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Sunday, May 29, 2016

God's Greatest Gift: The Holy Eucharist

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, May 29, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today, we celebrate the greatest gift ever given to the world: the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Today's celebration of Corpus Christi was formally instituted by Pope Urban IV in 1264, but in reality the Church has been celebrating it  since Our Lord turned bread and wine into His Body and Blood on the night before He was sacrificed. We call this feast the Last Supper or Holy Thursday. Since the Last Supper, the Church has firmly taught that the bread and wine used in the sacrifice of the Mass become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ -- without destroying the appearance of bread and wine in the process.

The bread we eat looks and tastes like ordinary bread. The wine we drink looks and smells like ordinary wine. Yet, it is through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, that  Our Lord manifests Himself in our lives in deepest intimacy.

In fact, there have been many saints who have lived extraordinary lives because of their faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. 

For example, in the 1300s, Saint Catherine of Sienna and in the 1600s,  Saint Joseph of Cupertino both received no nourishment apart from the Eucharist for the last years of their lives.

Another saint is Blessed Alexandrina da Costa. She lived in Portugal during the early 20th century and became bedridden as a young woman after she fell out of a window because she refused to have sex with three men who broke into her home. This woman offered up all of her sufferings to Jesus, and she answered Our Lord’s call to fast on the Holy Eucharist. In fact, she lived on nothing but the Holy Eucharist for the last 13 years of her life!

My brothers and sisters, today’s celebration of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, calls us to deeper love and reverence for Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy
Eucharist celebrated during Holy Mass! It is a sacred oath given to us by Jesus Himself, which the Church has celebrated ever since in obedience to His Word,
"Do this in remembrance of Me." (1Cor 11:24)

Saint Paul tells us in today’s reading that “on the night he was handed over [He] 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.' I
n the same way also, Our Lord took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘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 drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes!” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 

These words of Saint Paul remind us that the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is a sacrifice. When we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist we are not simply making a gesture to be more loving and caring. 
No! When we worthily receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist we enter into His death. We share in the sacrifice that He suffered on the cross so that we can become one with Him in His resurrection! Therefore, as Jesus offered Himself to God as a Sacrifice, He expects us  to offer ourselves to God as well. We must be willing to sacrifice our own will and desires and pick up our cross and follow Christ. 
Many today in our culture do not want to give anything up. We want to live for ourselves. Our culture teaches us to indulge ourselves regardless of God’s laws and His teachings! But as Catholics we are called not to frequent the wayward places of our culture, but to live for God.

As Catholics, our job is to celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist with much  reverence. Therefore it's necessary to prepare to receive Our Lord worthily.  For, when we eat Our Lord’s Body and Blood worthily, we become what we eat! We become a holy temple because our Sacred
Lord lives inside of us. This is why we do not want to come to receive our Lord if we are conscious of grave sin. For, it is an act of pride and arrogance when we receive Our Lord knowing that we are living a lifestyle that contradicts the teachings of Christ's Church.

My brothers and sisters, the gift of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the greatest benefit ever bestowed on mankind! In the Eucharist, we receive Jesus in His True Presence. We should never take this gift for granted! May the grace of the Holy Eucharist protect us from all harm and from all evil so that we can live in Peace with Our Lord for all eternity. Amen!

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