Full readings: Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; Psalm 147:12-20; 1Corinthians 10:16-17; St. John 6: 51-58.
Now that we have finished our celebrations for the last fifty days in honour of the Resurrection, Ascension and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, we can give due celebration for the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, and give It the honour It so richly deserves. Our dear Lord returned to His Father on Ascension Day, but before returning He gave us the most wonderful gift that we can receive daily - Himself, the Body and Blood under the guise of bread and wine. He truly has not left us comfortless, but has blessed us with the most precious jewel in all the world. That moment when we receive our Lord each day is the most wonderful of the entire day. It is a tiny foretaste of heaven when we shall be with our blessed Saviour for ever. We receive the Living Christ whose Life penetrates every inch of our being, and as it does it gives us strength, vitality and love to drive out all that is not pure and lovely and whole. It is only in the Living Christ that we can be His instruments in this world to overcome hatred with love, jealousy with self-sacrifice, violence with gentleness, arrogance with humility, bitterness with generosity, and disease with healing. It is as St Augustine put it quite crudely, "by eating the Body of Christ, we can be the body of Christ."
Our Lord promised that He who eats My bread will never hunger. If only Christians believed this then they would come and receive His gift more often, they would run to it! Just as no other name, but the name of Jesus will save us, so no other food will strengthen us to be fit member of His kingdom and to enable us to live with Christ for ever. What more do we need? What more assurance do we want, than that from our Lord Himself? "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me." (Jn.6:57)
Yet in the receiving of this Sacrament, St. Paul gives us sober warning. We must never come to receive the Bread of heaven without due preparation. Although we are never worthy sufficiently to receive our blessed Lord, nevertheless there is a big difference between acknowledging this unworthiness and preparing ourselves to be as receptive as we can, and a careless and casual approach with no real thought as to whom we are receiving and little reverence for Him. So St. Paul warns those with the latter approach that if we receive the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation unworthily then we are "guilty of offending against the body and blood of the Lord". (1Cor. 11:27,29) Indeed we do this to the damnation of our own souls. He insists that we examine ourselves if we want to escape this kind of judgment.
Just as we want to come in as worthily fashion as possible, so we want to leave by giving our heartfelt thanks for having received so freely the most wonderful gift possible. This prayer of thanksgiving from the Gallican tradition, expresses this so aptly.
Lord Jesus, I give You thanks,
not only with the lips and heart,
which often comes to little, but with the spirit,
with which I speak to You, question You,
love You, and recognise You.
You are my all, and everything is in You.
In You we live, and move, and have our being.
The Epistle for Corpus Christi points us to Christ in the Sacrament of the altar as the point of unity for all who receive Him. "It is the one loaf of which we all partake." (1Cor. 10:17)Christ is the Head of the Church, the Christian community, of which we are all members by virtue of our baptism. That means we are all united and bonded through Christ and in Christ. That pious prelate of the Elizabethan and Jacobean Churches, Lancelot Andrewes, described the Eucharist as the locus of unity, or "the Sacrament of accord", manifested first by the apostles as they broke bread with one accord. "This Sacrament of breaking of bread is the Sacrament of accord, as that which represents unto us perfect unity in the many grains kneaded into one loaf, and the many grapes pressed into one cup." We too have to learn to be like the apostles and break bread with one accord, and let the Fraction absorb all our disharmonies and divisions because we are indeed meant to share "the cup of blessing" (1Cor.10:16) I am convinced if we loved our Lord in His Sacrament then we would do far more about sharing this Sacrament at the same altar by all Christians.
For me one of the loveliest ways to be near our Lord and simply to absorb His presence and His love, is to love Him dearly in the Sacrament of the altar. Indeed as I conclude this meditation I have just returned from Benediction. For me this is one of the most wonderful ways we can enter into the mystery and loveliness of Jesus giving Himself under the veil of Bread and Wine. "O taste and see how gracious the Lord is" is so true when one kneels there in absorbed adoration and awe before one's Lord! I always find I don't want to leave and go out to the reality of the kind of world in which we live, but simply to linger and like Mary be content to sit at His feet silently but suredly. "Let us for ever adore the most Holy Sacrament." If you have never tasted the delight of Heaven here upon earth, it is always there in the presence of Jesus upon the altar. To help you to be transported heavenward here is part of that beautiful Corpus Christi sequence which we is sung upon this most glorious feast.
Sing to-day, the mystery showing
Of the living, life bestowing
Bread from heaven before you set;
Full and clear ring out your chanting,
Joy nor sweetest grace be wanting
To your heart and soul to-day;
When we gather up the measure
Of that Supper and its treasure,
Keeping feast in glad array.
Lo the new King's Table gracing,
This new Passover of blessing
Has fulfilled the elder rite:
Now the new, the old effaces,
Truth revealed the shadows chases,
Day is breaking on the night.
This the truth to Christians given
Bread becomes His flesh from heaven,
Wine becomes His holy blood.
Does it pass your comprehending?
Yet by Faith, your sight transcending,
Wondrous things are understood.
Whoso of this Food partakes,
Christ divides not nor breaks
He is whole to all who taste.
O true Bread, good Shepherd tend us,
Jesu, of Your love befriend us,
You refresh us, You defend us,
Your eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see.
Yet our feet must come back to earth; we must go out into the world. That is the essential purpose for receiving God's gift of Himself. "Send us out into the world to live and work to Your glory" is what we are instructed to do by the celebrant at each Mass. One of the best features of the modern Liturgy is that the dismissal follows immediately after the Communion. We are fed in order to be sent. We must be the Body of Christ in this world: loving, healing forgiving, reconciling and empathizing with all.
O Jesus in this most wonderful Sacrament of the altar, may I always love and reverence You in this special way You give Yourself to us. Help me to be truly thankful for the gift of Your life each day, and may that Life within draw others to know and love You, as I serve You in this world. Amen.