Solemnity Corpus Christi
Jerusalem, Holy Sepulcher, June 8th, 2023
Dt 8, 2-3.14-16; 1Cor 10, 16-17; Jn 6, 51-58
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Excellencies and priests,
May the Lord give you peace!
"Remember!" This is Moses’ invitation to the people of God after they came out from the experience of the wilderness alive! (Deut 6:2).
"Do this in memory of me!" It is the Lord’s command in the Last Supper before He left His disciples and arose from the dead victorious (Lk 22:19).
We too are here to remember, to restore to the heart and mind the grateful memory of the Eucharist, that same memory that gave rise to the feast we celebrate today, which was first celebrated in Liège in 1247, then throughout the Universal Church in 1264, instituted by Pope Urban IV, with the Papal letter Transiturus.
Indeed, it was precisely an overpowering need for remembrance that led the Church Fathers to solemnly celebrate the Real Presence of Christ, a few months after Holy Thursday. This is not a duplication, due perhaps to a bygone time of triumphalist devotions, but a need to remember, to restore to believers an awareness of what really feeds us, of what, or Whom, truly feeds the hunger of our hearts for life and happiness, Christ the Lord.
Let us recognise it: culture, not only the high culture, but the commonplace culture of our times, which is transformed into a shared mentality, wants to convince us that man only lives on bread, that things, objects, values more or less shared by the majority are enough to give meaning to man's living, suffering and dying. We are becoming a people of forgetfulness, flattened on the present, forgetful of any transcendent horizon, of any perspective that goes beyond eating, drinking, earning.
This was after all the subject of medieval controversies, to which the Church reacted by instituting the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Even then it was thought that a symbol, a value, a feeling of love was enough to satisfy the need for encounter, love and communion that stirs the human heart. Even then it was a common belief that, after all, we can and must do it all on our own.
We are still in risk of this today and perhaps more than then: we risk settling for symbols, rituals, ideas, which leads to reducing the real meaning of life to what we consume; reducing love to what only pleases me; reducing faith to what suits me or convinces me. Even the digital world of virtual reality is threatening to take over our existences and relationships, as well as the din of information which impacts the search for true knowledge.
However, we do realize all of this is not enough to fill the emptiness which threatens our soul. For our hearts know that bread is not enough; that filling our stomachs, or our pockets is not enough to appease our hearts. Messages, values, feelings are not enough for us. With great amazement we are aware that in an era of great global communication, loneliness has increased disproportionately. Because the communion we are in search of needs something else, needs an Other. The human heart wants life, it wants love, it wants real presence, it wants God.
Here and today, we dare to celebrate and proclaim, and "expose" our awareness that Jesus is the living bread that descended from heaven. If one eats of this bread he will live forever, and that the bread God gives us to satisfy our hunger, is the life of Christ offered to the world.
Celebrating Corpus Christi then is for us to celebrate the Truth and Reality of the Life of Christ and the Truth of our life in Him. Yes: for Christ is true, He is real, He is the Living One. He is not just a message of goodness; He is not just an ideal of brotherhood; He is the heart of the world and history, the mysterious Presence that wants to enter into real relationship with us. To eat His bread, to drink His wine, to worship the Sacrament of His Body and Blood is to affirm and live His Truth for us.
And if Christ is true and real, our life is true and real only if it meets Him. The Apostles, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, Lazarus, the Samaritan woman know this...The Saints and Holy Women of the Church know this...The priests and religious who today celebrate the anniversary of their first encounter with Him know this. We who are here know it. Hence, we would do well to remember what our lives would have been without Him, lost in the conflicting feelings and fragile values of the world.
We know that His love, not every love, His bread, not every bread, His Word, not every word, give meaning to life and death. For only His Love, only His bread, only His Word crossed the desert of the evil of death and did not die: For only "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (Jn. 6:54).
In these changing/fragile times, when the Church and the world are experiencing a disorientation never seen before, the solemnity of Corpus Christi invites us to focus our gaze on truth and remember the truth of reality through returning to the true bread, to build communion and community around true love in order to cross the desert too and come out alive.
May the Heavenly Bread nourish and give strength to our Church here in the Holy Land and accompany her in its journey, and sustain us in our various vicissitudes, with the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church and our Mother. Amen.