The feast of Corpus Christi forces us to consider deeply our faith in the Eucharist and our participation in the Eucharistic communion that is the Church.
Body and Blood of Christ Blood
Readings: Exodus 24: 3-8;
Hebrews 9: 11-15; Gospel: Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
Since last Friday was a first Friday, we had the exposure of the Holy of Holies in our chapel as always. So I went to the chapel to spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and hear what the Lord wanted to tell you in this sermon. As soon as I entered, I was confronted with the question: Why are you here? I knew that I was being asked not why I was here on earth or why I was here in Florida with St. Ignatius, but why I was here before the Lord’s Eucharistic Presence? I did not have a deep theological answer to this question, just that I was here to contemplate the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist and to know that He was looking at me. I was there to pray, talk to him, and hopefully calm my mind enough to listen to him.
I know that many of you go to Eucharistic Adoration on the first Friday when we have 40 hours of Lent and retreat. The Eucharistic Adoration is a highlight for our young people on our December retreat.
Concerns have been raised recently that Eucharistic adoration may detract from Mass for some. For example, our young people are often asked, “What was the highlight of the conference or the week?” And they often answer, “Eucharistic Adoration”. Some are concerned and think that their answer should be mass. You are right when you say that Mass is the most important action of the Church. But I do not share this concern about Eucharistic adoration. The experience of the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist is a blessing to be cherished, be it in Mass or in Eucharistic Adoration, or both.
Does the grace received in Eucharistic adoration have the same dimension as that received at Mass? Of course not. In Mass we join the Lord in renewing the sacrifice on the cross. Jesus is once again sacrificed for us to the Father “for our sins and the sins of the whole world,” as the Rosary of God’s Mercy so elegantly explains. At Mass we take in the Savior and are mystically connected to him before the Father by giving him for us. Our union with Him as the Head of the living body of worshipers, our union with the community, our communion is the great gift that Catholicism has jealously preserved even in the face of persecution. In Church history, including today, those who attack Catholicism attack Mass first. In England in the 16th and 17th centuries, priests were tortured to death, hung, and quartered for celebrating mass. There are still many places in the world where a priest is forbidden from observing mass. There are many places in our country where anti-Catholic bigotry is expressed in a mockery of the Blessed Sacrament. Magicians used the term hocus-pocus on the stage. That was a mockery of the word of consecration in Latin “Hoc est enim corpus meum”, because this is my body. The mockery of the Blessed Sacrament makes us angry because we value Mass. And yes, it is and should be the highlight of our lives.
Eucharistic adoration leads us to a deeper understanding and appreciation of what we do in Mass and who we receive in Communion. Should Eucharistic Adoration ever replace Mass? Of course not. It couldn’t either. Is it supposed to be denigrated somehow? What a shame that would be. At the same time, care must be taken to ensure that worship services are not just an emotional experience. Nor should it be cold, dry experiences without human expression, similar to the old blessing services in front of the Vatican. With this in mind, I am saddened that everyone wants to take away from others, especially young people, the experience of Jesus Christ in Eucharistic adoration.
The feast of Corpus Christi forces us to consider deeply our faith in the Eucharist and our participation in the Eucharistic communion that is the Church. The solemnity reminds us: this is Jesus. He is present on our altars and offers himself up to the Father for us. He is present in us as we receive communion. He is present at the Eucharistic adoration and looks at us as we look at him.
And he is present in our tabernacles. It is a shame that so many of our churches have become social halls before Mass. Some even ignore the people next to them trying to pray before the holy of holies in the tabernacle. Perhaps we would all remember what a Catholic Church is if we went back to basics: squats as we step into the pew, people with their right knee and kneel to speak in the presence of the Lord before us. We should also bend our knees, or at least bow down, every time we cross in front of the tabernacle. Incidentally, during the Eucharistic Prayer we should make sure that there is as little movement as possible in the Church.
So what am i doing here? I asked myself this question during Eucharistic adoration. Ask yourself: What am I doing here when I come to Mass, when I receive Communion, when I go to Eucharistic Adoration. What are we doing? The feast of Corpus Christi tells us what to do. We experience the presence of Jesus Christ in the great gift of the Eucharist. – By Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino