Corpus Christi, the last of the three feasts after the Easter Season was celebrated this Sunday. The feast recognizes God's everlasting love by instituting the Sacrament of the Eucharist where the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. We remember from Holy Thursday that the Lord Jesus, on the night before He died, gathered His apostles for the Passover meal. It was traditional to the Jews in remembrance of the day when God protected Israel from the plague of death which was responsible for the death of the son of the Pharaoh who was obstinate in setting the Israelites free from Egyptian bondage. This time, Jesus intended it for the liberation of mankind from sin. He would do it later by dying on the cross. The Eucharist would be a continuation of the saving action done on the cross whenever it is celebrated (remembered).
In that institution, the Lord Jesus commanded His apostles to eat His Body (the bread) and drink His blood (the wine). Here, we believe that the bread turned into His real and true Body and the wine turned into His real and true Blood. Otherwise, He should have said "This is the symbol of my body." and "This is the symbol of my blood." In another scene with His enemies during the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus told His listeners to eat His Body because He is the living bread that came down from heaven (John 6:49-56). They were taken aback by the commandment. Bread was their staple food and they would easily understand if He took it as a symbol of His claim. But instead of being clear about it by claiming that He was the Bread of Life in the same way that the bread is their main sustenance for life, He told them to eat His flesh and drink His blood! Scot Hahn, a respected Protestant Scripture scholar saw this truth. He said that Jesus would have said "symbol" if it was the truth. That "truth" in fact was greatly responsible for His death. If He is to die, He should die for the Truth. But the Truth was what He said. He is the living bread that came down form heaven and whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood will have eternal life.
The Eucharist is the Church's treasure. The Eucharist is found in the mass. That is why the mass is the greatest celebration of Christian worship. The mass is a remembrance of the saving action in Calvary. Whenever we celebrate the mass, it is the Lord Jesus who is present in His Body and Blood. Not a symbol, not a sign, not an idea, but Him par excellence! Our belief on this rests our regard and respect for the celebration and the place. If we believe tat the Lord is really present there, we will just be too happy and excited to come to mass and meet the Lord! What religion could give you such a unique and prestigious opportunity? But God made it that way so that we will be able to respond appropriately.
But our ways reflect our taking for granted, neglect, indifference, flippancy, and disregard for it; lack of preparation, coming in late, not actively participating, not listening, and others. This once a week opportunity is sometimes compromised. Many who go abroad would give the reason that they were busy with the tour or that no church was available. I have been in other countries too and I know that a church is available if one will just ask! Unless we realize the importance of this encounter with God, we would not exert much effort to fulfill it. Unless we realize our need for it, it would remain just an option which we may or may not take. It should be interesting to note that there are places or peoples in this world that hunger for the Eucharist but they could not avail of it because circumstances would not allow priests to come to them. They would be without mass for days, months, or even years! In the recent pastoral letter of Cardinal Rosales, he made mention of a group of martyrs in Abythynia who asked permission to celebrate mass in prison because they say, "Without Sunday, we can not live!"
As a last point, it should be clear to us that the Lord Jesus being present to us in the mass is for our benefit. It is for our salvation. We are the ones in need of the Lord. We owe it to Him to have provided us with this act of worship. God does not need us to attend mass. At most, His need is for our own benefit. He wants us to be saved. He wants us to be with Him in His Kingdom. Therefore, let us live and act aware of this important truth. So much in our lives rest on believing this truth.