. To be in communion with Jesus in the Eucharist, is to be in communion with the values that he lived by and died for. When eventually we take the bread and the cup of the Eucharist, we too will be declaring that we want to imbibe all that Jesus stood for. In other words, we are committing ourselves to live by his values, to walk in his ways and to be shaped by his Spirit.

Today, on this great Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, you and I are invited once more to faith, to believe that Jesus was telling the truth; to believe that Jesus not only had words that give life, but that He Himself continues to give Himself to us in this Sacrament, which is so holy. Let us then delight in the Lord! Let us prepare ourselves in these coming days to feast with God who graciously welcomes everyone to partake of His beloved Son. In our turn, we renew our commitment to Him and thank him without end for his love, mercy and compassion which he shows to each of us, his beloved children.

‘O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.’

God bless you all,

Fr Gerardo