ODAY’S FEAST honoring the Body and Blood of our Lord is a good example of what the now Blessed John Cardinal Newman would call a legitimate “Development of Doctrine.” When Our Lord first gave the promise of the Eucharist as described in the sixth Chapter of St. John’s Gospel, or when our Lord so simply said at the Last supper as He took the bread and wine and said, “This is my Body”, “This is my Blood”, possibly not even He and certainly not his audience were envisioning Eucharistic processions or what we know as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. These are all what Cardinal Newman would call legitimate development of doctrine or teachings.
The Old Testament: Spiritual writers and Biblical scholars have found many things in the Old Testament that prefigured events or happenings that would take place in New Testament times. And one of the most common of these was the manna or special food that God provided for his chosen people during their long journey through the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land. It was called ‘Manhu’ or ‘manna’ which literally was the Hebrew expression for ‘what is this.’ It was a flaky substance that fell every day for the people to eat, provided by God. New Testament writers and saints later on saw this as a prefigure of the Eucharist which Jesus gave us. That’s the reason why the First reading was chosen for today. Moses reminded the people how God took care of them. Needless to say how much more fortunate we are to have the Eucharist, the very flesh and blood of our Lord, for our daily sustenance if we only so desire.
Second Reading: In the second reading St. Paul uses the Eucharist as a reason why Christians should have unity among themselves. After all they are sharing in the same Body which is Christ. We do know from other sources that the Christians at Corinth were having problems at the time.
The Gospel: In some respects St. John’s presentation of Jesus’ promise of the Eucharist is one of the best proofs we have for Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. From Jesus’ presentation we certainly gather that Jesus really meant what He said, even if that meant losing some of his followers. It may come as a surprise for some to hear that St. John does not give an account of the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper as such. We can only conjecture as to the reason why. He mentions the washing of the disciples’ feet, the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter, and then the long discourse which takes up three Chapters. After that they leave for the garden of Gethsemane.
The Sequence: At the beginning of this homily I mentioned the term “’the Development of Doctrine”. I see this teaching so fittingly exemplified in our teaching and belief in regard to the Eucharist. On the one hand we believe Jesus is God. On the other hand we believe that the Bread and wine when consecrated by a duly authorized minister becomes God. Therefore they too become worthy to be adored. Yes, it takes faith. In some respects one can’t be ‘argued’ into believing. I don’t know how many parishes or churches will opt to read or sing the sequence for today. Perhaps its meaning is too much above the average Catholic. I choose to read it here today, hoping that some at least will derive some benefit. If you have a prayer-book that has St. Thomas Aquinas’ prayer and Hymn the Adoro Te, I suggest you read and meditate on it today. Its presentation is perhaps simpler and easier to understand. All any of us can do on a day like this is say: “Lord, increase the Faith of all who believe in You.”
We hope you enjoyed this homily by Fr. Valentine Young, OFM.