Deut. 8:2-3, 14-16; Psalm 148; 1Cor. 10:16-17; John 6:51-58 …………
We have three sets of homily notes to choose from. Please scroll down the page.
Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: The Eucharist and our Christian Life
Rev. Fr. Paul K. Oredipe: HOLY EUCHARIST – Center of the Church
Rev. Fr. Evaristus Okeke: The Eucharist: Our Life
Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
The Eucharist and our Christian Life
The readings today invite us to reflect on the meaning of the Eucharist (Holy Communion). The Eucharist is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, together with his Soul and Divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine. The Eucharist is not a symbol of Christ presence; but his actual presence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church strongly asserts the “Real Presence” of Jesus’ body in the Eucharist. This doctrine was affirmed at the Lateran Council of 1215. We are not dealing with a symbol and we are not gathered together because of a symbol. Jesus did not give them symbol to eat. A symbol is a sign, shape or object which is used to represent something else. He gave them his body and blood. The Lord Himself said: ‘This is my body’; not ‘a symbol or foreshadowing of my body’ but ‘my body,’ and not ‘a foreshadowing of my blood’ but ‘my blood’ and the bible says they all ate and were satisfied. Symbol could not have satisfied them. Can the symbol of a car satisfy you as the car itself? The symbol takes you nowhere but the car takes you somewhere.
Today’s readings will help us to understand this further. The first reading speaks of manna, the very bread that sustained the Israelite during their stay in the desert. The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. In the Gospel Jesus presents to us his body and blood, the superior manna, the bread that gives life. We are to eat his body and drink his blood until we come to that eternal habitable land.
The body and blood of Christ has some powerful implications for our Christian life.
1.It is the giver of eternal life. During the desert experience, manna was a symbol of God as the sustainer of life. This superior manna in the New Testament is not just a sustainer but the giver of eternal life. Life can be sustained by food: whether manna, rice, beans and the likes; but life eternal is given and sustained by the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus himself says this in John 6:54, (today’s gospel) “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day”. This means, his body and blood is also a condition for resurrection.
2.It is the reason for communion. The second reading tells us that the Eucharist is broken and shared as a means of unity. It is an expression of love and sincere bond. Again, Jesus says in the gospel, he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. To abide in him and him in me is communion. So the Eucharist is called Holy Communion because it brings us into union with Christ. It is not just an anyhow union; but a holy union. Precisely because of this, Jesus gave a powerful illustration of what it means to abide in him in the gospel of John 15, in verse 5 Jesus says I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. Therefore, those who live in communion with Christ are to bear fruits; fruits as enumerated in Gal5:22-23 are “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” These are the fervent expressions and characters of those who receive Holy communion.
3.To “abide in him and him in me” implies connection, dependence and continuance. A branch is connected to the vine, and a vine to the branch. If there is no connection, there is no life and no fruit. Thus, Jesus says in today’s gospel John 6:53 “…you will have no life”. Dependence; this aspect of abiding, unlike connection, is not reciprocal. The branch is dependent on the vine, but the vine is not dependent on the branch. We all depend on Christ, through him will find spiritual nutrient and strength. Abiding also involves continuance. In fact, “abide” (Greek, meno) means to remain, or stay, or continue. Thus, those who receive Holy Communion ought to always continue in that relationship.
Lastly, we are called today to become participants in the body and blood of Christ. The second reading says the cup of blessing which we bless and the bread which we break is a participation in the body and blood of Christ. This participation demands proper preparation. On one hand this involves remote preparation such as regular prayer and reading of Scriptures, the faithful and loving fulfillment of the daily responsibilities of our state in life, and regular confession including daily repentance of sin by an examination of conscience and recitation of the Act of Contrition. On the other hand, it includes proximate preparations such as prayerful recollection as we come to Mass and fasting from food and drink for at least one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion as our health and age permit. These are not mere sanctions but spiritual necessities for participation in the divine life. God bless you!
Rev. Fr. Paul K. Oredipe
HOLY EUCHARIST – Center of the Church
In 1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of “Corpus Christi” for the whole Church, a special feast day to recognize and to promote the great gift of the Blessed Sacrament. He commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to compose a Mass and an Office for the Liturgy of the Hours honoring the Holy Eucharist. St. Thomas Aquinas composed all the prayers and the beautiful Eucharistic hymns “Panis Angelicus,” “Pange Lingua,” “O Salutaris Hostia” and “Tantum Ergo.”
This Celebration developed as a Procession feast in addition to coming together to celebrate Mass in Church.
It was what you might call an action feast and they acted on the truth of the Blessed Sacrament. And so they carried the Blessed Sacrament around their whole village; through the town, wherever they lived, their homes, their workplaces and so on, to dramatize the conviction they had that God journeys with us wherever we go. God is always with us and we have the Blessed Sacrament as the clear sacramental sign of God’s presence. They would carry the tools of their craft with them. They would visit all of the special places they wanted God to be with them; hospitals or places where there were sick people, or places where there were hungry people and so on. God was journeying with them in their everyday life. And that is a part of the celebration that we need to think about — how God is with us.
In fact, Corpus Christi is the first feast whose object is not just an event of the life of Christ, but a truth of faith – His real presence in the Eucharist. It responds to a need: to solemnly proclaim such faith.
Corpus Christi holds out to us an invitation and a challenge.
As Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us: “No sacrament contributes more to our salvation than this; for it purges away our sins, increases our virtues and nourishes our minds with an abundance of all the spiritual gifts. It is truly the sacrament above all others whereby Christ’s kingdom of justice, love and peace is made visible and incarnate within the Christian family and in the world.” (STh, II, 65,3)
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: quoting Lumen Gentium, no 11, “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.”(CCC, 1324) “In this organic whole, the Eucharist occupies a unique place as the ‘Sacrament of sacraments’, all the other sacraments are ordered to it as to their end.” (CCC, 1211)
Manna, bread (flesh) and wine (blood) are words abundantly used this Sunday when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Today’s first reading is taken from Moses’ second address in Deuteronomy, as the Israelites emerge from their 40-year journey through the desert to the Promised Land. Moses and his people are standing on the high plateaus of Moab; stretching below them is the land God gives them. At this long awaited moment of fulfillment, Moses exhorts Israel to remember forever the goodness and mercy of God during their sojourn and cites many examples of God’s providence, including the gift of manna in the desert. Moses says to the people: “Yahweh your God … fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known.”
What Moses is telling the people is that that manna, the food they ate in the desert, was a symbol for the Torah, the law, the word of God, and that they must take-in the word of God, just as they took-in the manna and ate it and allowed it to nurture their bodies. They needed the word of God to nurture their spirit, to guide them. They needed the wisdom, the truth of God, in order to find life, real life, to satisfy the hunger of their spirit, of their soul. You can satisfy the hunger of your body with bread, but it is only the word of God that will nourish and satisfy the hunger of your soul, your spirit. So you must listen to the word of God, you must, in a sense, eat it. Take it in deeply so that it forms everything that you do and becomes part of you.
Jesus says in the Gospel: “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” What He means by that is that just as that manna was symbolic of God’s word, so now Jesus clearly is the word of God. Everything that Jesus is, what He says, what He teaches, is what will nourish us spiritually and give us spirit life — if we take it in and follow Him. But this is what can be so challenging.
For his part, in the second reading, Saint Paul tells the Corinthians in his first letter to them: “the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ”. In appealing to the Corinthians to heal their divisions, Paul cites the gift of the Eucharist as the ultimate expression of the unity of the Christian community.
With the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, we received as a gift a miraculous food for eternal life. After the resurrection, the disciples came to recognize that the multiplication of loaves was a sign of the Eucharistic gift bestowed at the Last Supper.
Today’s Solemnity of Corpus Christi was born precisely to help Christians be aware of this presence of Christ among us, to keep alive what Pope St. John Paul II called “Eucharistic wonder.”
LOOK BEYOND THE BREAD YOU EAT, SEE YOUR SAVIOUR AND YOUR LORD.
LOOK BEYOND THE CUP YOU DRINK, SEE HIS LOVE POURED OUT AS BLOOD.
Today, we give thanks not only for this supernatural bread from heaven on which we feed in Holy Communion, but also for the abiding presence of Christ in the tabernacle. As the Holy Eucharist is the center of the Church, so must it be the center of our being Christians and of our priestly and religious life. The Lord gives himself to us. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56).
Communion means exchange, sharing. Now, this is the fundamental rule of sharing: that which is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. Applying this rule to Eucharistic communion illustrates its greatness. What do I have that is truly “mine”? Misery, sin. This alone belongs to me exclusively. What does Jesus have that is “his” if not holiness, the perfection of all the virtues?
So, communion consists in the fact that I give Jesus my sin and my poverty, and He gives me holiness. As the action of the Holy Spirit makes holy the bread and wine, so the action of the Holy Spirit seeks to effect the same in each one of us. In this the “admirabile commercium,” or “wonderful exchange,” as the liturgy defines it, is realized. This is the most intimate of communions, even if the most mysterious.
In the natural world, in regard to nourishment, the stronger vital principle assimilates the weaker one. The vegetable assimilates the mineral; the animal assimilates the vegetable.
Even in the relationship between Christ and man this law is at work. It is Christ who assimilates us to Himself. We are transformed into Him. He is not transformed into us. We transform ordinary food into our own bodies, but the food of the Eucharist transforms us into the body of Christ. Unlike the material food we eat, which after being digested and assimilated becomes part of us, when we receive the Risen Lord, we become part of Him.
A famous atheist materialist, Ludwig Feuerbach, said: “Man is what he eats.” This statement that we become what we eat is never more true that in the Eucharistic experience. Without knowing it, he gave a perfect definition of the Eucharist. Thanks to the Eucharist, man truly becomes what he eats: the body of Christ!
By eating the body and drinking the blood of the Lord, a marvelous union takes place between ourselves and Jesus Christ, and also between ourselves and every other member of the Church throughout the world and throughout time.
This union is brought about because together we are taken into the perfect offering of Jesus and because we take into ourselves his real presence. What we eat and drink becomes part of us and in the Eucharist we become part of the body of Christ both by joining ourselves with the worship and by the intimate action of sharing the meal. The Risen One enters into me and wants to transform me and make me enter into profound communion with Him.
In this way He also opens me to all others: we, the many, are one bread and one body, says St. Paul: “Because there is one bread, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:17). The Eucharist effects what it symbolizes. It brings about the unity of which it is a sign. We cannot be in communion with Christ if we are divided among ourselves, if we hate each other, if we are not ready to be reconciled.
Yes, the Eucharist that we celebrate commemorates the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Eucharist makes new the mysteries we celebrate; if we participate in it faithfully and intently. The Eucharist signifies and ferments a bond of unity among all who take part in it. Above all, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist has the power to transform us. It has the power to purify us, and the power to strengthen us, and the power to gradually make us more and more like Jesus.
But what is the Eucharist for us? And what is the witness that we give as individuals and community to the real and transcendent presence of Jesus? What is our Eucharistic experience and story?
Today, more than ever before, we need EUCHARISTIC WITNESSES, not just Eucharistic ministers. It is our witnessing that gives sure basis to our ministry. We cannot be true ministers if we are not primarily authentic witnesses to what we celebrate – witnesses to the great faith in the reality of the Lord in our midst. “It is the virtue that the Church needs today, assailed as she is by so many forces that aim at defeating her, indeed weakening and destroying her firmness in faith.” We have great examples.
What is your own experience and example? What is mine?
The Eucharist is the source, cause, expression and effect of our unity. It is the supreme sacramental manifestation of communion in the Church. Indeed, the Eucharist creates communion and fosters communion. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 40) The Eucharist brings about the Church’s unity through the Lord’s sacrifice and by communion in His body and blood.
We all “eat” the same person, not only the same thing. We all are in this way taken out of our closed individual persons and placed inside another, greater one. We all are assimilated into Christ and so by means of communion with Christ, united among ourselves, rendered the same, one sole thing in Him, members of one another.
To communicate with Christ is essentially also to communicate with one another. We are no longer each alone, each separate from the other; we are now each part of the other; each of those who receive communion is “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gn 2,23).
The Eucharist is a meal of the community, but it is far more than just a meal of fellowship. Each person who receives communion receives the Body of Christ within them as individuals. In this way each person is united together to the total Mystical Body of Christ.
Our union is far more than fellowship. We are the branches united to the vine and sustained by the life force of the Eucharist. The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is a good opportunity for us to reflect on the depth of God’s gift to us.
This is the exact same prayer that Jesus prayed. I can only implore you: let us pray it; let us celebrate it; and most especially, let us live it and witness it as a visible sign to the world so that, as Jesus says, their unity may be complete. We are all one body, wrote the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 4:4).
Unity does not just happen; we have to work at it. Instead of concentrating on what divides us, we should remember what unites us: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God!
Have you learned to appreciate people who are different from you? Can you see how their differing gifts and viewpoints can help … as it does God’s work? Learn to enjoy the ways we members of Christ’s body complement one another.
This celebration reminds us that when we receive communion, we do not just perform a symbolic liturgical action, we receive Jesus Christ himself.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Fr. Evaristus Okeke
The Eucharist: Our Life
Today we celebrate the greatest act of love the world has ever and can ever know. We celebrate the supremacy of God’s love over that of man. In the gospel reading, Jesus emphatically noted “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day”. Usually, we give gifts to our love ones at special moments of their lives. This gift is never our very selves because we are not capable of giving ourselves to another. Only Jesus is capable of this height of love; He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist and asks us to partake in as often as possible. The Eucharist is thanksgiving being the supreme act of Christian gratitude to God.
The Eucharist is a Sacrifice. The Mass is a sacramental re-presentation (but not repetition) of the Sacrifice of the cross. The Mass re-presents (that is, presents again) the event of the Golgotha in time and space so that we are able to have access to the Golgotha experience. Only at Mass can this re-presentation happen. _Since the Eucharist is a sacrifice, we partake through worship_ . There is no other spiritual activity in which we worship God as much as we do at Mass. Therefore, the Mass is the highest form of prayer.
The Eucharist is a meal. It was instituted during the course of a meal and in the signs of a meal (bread and wine). Christ himself is the meal as well as the one who prepares the meal. _Since the Eucharist is a meal, we partake through consumption_ . When Jesus gave us His body and His blood, He specifically added “eat” and “drink” respectively. Therefore, if we must fully receive the love of God in the Eucharist, we must not only worship but must also receive Him.
This is one area of great challenge. Experience has shown that many Catholics still fail to approach the Eucharist banquet. If receiving Jesus sacramentally was not important; if worshipping Him alone was sufficient, Jesus would not have given Himself to us in the form of a meal. Therefore, we do not fully carryout the will of God when we refuse to receive Him sacramentally. Can a child go against the parting words of the father and expect to be happy? Jesus answers in today’s gospel: “I am telling you the truth, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, lives in me and I in him”. Here, Jesus is not speaking figuratively, for when many of his followers deserted him (Jn.6:60), He maintained His teaching.
Let us reflect briefly on Transubstantiation. It is the process whereby the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood Jesus Christ at Mass, when the words of consecration are pronounced by a validly ordained priest. Transubstantiation is not the sacrament; it is only a process. What changes into Christ’s body is the substance of the bread; and what changes into Christ’s blood is the substance of the wine. The form of bread and the form of wine remains. Thus, the accidentals of bread and those of wine remains such as size, colour, shape, taste, and so on. But they do not become the accidentals of Christ. The whole Christ is contained under each specie and under every part or quantity of each specie. Christ body is not measured or sized according to the measurement or quantity of the species of bread and wine.*
This implies that when we receive Christ’s body, we have received His blood and vice versa. This further implies that, when situations may warrant the breaking of the Eucharistic bread because of the unanticipated large number of communicants, it is not the case that half-Jesus is distributed.
Beloved, in the Eucharist, Christ is really, truly and substantially present. Pope Paul VI says that the Eucharistic presence is called “real” not because other forms of Christ’s presence are not real, but because in the Eucharist, He is real per excellence. In _Mane Nobiscum Domine_ , Pope St. John Paul II calls it “a mystery of Presence” because it is the perfect fulfilment of God’s promise to remain with us until the end of time.
Being a meal, the Eucharist not only strengthens us in our earthly journey, it also accompanies us in our return to paradise. It is called Viaticum – food for the journey. God wills that all men be saved and we must cooperate in this regard. Hence, it is our duty to call upon the priest whenever someone is sick. The person does not necessarily have to be at the point of death because being a Sacrament of life, the Eucharist could either restore one to earthly life or guide one to eternal life. It is not the last medication for a dying person.
However, for us to gain the nourishment of the Eucharistic banquet, we must participate worthily. This is easy to understand. Personal hygiene teaches us to approach our meals with clean hands. To eat with dirty hands is to contaminate oneself. Beloved, Jesus wants us to live and this is only possible when we feed on Him who is the true life of world. God Bless You!