While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.’ (Mark 14:22-24).
Corpus Christi is the celebration of the True Presence of Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist. This is not a fact that I always knew or even understood.
Where I grew up, there was a Portuguese Catholic Church on my block. Every year, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, I would watch in amazement as the main street in town was blocked off so that a large group of women from this parish could prepare for the parade. They would have boxes of flower petals of every color you could imagine and they would use them to make a beautiful design on the ground in the street. I remember being very confused because their beautiful creations would then be trampled by the procession of people that later walked down this same street into the church. They had children in their first communion outfits, young women in fancy dresses, bands, and, unbeknownst to me, Jesus, in the Holy Eucharist leading the way! I knew something special was happening, but I didn’t really understand what.
As I aged, my curiosity regarding the Eucharist grew. I remember asking my mother on several occasions how the Eucharist could really be Jesus when it still looked and tasted like bread; a truth that I couldn’t quite grasp at the time and I forgot about for most of my adolescence. I can’t say that I really began to understand the reality of this mystery until I was 19 years old and had a powerful experience at my youth group Mass. I remember half listening to the homily about Jesus being really present in the Eucharist, and, doubtfully in my head, saying, Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is really Jesus. That day though, when I walked up to Communion something amazing happened. When the priest held up the Eucharist and said the words, “The body of Christ,” it was almost as if I audibly heard Jesus say, “Hello Christine.” Immediately, I realized that I was not ready to receive Jesus and I quickly placed my arms across my chest for a blessing. I still remember the next week after going to Reconciliation, and probably making the first real confession of my life. That day I was able to receive Holy Communion, really understanding Who I was receiving.
Many years have passed since then, but with the current pandemic I am once again longing for the day when I can physically receive my Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Until that day comes, I will pray that my heart always longs for this gift and that I will always be the Tabernacle that Jesus deserves.
Jesus, thank you for the gift of Your True Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist. Thank you for loving us enough to want to be near us always in this special way. Thank you for knowing we learn through our senses and for giving us the gift of Reconciliation so that we can hear out loud that our sins are forgiven and then we can touch You, hold You, and receive You. Help us to never take these gifts for granted. Amen.