In the second reading today, we hear the earliest known text of the Eucharist, written in a letter to the Corinthians around the year 56 AD, some 20 years after Jesus’ Crucifixion. St. Paul wrote:
Brothers and sisters:
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.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
Paul was sharing what the early Church had been practicing ever since Jesus’ Resurrection and Pentecost, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
That was the practice of the early Church, and it still is, now some 2,000 years later.
Just 500 years ago there was a schism in Christianity, and Protestant thinking began to grow in some areas of the Catholic Church. In the 16th century, Protestants began to teach that the Eucharist is “symbol”, not “substance”. At that point, for Protestants, the Sacramental Church began to unravel. They lost the priesthood and the Eucharist. They lost Confession and Anointing of the Sick. In just the last 100 years the Protestant groups lost the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Once you lose the Eucharist, there is little foundation for the other Sacraments in Protestant theology. Roman Catholics must grow in the belief and faith that Jesus gave us his Body and Blood, or we will go down the same road. The Eucharist is substance, not symbol. Christ’s Blood is the source of all sacraments. Catholics live the Sacramental Life of the Church, all seven sacraments.
Soon after the beginning of the Protestant revolt, the Catholic Church, particularly in France and Spain, began to teach against the Eucharist, creating a great divide among Christians. One of the leading Protestant theologians began to teach against the sacraments of the Church and the role of the sacraments in our salvation. The Church in France began to seek a compromise with the Protestant Calvinists, the forerunners of modern Presbyterians. One of the teachings for Catholics was the uselessness of frequent Holy Communion. Perhaps you should only receive Holy Communion infrequently, perhaps once a year. Even nuns in convents were being restricted in receiving Holy Communion. The idea was that Holy Communion could not save you. Frequent communion was not recommended. These teachings evolved in the Catholic Church into a great and dangerous heresy, known as Jansenism, which taught against the Sacraments given by Jesus to the Church, and the saving effects of the Sacraments. Jansenism was Catholic Calvinism. Recall that Jesus said, as taught by the Apostle, St. John the Evangelist, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life in him.” This was Jesus’ promise, and the reason he gave us His Body and Blood, saying,
I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
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.
Protestants do not teach this.
Around the year 1675, in the Convent of the Visitation Nuns in the town of Paray-le-Monial in France, Jesus appeared to one of those nuns, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. St. Margaret Mary knew nothing about the heresy, but her superiors greatly limited her receiving Holy Communion. She could only go to Confession once a year.
Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary many times and they had many conversations.
In one of those appearances, on the Feast of Corpus Christi in June 1675, St. Margaret Mary was in the chapel at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus appeared to her and revealed his Sacred Heart. He instructed her,
“Behold this Heart, Which has loved men so much.”
He told her he wanted hearts consecrated to Him. Jesus instructed St. Margaret Mary,
“I ask of you, that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special Feast to honor My Heart….”
He instructed that all are to receive Holy Communion on that Feast day.
On another occasion, Jesus instructed her,
“You shall receive Holy Communion as often as obedience will permit you….”
And He told her,
“You shall receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of every month….”
In doing this Jesus Himself struck down the wicked heresy of Jansenism. Jesus was teaching us to receive His Body and Blood in Holy Communion often, at a very minimum on the First Friday of each month.
It took several decades for the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to spread throughout France and to the world. Today there are churches, seminaries, hospitals and universities dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as is our parish. In our Diocese of Austin, there are six parishes dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus gives witness to the Feast of Corpus Christi, and the two feasts are intertwined. Jesus gave us his Body and Blood for our eternal salvation, and He told us to receive Him often in Holy Communion.
Remember my instruction: Do not miss Mass. Receive Holy Communion as often as you can. And go to frequent Confession.