“I am the living bread that comes down from heaven,” says the Lord; “whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These words are sung as the Gospel Acclamation for today, the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi).
As we reflect on the gift of the Eucharist today in the celebration of this feast, in our being drawn more deeply into the Eucharist at each Mass and in our solemn procession today, we witness to the power of these words and their affect on our lives. As Catholics we see the Eucharist not merely as a symbol but as a reality. Although the bread and wine remain the same in appearance, they are transformed in our Eucharistic Prayer, particularly, in the priest repeating the words of consecration spoken by Jesus in the Gospel passage of today:
“Take it; this is my body.”
“This is the blood of the Covenant which will be shed for many.”
This transformation is called Transubstantiation: the appearances remain the same but the very substance of the bread and wine is changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. That Body and Blood has the power to transform us: to make us more sacrificial and unconditional in love, to enable us to live in closer communion with each other, to be an abiding presence of Jesus as He was in the midst of our world and, most importantly, to be food for our journey of faith.
As we process today with the Eucharist, we give witness to all these aspects of the Eucharist and the gift of the Eucharist enables us to give witness to the values of the Gospel. I will call your attention to Father John’s article on what the American bishops have urged all parishes to do in defense of religious freedom in a time of prayer and reflection entitled, “Fortnight for Freedom,” which begins June 21st, the eve of the feast which honors the martyrs St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More and extends to the 4th of July.