Corpus Christi, May 29, 2016

May 29, 2016

Father Stéphane Pouliot


The Word of God for us today presents a mysterious encounter between a King, Melchizedek, and Abraham, our father in faith.  The meaning of what happened some 4000 years ago only becomes apparent in light of what Jesus did for us by giving us the Eucharist some 2000 years later.  King Melchizedek brings to Abraham, weary from a battle with his enemies, bread and wine.  The King brings himself the food to the patriarch.  And there is more: He blesses Him.  Abraham then chooses to respond by giving King Mechizedek one tenth of everything he owned.

The Church wishes us to appreciate that the Eucharist is the only food that will sustain us from Sunday to Sunday, so that, as we resist sin every day, as well as reject Satan, our chief enemy, and his many lies, we will be made stronger.  At every Mass, as the last thing the priest does before sending the faithful on a mission to evangelize the world, like Melchizedek for Abraham, he blesses them.  We are called to respond to this blessing upon our lives, like Abraham, by giving the Church our generous support.  The response of the disciples to Jesus’ offer to feed them like Melchizedek fed Abraham, should be, as the psalmist expresses, to “offer themselves willingly… and the psalmist vows to God prophetically: “…your youth will come to you… Lord” (cf. Psalm 110:3).

On this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also known by its shorter Latin name of “Corpus Christi”, we have come to the one eternal Mass made present this Sunday in our Cathedral of Kingston where Jesus taking a loaf of bread in his hands, give thanks, break the bread and says: “This is my Body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, taking the cup of wine, he says: “This cup is the new covenant in my Blood.  Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”[1].

At every Mass, Jesus desires His priests to give the crowd “something to eat” (Luke 9:13), and out of His generous heart, he wishes all who eat of Him to be “filled”.  In order to stay with us, He orders that what is left over of the consecrated hosts gathered up after Holy Communion, be reserved in the tabernacle where He waits for us to spend time with Him[2].

As saint Pierre-Julien Eymard[3], the Apostle of the Eucharist, once said of Jesus who stays for us in all the tabernacles of every Catholic Church worldwide:

“(Jesus) loves, (Jesus) hopes, (Jesus) waits.  If (Jesus) came down on our altars on certain days only, some sinner, on being moved to repentance, might have to look for (Jesus), and not finding Him, might have to wait.  Our Lord (Jesus) prefers to wait Himself for the sinner for years, rather than keep (the sinner) waiting one instant.”  Such is the Mercy of our God!

The gift of the Eucharist is a miracle unlike any other in that by it, Jesus is determined to show us His love unlike any other.

Three stories[4] should suffice in illustrating the magnitude of the gift that we receive in the Eucharist, as well as the generous response to the Eucharist whom the Lord expects from the youth and those who continue to grow in grace and age.

The first story helps us to experience that the truth and the power of the Eucharist for our spiritual nourishment are essential:

“In 2004, Pope St. John Paul II beatified blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa, a Portuguese peasant woman who received a very special grace from God that helped her avoid taking the gift of the Eucharist for granted.

Paralyzed at age 14, Alexandrina spent her life offering her suffering and prayers to God for the conversion of sinners.  She died in 1955 at age 51.  For the last 13 years of her life, she ate and drank nothing except her daily Holy Communion.   Since she lived in the age of modern science, she was subjected to countless medical tests, none of which provided a natural explanation.  Alexandrina herself explained to her spiritual director what Jesus had told her about the reason behind this extraordinary grace.  Jesus told her:

“You will live only on the Eucharist because I want to show the entire world the power of the Eucharist and the power of my life in souls.”

Such is the Mercy of our God!

The second story is the story of St. Juliana Falconieri[5] an Italian sister who, in the 14th century (1270-1341) became the foundress of an order of Servite nuns dedicated to prayer and serving the sick.  Her story helps us to encounter the powerful love of Jesus for each one of our souls and Jesus’ longing that we would not only agree to receive Him in Holy Communion, but indeed consecrate our entire lives at Jesus’ service in marriage or in consecrated celibacy.

“At 14 years old, Juliana was told that her mother had arranged for her to be married to a gentleman.  Instead, Juliana prevailed in her decision to consecrate her life completely to Christ. In her later years as a nun, chronic sickness made Juliana unable to digest solid food.  Even on her deathbed, frequent fits of vomiting made it impossible for her to receive communion.  But when she knew her last hour had come, she was inflamed with the desire to receive Holy Communion one last time.

So, she asked the priest to lay a corporal, the white cloth put on the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, on her chest, and placed the consecrated host on top of it.

No sooner had the Eucharist been laid over Juliana’s heart, it disappeared, being miraculously consumed directly into her body, to the great astonishment of the priests and the other nuns who were there.  She died soon after.  And as they were preparing her body for burial, the Sisters found the sign of the cross that had been on the consecrated host emblazoned on the skin of her chest right where the Eucharist had been absorbed into her heart…  This may seem far removed from our own experience of receiving the Eucharist, but like the miracles of the New Testament and the many Eucharistic miracles throughout the centuries”, it was given to all of us as a sign that Jesus is alive, the consecrated host is Jesus, and Jesus is truly God and truly man.

Such is the Mercy of our God!

“Jesus by staying with us through the Eucharist shows us that He really cares about our lives, and wants to accompany us on our life journey.”  This is what is behind the ancient tradition still alive in many places around the world and which could be implemented widely in our Archdiocese to organize a Eucharistic procession in our streets following one of the Masses of Corpus Christi.

At such a procession in 2005, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI preached the following in his homily: “We bring Christ, present under the sign of bread, onto the streets of our city.  We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to (Jesus’) goodness.  May our streets be streets of Jesus!  May our houses be homes for (Jesus) and with (Jesus)!  May our life of every day be penetrated by (Jesus’) presence…”

The last of the three stories, I promised you earlier, shows us that Jesus takes pleasure in our wanting to spend time with Him by praying before the Eucharist in adoration:

“One of Pope John Paul II’s coworkers once found him in his private chapel embracing the tabernacle.  Later, when asked why he was doing that, the Pope explained with a smile: ‘I console Him’…”

“Have we ever considered that before?”  Have we ever considered that Jesus is consoled by our expression of love towards Him in relationship to so many who do not respond?  How often do we have contact with the Eucharist outside of Holy Communion?

We are just one short sidewalk away from the chapel attached to this Cathedral where throughout the day from 7am to 8pm we can drop in to visit Jesus without appointments.  How important is it for us to spend time with Jesus in the tabernacle?  How important is it for Jesus?

[1] Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

[2] Cf. Luke 9 :11b-17)


[4] I am deeply indebted to Father John Bartunek, Legionary of Christ, S.Th.D and to his retreat guide “Good for the Journey – a retreat guide on the sacrament of the Eucharist” for much of the content and wording of this homily. (