19th. June Feast of Corpus Christi

Shortly after my ordination to the priesthood, almost 40 years ago, I was on a visit to the Discalced Carmelites in Avila, one of the cloistered nuns asked me: ‘Father what do you feel when you have Jesus in your hands at mass? This question made me more grateful for the great gift of my priesthood and the great gift of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is God’s greatest gift to all of us yet so many Catholics today and even some priests do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is much more than a symbol or a reminder of the presence of Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: ‘In the most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore, the whole Christ is truly present, and substantially contained. This presence is called REAL…because it is presence in the fullest sense’. On a hilltop near Cape Town, South Africa, a gun is fired every day at noon. The firing of the gun once served a beautiful purpose. It signalled that a ship, on its way from India, had arrived in the harbour with a cargo of goods, and was in need of supplies of food and fresh water. A beautiful exchange resulted. But that was a long time ago. The gun is still fired today but it is an empty ritual. The ritual has still one thing going for it; most people know the story behind it. The Eucharist celebrates a beautiful event – the gift that Jesus made of his life on our behalf. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we recount that story again. But like anything that is repeated, there is a danger that it may become just a ritual.  During the last couple of years, when we were unable to attend mass, its amazing how many people missed mass and were anxious to return to mass, because we realised that we were missing something important in our lives. Thankfully now we are able to attend mass again. It is a little disappointing that we still have not returned to the numbers we had pre-pandemic, but hopefull they will soon return  to mass. The number of virtual masses has increased exponentially over these last few years, we even installed a webcam in our church. These virtual masses have been a great source of encouragement for people, especially during the pandemic. Pope Francis recently reminded us while these virtual masses served a great purpose during the pandemic, but a virtual mass is not the same as attending physically a mass. The church is a community that comes together to pray and support each other. We are now facing a new challenge in our church and it is the shortage of priests, hopefully we will learn to appreciate much more this wonderful gift of the Eucharist. I remember a talk in Rome of one of the personal secretaries of St. Pope John Paul 11; he told us that the Pope served his mass as a preparation for Pope’s own Mass. Let us pray that on this feastday of Corpus Christi, we ask the Lord to help us to appreciate much more this wonderful gift of the Eucharist.