"You are what you eat" - Corpus Christi

1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17

“You are what you eat”.  What we eat has a concrete effect on our life.  If we eat wholesome nutritious food, we will probably be healthier and have more energy as we go about our tasks.  On the other hand, if we just ate chips and ice-cream all day – something I would never do, well, rarely – then we would probably be quite unhealthy and feel lethargic and lack-luster as we went through the day.  You are what you eat.  Today, as we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Jesus, we should consider the meaning of this phrase in our life.  How should receiving the Eucharist change the way we live?  In order to consider this, we must start by being clear about what it is that we actually eat when we consume the Eucharist.

A surprising number of Catholics do not believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.  Numerous Catholics do not think that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.  Exact statistics differ depending on the study.  CARA Institute in Georgetown University found that among Catholics in America, about 6 in 10 Catholics believe that Jesus is really present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.  So what do the other 4 in 10 believe about the Eucharist?  They hold that the bread and wine of the Eucharist is a symbol of Jesus, but that Jesus is not really present.  To support their opinion, some would refer to the 2nd reading we have heard from St. Paul’s account of the Last Supper.  In particular, they would emphasize that Jesus is telling us to receive the Eucharist in “remembrance if Him”.  When we come together to at Mass, we somehow “remember” Jesus.  We express our attachment to Him, His sacrifice and His teachings.  We remember Jesus but He is not really present in the bread and wine.  A surprising number Catholics do not believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.

Having a correct understanding of what is meant by the term “remembrance” in our 2nd reading helps us to understand what the Eucharist is.  If we appreciate the meaning of “remembrance” in the Jewish context we will know what is happening at Mass.  Jesus and all His followers were Jews.  Their understanding of “remembrance” was not the same as our own.  If I look at a picture from an old holiday, I “remember” the experience by thinking about where I was, who was with me, the memory may evoke a certain emotion.  For Jews at the time of Christ, “remembering” meant much more, it was a very loaded term.  For example, at each Passover, the Jews remembered the Exodus, when God freed them from slavery in Egypt.  When Jews “remembered” the Exodus, they did not simply understand that they were thinking about it and celebrating the event.  They believed that they were made actually present at the Exodus; they were actually participating at an event that occurred over 1000 years before.  They were present at the Exodus, God was freeing them personally and they were given the invitation to follow God anew in their lives.  Having a correct understanding of what Jesus meant by “do this in remembrance of me” helps us to know what the Eucharist truly is.

When we receive Holy Communion, we are really receiving Jesus.  The Eucharist is really, truly Jesus.  When Jesus said “do this in memory of me”, He meant this in the Jewish sense of the term.  Jesus followers understood that when they “did this in memory of Jesus”, when they celebrated the Mass, they were really present again at the Passion and Death of Jesus.  At every Mass, we believe that we are really made present at the one sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary nearly 2000 years ago.   You know the song, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  We should answer “Yes, I was there!”; every Mass I am there. Because of this, when we do “this in remembrance of Jesus” He really becomes present in our midst.  At the moment of the consecration, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Catholics have always believed this.  The idea that the Eucharist is merely a symbol did not come until much later, more than 1000 years after the death of Christ.  The Catholic belief about the Eucharist is not easy to believe, as Jesus Himself said, “it is a difficult teaching”.  But I believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist because He told us He would be.  There is no mistaking what Jesus meant by “do this in remembrance of me” and I take Him at His word.  When we receive Holy Communion, we are really, truly receiving Jesus.

Consuming the Eucharist transforms us to become more like Christ.  Pope Leo the Great, who lived in the 5th century said it this way: "Our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ has no other purpose than to transform us into that which we receive".  We are what we eat.  This has significance for us both as a community and as individuals.  As a community, when we receive the Eucharist we are transformed into the Body of Christ.  We become one body.  Receiving the Eucharist should concretely make us more united as a community.  We should want to spend time with one another after Mass and outside of Sunday Mass in various parish groups.  Leaving Mass and getting frustrated with one another as we try to leave the parking lot is contrary to the unity that the Eucharist should create in us.  As individuals, receiving the Eucharist should concretely transform our lives.  We should begin to act more like Jesus.  Love like Him.  Be patient like Him.  Be humble like Him. Serve like Him.  People should be able to tell by the way we act that we follow Jesus Christ.  Consuming the Eucharist transforms us to become more like Christ.

Our bodies need good food to grow, remain strong and to work as they are designed to work.  In today’s Gospel Jesus recognized this need and fed the multitude.  Likewise as Christians we are meant to grow and transform to be more and more like Jesus.  To meet this goal, we too need a special food.  Jesus too recognizes this need and at this very Mass gives us the Eucharist, the gift of His very self.  During the Mass today, let us in a particular way re-affirm our faith in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  At the moment of consecration let us say deep within our heart, “Jesus I believe that this is you”, and ask Him to unite us as a community and grow more like Him in the way we act.