by Father James Rodriguez
Across our diocese and around the world, countless believers honor the body and blood, soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ today. Through innumerable processions and devotions, today marks the most public display of our love for Jesus, Who loves us so much that He gives us the gift of Himself.
In last week’s article, I wrote about how inadequate our words are to capture such majesty. Today we find ourselves again grasping for a way to say “I love you” to Him Who loves us to the point of complete and utter self-emptying, in the permanent “I love you” that is the Holy Eucharist.
In my own life, I have grown in gratitude for this gift. Teaching the young men at Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary, I’ve gained deeper insight into the world of the young people in this diocese – a world that has changed since I was their age not-so-long ago. However, some things do not change.
Nourishment for the Journey
The Eucharist continues to sustain young people who try to be good. The Presence of God remains the food that strengthens and encourages us, and it has been this way since He “brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers” (Deut. 8:15-16). People have always hungered after the Presence that we so often take for granted. “He is there,” St. John Vianney would often say, pointing to the same Lord we carry aloft through the streets of our diocese this very day.
This communal act of adoration is itself a fulfillment of what it symbolizes. Jesus, Who prayed “that all might be one” (Jn 17:21), brings us together, not only this but every Sunday, gathered in the warm light of flickering altar candles. As one, we look to Him for strength, guidance and nourishment, both physical and spiritual, and this act of reaching toward Him brings us closer together.
St. Paul understood the unifying power of the Eucharist as he spoke so lovingly, almost wistfully, of the communion it effects: “Is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16).
Interestingly, scholars believe that this letter was written as early as 55 A.D., making it one of the earliest records of the Christian celebration of Mass, predating even the Gospels. Truly, at its very beginning, the Church gathered to pray, summoned by the radiance of the Eucharist.
By the same token, selfishness and worship of false gods drives us apart. The words that follow today’s Gospel passage are nothing less than tragic, as people, like you and me, who found it difficult to comprehend and accept these mysterious truths, walked away. I like to believe that at least some returned to the Lord, but we do not know for sure. The same is true today, when there are many people who, for various reasons, are not in communion with Christ and His Church.
So many people are starving for the Bread of Life, but because of their culturally reinforced refusal to trust in the Church’s loving teaching, particularly regarding sexual ethics, they walk away hungry. This trust can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Jesus entrusts to us the splendid truth plainly: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). This mystery continues to elude comprehension, because comprehension is not the point.
True love is about giving, not taking. When we comprehend facts, we own them and can use them as we see fit. When we speak of the Eucharist, however, we speak of the Word made flesh, given to us in the brief and beautiful summary we heard last Sunday: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son” (Jn 3:16).
When we celebrate this gift, when we sit quietly in Church and simply look at Him, everything changes. When we trust Him, His peaceful, penetrating gaze burns away vice and fear. He looks steadily and intently upon us, as if we were the only person on Earth, and envelops us in purest love. In this love – and only in this love – do we have any hope of being happy in this life. It is a happiness attested to by countless saints as it spills over into the endless love of heaven, tasted here in the Eucharist.
The best thing about teaching at Cathedral Prep is the fact that we have Mass as a school every day and weekly eucharistic adoration. Regularly, we are drawn together into this communion of love that gives us life and the one bread that is no longer simply bread but His Most Holy Body and His Most Precious Blood.
Readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14b-16a
Psalm 147: 12-13, 14-15, 19-20
1 Corinthians 10: 16-17
John 6: 51-58
Father James Rodriguez is the diocesan vocation director and teaches theology at Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst.