Reflection – June 2nd, 2024 – The Feast of Corpus Christi

Today’s reflections focus on the Gospel about the significance of the Passover Meal when Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it He broke it, gave it to them and said, ” Take; this is my Body.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks He gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ” This is my Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”  These words are basically repeated in every Mass we celebrate so many years later. At the Consecration, the priest says, ” Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you. Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  This is called the Transubstantiation when the entire substance of bread and wine is changed into the entire substance of the risen and glorified Body and Blood of Christ, retaining only the “accidents” ( taste, color, shape ) of bread and wine.

Every time there is a Eucharistic celebration , the Body of Christ is made accessible and available to us. We celebrate the Eucharist as a community of faith, hope and love. The Eucharist is God’s greatest gifts to us. Pope Francis reminds us ” The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect , but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”  That’s all of us  and each of us.

In 1964, a year after Second Vatican Council, there were changes in the celebration of the Mass. The position of the priest was changed so that he faced the congregation. Previously, the priest stood at the front of the altar with his back to the people, turning to face them only  at specified points during the Mass. The new altar was set up in the middle of the sanctuary facing the people. I was in my teens when this change came about. In my early years, Mass was in Latin so I didn’t understand what was being said. At the Consecration the habit was to bow the head when the priest ( who faced away from us) lifted the paten with the Bread , then the chalice with the Wine- which became the Body and Blood of Christ. As a teenager I remember actually “seeing” this ritual and understand more its significance. Today, after so many years, I am still engaged in looking at the plate of Bread and the cup of Wine being transformed and blessed in memory of Jesus. My appreciation of the Consecration of the Body and Blood of Christ has grown substantially just as my belief and faith have sustained me over the years.

After the Consecration we celebrate Communion. Distribution of Communion has also changed from my early years. I remember kneeling at the altar with my hands under a cloth over the railing. The priest distributed the hosts ( Body of Christ ) in a row of people kneeling before him and he held up the host as he placed it on everyone’s tongue. Communion was  seen primarily as ” receiving Jesus in my heart”. In preparing for my first Holy Communion I remember being told by the nuns who prepared us saying “Don’t chew the Host for it is the Body of Christ.” We weren’t allowed to eat or drink anything an hour before Mass started so I recall being worried about the host getting stuck in my mouth. What I should have concentrated more on was what I was receiving in Communion. I also remember my mother saying “Remember, you have just received the Host- the Body of Christ which is in you so when you leave Church, don’t gossip about anyone or hurt other’s feelings. Try to be as good as you can be for you have been blessed to receive Jesus and you can continue His good works in memory of Him by showing you are a faithful Catholic.”

In memory of my wise mother, I still try to carry these words in my heart.

Let us appreciate the words of Jesus so many years ago at the Passover Meal. The Prayer after Communion in today’s readings  states:  Grant O Lord we pray:

that we may delight for all eternity
in that share in Your divine life, 
which is foreshadowed in the present age
by our reception of your precious Body and Blood.

    ~Cathy Keirstead


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