Jesus saves



BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at Holy Rosary Parish, Edor, Ogoja Diocese, CRS



1. Meaning and Importance. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ: Corpus et Sanguis Christi. Every Holy Mass, every Eucharistic celebration is about the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. So what is special about today’s Mass? Here is an imperfect analogy. We eat or we can eat yam everyday of the year. But during New Yam Festival, we celebrate the overall significance of yam in our local culture. Similarly, today we celebrate in a special way, the significance, the meaning, the importance of that supreme presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic species. Here is a funny story that illustrates why this special celebration is helpful so that we may worship God in spirit and in truth.
Today we celebrate Liturgy in English, Latin, Efik, Ejagham, Okuni, Olulumo, Ikom and various languages. There was a time we used to celebrate Mass almost only in Latin, and many priests in this part of the world were European missionaries. There are many stories about how people found it difficult to understand what the priest was singing or saying in Latin. So they made up many different things. One of the made-up interpretations was that during consecration as the priest showed the host to the people and said or sang: “Hoc est enim corpus meum, quod pro vobis tradetur”, those who did not understand this Latin claimed he was saying or singing: “This small bread that I am holding, if I give it to you people, you will struggle over it.”

2. The feeding of the multitude. Brothers and sisters, even at that time, every one who could see and communicants who could taste understood that bread and wine were used at Mass. Everyone alive understands the importance of food. Today’s first reading (Gn 14:18-20) takes us back to the days of Abraham, our father in faith, when the priest Melchizedek offered bread and wine, symbols of what sustains life, on Abraham’s behalf and pronounced Divine blessings on Abraham. This was a preparation for the Eucharist, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1324-1327), states that the Eucharist is “the source and summit” of Christian life. In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 9:11b-17), our Lord continued that preparation for the Eucharist by the miraculous feeding of over 5,000 people. It is possible that those fed were over 10,000 because women and children are usually more than men in many social or religious gatherings. Our Lord miraculously fed thousands of people more than once. This first miraculous feeding of multitudes in today’s Gospel reading, is reported by all four Gospel accounts (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14). The details are kept by all accounts. Five loaves and two fish were given to our Lord. The disciples were skeptical and sounded like the people in our starting story during Latin Mass. “These few loaves of bread and small fish, if I give only these to you, you will struggle over it”! Well, our Lord received the 5 loaves and 2 fish, gave thanks for them, gave them to the disciples, who gave them to the crowd and they ate to their fill. In addition to the obvious work of mercy, namely, feeding the hungry, our Lord achieved something greater, namely, giving a sign of a greater gift on the way. Late Rev Msgr Francis Xavier Una, a Benedictine monk from the Archdiocese of Calabar, had it expressed aptly on the Tabernacle in his chapel, in the Monastery which I passed on my way to the Grounbreaking ceremony of JUHRI Site 3 yesterday. He wrote there: “Ndidia akan ndidia”, that is, “Food surpassing food”. The multiplication of loaves was a sign of a greater gift on the way: Corpus et Sanguis Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist, the Food for Eternal Life. Today’s 2nd reading (1 Cor 11:23-26), recounts the fulfilment of our Lord’s promise that He will give us His body and blood to sustain us for eternal life
3. Over to You and Me. There in that 2nd reading, we heard the words of Consecration used at Mass: “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Hoc est enim corpus meum, quod pro vobis tradetur. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem). Yes, our Lord turns the substance of bread and wine into His Body and Blood for our salvation. And as we say in that beautiful Divine Mercy Prayer, “Eternal Father, we offer Thee the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Thy dearly Beloved Son..“, what should follow the transubstantiation at consecration is our devout reception of Holy Communion. It is then that the Body and Blood of Christ, achieves the purpose of uniting us with the soul and Divinity of Christ, getting us ready for eternal life. St. Maximilian Kolbe wrote emphatically: “The culmination of the Mass is not the consecration, but Communion.” He added pointedly: “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” Finally, since the Eucharist is God’s gift of Christ to us, we are expected to share this gift with others, by reducing their bodily and spiritual burdens as Christ did. Then will it become easier for them join us in worship and adoration even as we say: O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, All praise and all thanksgiving, be every moment Thine. Amen.

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