The Bread of Life has always faced critics. In Jesus’ day, God was relegated to Lord of the Universe – distant, with a name too holy to spell out (YAHWAH). In the years of the early Church, mystery cults abounded. People preferred a detached, ephemeral ideal of the divine to anything concrete.
Well, Jesus came and gave us his very flesh and blood to sustain us. He came to earth to live among us, and to die a painful death for us. The Passover, which Jesus initiated in the upper chamber and completed on the Cross (“It is finished”), instituted His Body and Blood – the Eucharist – for the life of the world. “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53)
The apostles were confused, but Jesus visited them repeatedly to show himself in the breaking of bread, and he admonished them to “Feed my sheep.” Gathering for the Bread of Heaven could win you a martyrs death in the early years of the Church, at many intervals in history, and still in some parts of the world. Early Christians were often accused of cannibalism.
The Feast of Corpus Christi emerged during challenges to the faith – in the 1200s, when heresies abounded. The feast was reaffirmed at the Council of Trent in the early 1600s, to help combat the spread of Protestantism. Increasingly, Catholic revival in our times has been marked by establishing Adoration and reaffirming the Real Presence. Eucharist miracles lend further testimony. The Miracle of Lanciano in the 8th century, with human flesh and blood appearing and remaining incorruptible, was analyzed by NASA scientists; they confirmed human tissue of miraculous character.
It’s important to remember that this Feast of Corpus Christi was elevated during a time of heresy from without, and this feast reminds us to be vigilant about heresies within.
I had a dear friend, a Protestant, who could talk circles around me with memorized Bible passages. Yet, in a dream, I kept hearing: “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” What more is there to say to a Christian not in full Communion with the Catholic Church?
I know of a recent Catholic convert, a follower of this blog, who faced hardships during her conversion process, who knew of her call to the Eucharist. This focus helped her stay the course, despite detractors.
When I converted to the faith, I went through a period of criticism, but seeing the waves of Catholics approaching the Eucharist realigned my focus in my conversion.
The Eucharist nurtures us in ways flour, water and fermented grapes could never do. It changes us, and makes us one with Jesus. This shared element transforms us into the Body of Christ.
Treat the Eucharist with reverence, and frequent it daily if you can. Know the source of your strength, the fuel for the Grace that sustains us. Trust in its miracles. Reverence it in faith. Jesus who gives us His Body and Blood asks only that we trust in Him. “Take and eat.”