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…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 wine and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. (Cor. 11:26)
There are times when I go to Mass on weekdays without being the presider. I would sit with people in the pews and quietly enjoy the liturgy. I would look forward to listening to the readings and the homily of the priest. And even if the preaching is not sublime, I would still find words to muse over and to apply in my own life.
But what I also find most nourishing and healing is when we come to the Liturgy of the Eucharist—the time of “transubstantiation” and “communion” when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. For us Catholics, this is the most sacred moment, the period when we not only remember and enter again into the eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ but also receive him in His Body and Blood. It’s that time when we Jesus becomes intimately part of us, and we become one with him. It’s a profound experience of God’s presence in our lives.
That is why the Mass is one of Christ’s amazing gifts to us. It’s like an inheritance that God had given us, like the ring that my mother gave me before she died as a remembrance of her undying love for me. In the same way, the Eucharist would always be a remembrance of God’s eternal love for us.
This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, which we also call the Feast of Corpus Christi. It’s a day to profoundly appreciate this Sacrament and to grow in a better understanding of it. It’s a mystery of our faith as Catholics. For us who grew up celebrating this Sacrament, it’s a sanctifying grace that we never get tired of celebrating and receiving.
The Eucharist has inward and outward effects on us. Not only that it gives us peace, nourishment, and healing, it also moves us to bring peace, mercy and love to those around us. When we receive Jesus’ gift of self in the Eucharist and transform ourselves into being the same gift for others, we are the visible presence of the Kingdom of God.
This truth is also the reason why I appreciate the gift of the priesthood. We thank God for the priests and bishops that Christ commissioned to celebrate the Eucharist with the People of God no matter how imperfect they are. Every time we celebrate the Mass, we go beyond the foibles of the priest or the bishop. We know that they are celebrating this Sacrament in the person of Christ.
May the Eucharist fulfill our spiritual and physical yearnings! Like the crowd in this Sunday’s Gospel who were looking for Jesus to satisfy their hunger, may we too always look forward to celebrating Mass to allow Jesus to fill our hunger for spiritual food!
* * *
From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of ImmAaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.