7 June 2015
When I was preparing for my first Holy Communion as a boy in Rhodesia we were told a story by our parish priest about an incident that had happened in the newly independent Congo. The Congolese troops had mutinied and run amok killing and looting And they had looted a Catholic church, killed the priest, smashed open the tabernacle and stolen the ciborium in which rested the Blessed Sacrament which they had scattered all over the ground.
In the days following this attack parishioners returned to the church and on their knees prayed before reverently consuming the Blessed Sacrament; picking the hosts up off the ground with their tongues.
And I remember saying to myself ‘That’s what I would have done!’ and in my heart hoping that I would have an opportunity one day to demonstrate under the threat of great danger my love and reverence for the Eucharistic. Fortunately that situation has never presented itself.
This glorious Feast of Corpus Christi that has been celebrated by the church for the last 750 years commemorates the joy of the institution at the Last Supper of the Eucharist; the most holy Body and Blood of Christ.
In the first reading, we may find the spilling and splashing of blood over the altar and thepeople a little gross but we need to understand that to the people of Israel, blood was lifeand that the blood sprinkled over them joined them to the blood splashed on the altar which symbolised God. This is the blood that seals their covenant with God.
In the Gospel reading Jesus tells his disciples at the Last Supper that his own blood will seal the New Covenant, the new relationshipbetween God and his people; a relationship founded and built on love and service.
And the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews speaks about this new covenant through Christ as being the supreme sacrifice that brings about the reconciliation of God and humankind for all eternity.
While Jesus could only be present physically as a man in his humanity for 33 years, he remains present to us physically through all time in his divinity in the Eucharist.
The Easter miracle is eternal and can never be ended or repeated but is made real and present to us at this very momentin time through the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, Jesus is as real and present to us as he was to his pilgrim church 2000 years ago.
The earliest written reference we have to the Eucharist in the early church is in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in which he writes in chapter 10: “When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ?
We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us up to what he is.”
It’s almost impossible for us within the limitations of our human faculties to fully grasp and understand the miracle of the Eucharist; sometimes it’s as difficult for Catholics as it is often an anathema for non-Catholics and non-Christians.
But our whole faith is based on miracle and mystery.
Think about it. Christmas, Easter, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Trinity, the Holy Eucharist – all revelations of God’s awe-inspiring power and mystery far beyond our human experience or ability.And surely being from God we should expect nothing less?
The 19th century German theologian, Matthias Scheebensummed this up well when he wrote
“God would carry a poor recommendation for his divinity if he taught only such truths as could be learned from a mere man or could be perceived and adequately grasped by our own unaided powers.’
The miracle of the Eucharist.
Throughout the centuries there have been reports of Eucharistic miracles and I came across anaccount of a relatively recent miracle that involves Pope Francis that I thought I’d share with you.
On August 18, 1996 in Buenos Aires, at SundayMass, a woman discovered a discarded host on a candleholder and brought it to the parish priest who placed it in a container of water inside the tabernacle.
The following day, on opening the tabernacle, the priest was astonished to find that the Host had become a bloody substance and he notified his Bishop, Bishop Jorge Bergoglio, who gave instructions that it be photographed and kept safely in the Tabernacle.
A few years later, the substance had shown no signs of decomposition and the Bishop, who was now the Archbishop of Buenos Aires,and destined to be elected Pope in 2013,had a sample sent to an eminent professor of forensic pathology in New York for analysis. The sample was sent indirectly through a doctor in Buenos Aires (who was a proclaimed atheist) and the exact origin of the sample wasn’t disclosed to the pathologist in New York.
The investigation was scrutinised and documented by an Australian journalist and an American lawyer (they’ve both posted videos on YouTube describing their astonishment at the outcome of their investigation).
Dr Frederick Zugibe, the forensic pathologist, published his findings in 1999.He concluded that the substance was human muscle tissue taken from the left ventricle of the heart and that an explanation for this phenomenon was beyond the realms of science. DNA tests on the sample showed it to be that of a male, with blood type AB positive.
What is even more extraordinary about this is that the DNA is the same as that taken from a sample that was analysed in Italy in 1977. This sample originated from a similar miracle that happened over 1200 years ago in Lanciano,Italy. Both samples come from the same person and both miracles have been investigated and certified by the Church.
The Eucharist is the centre of our faith; it’s the centre of our personal relationship with the Lord.
Gathered here to celebrate the miracle of the Eucharist,though we may not fully understand the awesome wonder of this miracle let that not impede our reverence, our joy and our love for the most precious Body and Blood of Christ.
Added by Paula: