Corpus Christi 2016

"Do this as a memorial of me." St Paul relates in First Corinthians that Jesus said these words at the Last Supper, both of the bread and of the cup: "This is my body, which is for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood." Paul himself adds, "Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death." So it is that Jesus transforms a simple Passover meal into the heavenly Banquet, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. That is what we do every time we gather together as God's family to celebrate the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Mass. From the earliest days, the Christian Church, as recorded in the New Testament, our forebears in the faith believed without doubting the word spoken by the Lord and its power to bring about what it says, just as at the beginning of creation God had said, "Let there be light", and there was light. This is the faith of the Church today, our faith. When Jesus says this morning, "This is my body, which is given for you," and "This is the cup of my blood, which is shed for you," we can be sure that his word is true and that what he says, he does.

However, it is not only in the Real Presence that Christians believe, for Jesus asks us to "do this as a memorial of me". The Mass is a memorial of the whole of Christ's life, from his Conception through the working of the Holy Spirit to his Ascension and the outpouring of that same Spirit. In other words, the Mass makes present for us the whole Christ event and, what is more, anticipates and prays for his Coming in glory as Judge at the end of time. When we talk about the Sacrifice of the Mass, we naturally think of Christ's Passion, Crucifixion and Death, and, of course, in the Mass we are totally immersed in the Cross of Jesus, but it is true to say his whole life is sacrificial. In the Mass, then, we celebrate the whole of the Mystery of the Incarnation: his Conception in the Virgin's womb, his Nativity in the cave of Bethlehem and his lying in the manger, his Circumcision and first shedding of the Precious Blood for our redemption, and so on. Every moment and aspect of the life of Jesus is Sacrifice, including his Resurrection. At Mass, in the Son, we receive the Father and the Holy Spirit. God, though three persons, is but One, and in communion with Christ we are united to the Holy Trinity.

But there is something more. In today's Gospel we read St Luke's simplified account of the feeding of the five thousand. There was no small boy to bring forward the five loaves and two fish, one of the loveliest images in the Gospels. Even so, with this inadequate offering, Jesus is able to feed the multitude and there are leftovers in abundance, enough to fill twelve baskets. Leaving aside numerical symbolism, with the humblest of gifts, Jesus is able to feed a vast number of people and there is a lot left to share with others. Like the manna in the wilderness, the food, with which Jesus feeds us, does not run out. He who created all that is, can feed the hungry and nourish our souls. However, as with the widow's mite, he needs the little we can give, especially if it is given with a loving and generous heart. At Mass we offer him bread and wine and receive in return his Body and Blood. What an extraordinary exchange of gifts! That is why we have come together to give thanks today.