The Mass is ancient. From all the evidence, it probably began in Jerusalem, as the Apostles’ and the first Christian’s primary worship form in the very first week after Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. The Apostles taught it wherever they went. We heard St. Paul teach about the Mass in the second reading. Sometime in the 50’s, Paul was writing to the Corinthians, a large city in Greece, to warn them against changing the Mass, or mixing the liturgy with other social activities. Previously, Paul had lived among them for about a year and a half. The Church at Corinth subsequently became one of the largest Christian communities in the Roman world. However, in Paul’s absence, they were turning their meetings into common meals and social gatherings, not for the original intent, to worship the Lord in the Eucharist. Writing from the city of Ephesus, Paul told the Corinthian Church,
“In giving this instruction, I do not praise the fact that your meetings are doing more harm than good.”
Further, he told them that he had taught them to gather for “the Lord’s supper”. Their language was Greek. They still didn’t use the word “Mass”, a Latin word that would come much later. He told them,
“When you meet in one place, then, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper,
for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.”
In other words, they didn’t come together as Christian brothers and sisters, to share equally. They had so corrupted their Christian gatherings that they lost sight of what they were doing. Paul is reminding them of what he did with them when he lived with them,
“I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”
These are almost exactly the same words we will use in today’s Mass, and that the Church has always used in the Consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. We can’t play around with these words or what they mean. Jesus taught us that we should worship him by receiving his Body and Blood. The Church has always understood this as Jesus’ commandment to His Church.
One of the important lessons from the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is His direction to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to receive Holy Communion as often as possible. By the time of the Feast of Corpus Christi in June 1675 when Jesus appeared in a vision to St. Margaret Mary, the larger Church in France and Europe was engaged in a bitter argument over God’s Grace. The Jansenist reformers (Heretics) were teaching against frequent Communion, and that salvation was reserved only for a few chosen elect. This was a heresy against God’s Grace and the entire truth of the Mass. On the other hand, the Popes were vigorously teaching the faithful to go to Holy Communion often. This made Jesus’ visions to St. Margaret Mary all the more important. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus flatly opposes Jansenism and emphasizes Jesus’ unlimited, unconditional love for all men and women.
We need to have a strong hunger for God, and particularly for the Holy Eucharist. There are many in our community who come to Mass, but don’t come to Holy Communion for one reason or another. What is the solution? A strong hunger for the Eucharist!
Many may be prevented from coming to Holy Communion because they are married civilly, or living with someone, but not married in the Church. It will be their hunger for the Eucharist that will bring them back to regular Communion. Those who hunger for the Eucharist will come to find solutions that will help them return to Holy Communion in the Church. Many who cannot receive the Eucharist for one reason or another simply stop going to Mass altogether. What will cause them to return? A strong hunger for God in the Holy Eucharist! That hunger will save them and us.
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, … whoever eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:53-58
These are Jesus’ words, and they are very clear. The most powerful sacrament for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal salvation is the Body and Blood of Jesus.
Our Feast of Corpus Christi is the Feast of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. Our hunger for this bread will save us. Our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will increase our hunger for His Body and Blood.