Sunday Scriptures

Becoming the Body of Christ

by Father John P. Cush

Not a day goes by in my life when I do not thank God for the solid foundation that my years at Cathedral Prep Seminary, Elmhurst, gave me.

In my years as a student at Cathedral, my classmates and I had a classical liberal arts education that prepared us for college, for graduate studies and even doctoral studies in the years to come. We received a solid human formation in which we learned to be gentlemen and made long-lasting friendships with other young men.

Most importantly, we received a rock-solid spiritual formation that assisted us in discerning our vocations in this life – priesthood for some and a dedicated life as a member of the laity for others. This spiritual formation was centered around – above all else – the Eucharist. I was pleased that this was the case when I was a student, for the years that I was blessed to serve on Cathedral’s faculty and continues today in the work of Cathedral Prep and Seminary.

Changing Perspective

The daily celebration of the Eucharist and the weekly eucharistic adoration were, at first, not appreciated by many of the freshmen we taught. Some would complain about the boredom that they felt when attending daily Mass. Yet, in speaking to the young men as seniors, and especially after they had graduated, each of them told me that they appreciated the quiet and the peace that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass had brought into their lives.

I can attest to the same attitude in my life as a priest. I have been blessed to celebrate the Eucharist every single day of my life as a priest, with two exceptions to date: days when I was a Communion distributor at papal Masses – once at Yankee Stadium in 2008, and more recently, at the canonization of SS. John XIII and John Paul II.

My day is not complete without the celebration of Mass, without the Substantial Presence of Christ in my life, giving me the courage, the strength and the peace that can only come from the Lord Jesus Himself. Encountering the fine people that attend daily weekday Mass in the parishes in which I have assisted, I can see the foremost place the Eucharist has and the hunger that the people have for Jesus, who comes to live in them in the Body, broken in the host, and the Blood, poured out in the chalice.

I can attest to the power of the Eucharist to change lives because Jesus in the Eucharist has changed my life. Those who receive the Eucharist are not better than those who do not have the luxury to do so daily. However, we who receive the Eucharist are called to be different. We are called to be – like all Christians – “in the world, but not of the world.”

The World to Come

Feasting on this heavenly food, we are called to put our focus ever more strongly on the things of the world to come. We are called to live a eucharistic existence. How does one live a eucharistic existence? We become Christ for others. Basically, we can do this by permitting Jesus to come completely into our lives.

Jean-Jacques Olier (1608-1657), the founder of the Sulpicians, a group of diocesan priests who are committed to the formation of seminarians, writes: “O Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in your servants, in the spirit of holiness, in the fullness of your power, in the perfection of your ways, in the truth of your virtues, in the communion of your mysteries. Rule over every adverse power, in your Spirit, for the glory of the Father. Amen.”

A Gift Foreshadowed

In the Gospel, we read today from the Evangelist Matthew, we hear of the story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish – a foreshadowing of the gift that Jesus will give to the Church at the Last Supper and that is given to us each day at the altar. Jesus tells those who will share in the loaves and fish – His disciples – “give them something to eat yourselves.” We who are blessed to receive the Body of Christ must become the Body of Christ.

Living a eucharistic existence means being a tabernacle of the Most High God. It means recognizing that we who receive the Body of Christ must try each day to be pure and spotless – shining like the tabernacle that holds the Precious Host. We are called each day to become He whom we receive. We are tasked with seeing Christ in each other and thus are called to be Christ to one another.

May we have the courage and strength to allow the Eucharist we share to transform us into a truly Eucharist-centered Church.[hr]

Readings for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Isaiah 55:1-3

Psalm 145: 8-9, 15-16, 17-18

Romans 8: 35, 37-39

Matthew 14: 13-21[hr]

Father John P. Cush, a doctoral candidate in fundamental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, is a priest in residence at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Windsor Terrace.