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June 18, 2017 - The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ: Pastor’s Corner

Happy Father’s Day! In remembering and honoring our fathers, we recognize that the vocation to be a father is divine.  In fact, this is how God describes His relationship with us.  When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus says: “Abba, Father.” Perhaps because we are so familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, we are not as astonished at these words as the disciples must have been.  In Aramaic, the word “Abba” does not simply mean father, but is a familiar, intimate term of endearment akin to “daddy” or “papa.” For the Jewish people, the name of God is sacred and thus is seldom spoken or written, lest it be dishonored or used irrelevantly.  For this reason, the authors of the Old Testament employ various circumlocutions for the name of God, which are translated as “Lord” or “Almighty”.  When Jesus calls God “Abba,” it is a shocking moment of revelation: God wants us to relate to Him not only as the Almighty creator of heaven and earth, but also as a loving father does to his child.  

This connects with our celebration of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask our Father to “give us this day our daily bread.” This daily bread is nowhere more present than in the Eucharist we receive every time we come to Mass.  Traditionally, this feast is marked with a Eucharistic procession, which we will do at the end of select Masses.  Historically, this feast emerged in the life of the church as a wonder-filled response to the Eucharistic miracle near Orvieto, Italy. In 1264, there was a priest on pilgrimage,  who had serious doubts about the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  Amid these doubts, one day when he was celebrating Mass around the town of Orvieto, as he said the words of consecration, “This is my body, This is my blood,” the host began to drip blood before his eyes.   Amazed and dismayed, he carefully reserved the blood stained white corporal (liturgical linen used at altar), which can still be seen on display at the Church.  

Inspired by this miracle, Pope Urban IV established Corpus Christi as a Solemnity and asked St. Thomas Aquinas to compose prayers and hymns for the occasion.  Some of the perennial prayer and anthems for the Eucharist come from Thomas’ masterpiece: Pange Lingua (concluding in the “Tantum Ergo”), “Verbum Super num” (concluding with the “O Salutaris Hostia”), and the sequence before the Gospel “Lauda Sion.” Of all of these masterpieces, there is perhaps none succinctly beautiful and profound as the “O sacrum convivium”: “O sacred banquet in which Christ becomes our food. The memory of his passion is celebrated, the soul is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”  In the Eucharist, the past and future merge with the present reality of God’s grace, given to us by our loving Father who feeds us.

As we celebrate Father’s Day on this feast, let us rejoice in the gift of the Eucharist.  And we know that as incredible as Eucharistic miracles can be, it is not because of such miracles that we believe.  Miracles are not the cause of our faith.  To those who believe, no miracle is necessary.  Rather, such wonders confirm or witness to our belief. They rouse us and encourage us in the living of our faith.  They quell doubts.  So like that priest in Orvieto, if the Eucharist is a difficult or doubtful part of your faith, you are not alone. Remember that most of Jesus’ disciples left Him precisely because He says in this weekend’s Gospel: “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).  And yet, Jesus does not call his friends to “take and understand, but “take and eat.”  When we come to Mass free from serious impediment and sin, let us be prepared to be nourished by His life giving body and blood.  In the Eucharist, Our Father feeds us, so that we can feed others.  We receive what we believe so we can be what we receive.

Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P., Pastor

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