Sunday Sermon for June 23, 2019, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Year C

Readings: Gen 14:18-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11b-17

The Holy Eucharist is the greatest gift and the greatest treasure we possess on earth.  God has given us many great gifts, but the Eucharist is God Himself!  It is such a marvelous mystery that the whole universe cannot contain God, but He comes to us in the form of a piece of bread to give Himself to us because He loves us so much.  Human persons while alive on earth are the only beings in all of creation who can partake of this Gift. 

Think about the love of God for you: He wants you to be with Him and united to Him for all eternity in Heaven.  However, because we are not there yet, in His love for us He comes to us and prepares us for the day we will go to Him.  The Eucharist, in that way, is a foreshadowing of what Heaven will be.  God unites Himself with us in the depths of our soul until the day we can be united with Him in eternity.

Heaven is going to be loving God and being loved by Him; it will be entering into the love of the Trinity.  God is giving us the opportunity to begin the life of Heaven now, by simply entering into the depths of our soul and uniting ourselves with Him Who loves us.

Some people struggle with this because they cannot believe God loves them that much.  Others have difficulty because they cannot see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Jesus is present sacramentally, not physically.  This means when you receive Holy Communion, you do not receive a little piece of Jesus, you receive the entire Person of Jesus!  Because Jesus is God, wherever one Person of the Trinity is present, all three are present, you receive all three Persons of the Trinity completely and entirely into yourself.

Needless to say, this is a mystery we will never understand; the Holy Eucharist is a gift of love which we must accept.  St. Paul, repeating the words of Jesus, teaches that the bread and wine become Jesus.  We know It is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord; His whole Person.  This miracle occurs because of the sacrifice our Lord offered once on Calvary and continues to offer for all time.  In the first reading we hear about Melchizedek offering bread and wine as a sacrifice because he is the priest of God Most High. 

This is the priesthood that was present from the time of Adam and Eve; it is the priesthood exercised by Noah when he came off the Ark.  It was taken away because of the disobedience of the people, but the obedience of Jesus restores this priesthood.  Every Catholic priest shares in this priesthood and, therefore, offers bread and wine to God on behalf of humanity.  God receives that gift and, in return, offers Himself in the form of bread and wine for the good of humanity.  Every baptized person shares in the common priesthood and, thereby, is to unite himself or herself with the sacrifice of Jesus at Mass.  At the offertory, we give Jesus our sufferings and sacrifices; at the consecration He transforms our sacrifices into His own; in Holy Communion we receive His gift and He unites Himself to us.

People sometimes wonder how Jesus can give Himself to each person.  After all, if He gives Himself entirely to one person, how can there be anything more to give to another person?  First, we repeat the distinction made above.  If Jesus gave Himself to each person physically, His flesh and blood would have been consumed centuries ago.  But He gives Himself sacramentally, so there are no limitations on how many Hosts can be consecrated or how many people can receive Him. 

In the Gospel we hear about our Lord multiplying the loaves and fishes to feed the five thousand.  It is miraculous enough that five thousand men can be fed with five loaves and two fish, but it is even more remarkable that twelve baskets full of fragments were left over.  This shows how God is able to provide for many in a way we cannot understand. 

If we can accept the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, then we should have no problem accepting the miracle of the Eucharist.  Instead of multiplying bread and wine, Jesus gives Himself.  When Mass is over, even though hundreds of people received Holy Communion, there is infinitely more than what there was when Mass began.  This is because God was not present sacramentally at the beginning of Mass, but He became present sacramentally at the Consecration.  The fragments left over in the Gospel story are finite pieces of bread; the Eucharist is the Infinite God truly present because He loves us!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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