The Eucharist: Corpus Christi Sunday

Not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD. –Moses

Central idea and Doctrine: The Eucharist. Practical application: Proper and frequent Communion

Lectionary 167 readings.

Central Idea: The Eucharist

Reading 1 Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a

Moses said to the people:
“Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God,
has directed all your journeying in the desert,
so as to test you by affliction
and find out whether or not it was your intention
to keep his commandments.
He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger,
and then fed you with manna,
a food unknown to you and your fathers,
in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.

“Do not forget the LORD, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
that place of slavery;
who guided you through the vast and terrible desert
with its saraph serpents and scorpions,
its parched and waterless ground;
who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock
and fed you in the desert with manna,
a food unknown to your fathers.”

  • What does Moses mean when he says that God has shown the Chosen People, “not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD”?
    • Through Moses, God had given the Chosen People “words” in the form of commandments to follow, and they agreed to follow them.
    • After the golden calf when they rejected God, God then
      • (1) afflicted them with hunger and thirst, dangers like seraph serpents and scorpions, and no good land for home; he did this to see if they really intended to follow him; and
      • (2) supplied them with manna from heaven and water from the flinty rock; he did this to show them that every good thing comes from God so they would not forget him once they reached the Promised Land.
    • So, the words “not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD” mean that, ultimately, everything we need to live, both material and spiritual goods, including moral guidance, comes to us from God, so we need him the most.
  • Christ quotes Moses in his first temptation in the desert after he had fasted for forty days.
  • We followers of Christ can see every bad thing we experience as an opportunity to show God that we really intend to follow him (with his help). We can see every good thing we experience as gift from God. In this way we will never forget him.
  • Christ has given us a gift that feeds us in this desert of life so we will never forget him: the Eucharist, his bread from heaven.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem or R. Alleluia

Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.

He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!

He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.

  • It is from the good things we receive that we can glorify and praise God. What are some of these good things? The Psalmist says: security from dangers, healthy children, peace in our relationships, good food, and knowing what God wants of us in our conduct.
  • Just as God revealed the Mosaic Law to his Chosen People, Christ has now revealed the New Law of the Gospel to us, his new people in the Church.
  • We live by every word that comes forth from God’s mouth. These words are God’s laws:
    • The physical laws of the world which we discover and which can be used to improve the physical conditions of our lives;
    • The natural moral law, which can be known by reason but which is interpreted and clarified by the Magisterium of the Church, showing us how we are to conduct ourselves as human beings; and
    • The law of the Gospel, revealed to us in Christ, on how we can live as children of God and attain eternal life.

Reading 2 1 Cor 10:16-17

Brothers and sisters:
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.

  • The wider context of this passage from St. Paul is that every sacrifice, whether Jewish, pagan, or Christian, attempts to create some kind of communion. Jewish sacrifice has been superseded by Christ’s sacrifice. Pagan sacrifice is idolatry.
  • Our Christian sacrifice brings us into communion with Christ and one another. We call what St. Paul is speaking of the sacrifice of the Mass.

Sequence – Lauda Sion

Laud, O Zion, your salvation,
Laud with hymns of exultation,
Christ, your king and shepherd true:

Bring him all the praise you know,
He is more than you bestow.
Never can you reach his due.

Special theme for glad thanksgiving
Is the quick’ning and the living
Bread today before you set:

From his hands of old partaken,
As we know, by faith unshaken,
Where the Twelve at supper met.

Full and clear ring out your chanting,
Joy nor sweetest grace be wanting,
From your heart let praises burst:

For today the feast is holden,
When the institution olden
Of that supper was rehearsed.

Here the new law’s new oblation,
By the new king’s revelation,
Ends the form of ancient rite:

Now the new the old effaces,
Truth away the shadow chases,
Light dispels the gloom of night.

What he did at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
His memorial ne’er to cease:

And his rule for guidance taking,
Bread and wine we hallow, making
Thus our sacrifice of peace.

This the truth each Christian learns,
Bread into his flesh he turns,
To his precious blood the wine:

Sight has fail’d, nor thought conceives,
But a dauntless faith believes,
Resting on a pow’r divine.

Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things are all we see:

Blood is poured and flesh is broken,
Yet in either wondrous token
Christ entire we know to be.

Whoso of this food partakes,
Does not rend the Lord nor breaks;
Christ is whole to all that taste:

Thousands are, as one, receivers,
One, as thousands of believers,
Eats of him who cannot waste.

Bad and good the feast are sharing,
Of what divers dooms preparing,
Endless death, or endless life.

Life to these, to those damnation,
See how like participation
Is with unlike issues rife.

When the sacrament is broken,
Doubt not, but believe ‘tis spoken,
That each sever’d outward token
doth the very whole contain.

Nought the precious gift divides,
Breaking but the sign betides
Jesus still the same abides,
still unbroken does remain.

The shorter form of the sequence begins here.

Lo! the angel’s food is given
To the pilgrim who has striven;
see the children’s bread from heaven,
which on dogs may not be spent.

Truth the ancient types fulfilling,
Isaac bound, a victim willing,
Paschal lamb, its lifeblood spilling,
manna to the fathers sent.

Very bread, good shepherd, tend us,
Jesu, of your love befriend us,
You refresh us, you defend us,
Your eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see.

You who all things can and know,
Who on earth such food bestow,
Grant us with your saints, though lowest,
Where the heav’nly feast you show,
Fellow heirs and guests to be. Amen. Alleluia.

Gospel Jn 6:51-58

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“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.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

  • The Chosen People received bread from heaven, to sustain them in life during their forty-year sojourn in the desert when God tested them to see if they really intended to follow his commandments.
  • Christ promises us bread from heaven which will give us eternal life. This bread is Christ himself. To receive him, we must do something seemingly impossible and abhorrent: to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood.”
  • How this could be true and how it could be done was not known until the Last Supper when Christ said of the bread and wine: this is my body and this is my blood.
  • This is how we get the life of God: “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

Doctrine: The Eucharist

  • The truth about the Eucharist, which we celebrate today, is too vast to do much more than summarize, which the sequence does poetically.
  • Here is a very brief definition of the Eucharist from Fr. John Hardon, S.J.[1]
    • The Eucharist is “the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.”
    • Christ “is really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine.”
    • He makes himself present “in order to offer himself in the sacrifice of the Mass and to be received as spiritual food in Holy Communion.”
    • This reality “is called Eucharist, or ‘thanksgiving,’ because at its institution at the Last Supper Christ ‘gave thanks,’ and by this fact it is the supreme object and act of Christian gratitude to God.”
    • “Although the same name is used, the Eucharist is any one or all three aspects of one mystery, namely the Real Presence, the Sacrifice, and Communion.
      • “As Real Presence, the Eucharist is Christ in his abiding existence on earth today;
      • “as Sacrifice, it is Christ in his abiding action of High Priest, continuing now to communicate the graces he merited on Calvary;
      • “and as Communion, it is Christ coming to enlighten and strengthen the believer by nourishing his soul for eternal life.”

Practical Application: Proper and frequent Communion

  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us “Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance” (CCC 1415). This is part of what the sequence means:

Bad and good the feast are sharing,
Of what divers [different] dooms preparing,
Endless death, or endless life.

Life to these, to those damnation,
See how like participation
Is with unlike issues [outcomes] rife.

  • The only other requirement is to have fasted from food for one hour before receiving communion. Canon 919 of the Code of Canon Law tells us:
    • “§1. A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine.”
    • “§3. The elderly, the infirm, and those who care for them can receive the Most Holy Eucharist even if they have eaten something within the preceding hour.”
  • We are required to attend the Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation (CIC 1247) even if for one of the above two reasons we cannot receive the Eucharist in Holy Communion.
  • However, we can go to Mass and receive Holy Communion on other days as well. Given what a great thing every Mass is and the fact that we can receive Christ in the Eucharist, why not attend one more Mass per week? Some people participate in Mass every day.
  • Is it possible for you to assist at Mass and receive Holy Communion one more time each week?

The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and themes for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ:

  • CCC 790, 1003, 1322-1419: the Holy Eucharist
  • CCC 805, 950, 2181-2182, 2637, 2845: the Eucharist and the communion of believers
  • CCC 1212, 1275, 1436, 2837: the Eucharist as spiritual food








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