The Body & Blood of Jesus
By: Fr. Tommy Lane
All of us together form the Church. Who is the center or head of the Church? Jesus is the center. How is Jesus most present to us? In the Blessed Sacrament. Today’s celebration of Corpus Christ, the Body of Christ, is the feast of the very center and heart of our church, the center and heart of our faith, and the center and heart of the parish, the center and heart of the lives of each of us, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
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I know that some find it difficult to believe that bread and wine change into the Body and Blood of Jesus. I can understand your doubts. We don’t see any change in the bread or wine. There is no difference in the taste; the bread still tastes like bread and the wine still tastes like wine. It is going against logic to say that the bread and wine change into the Body and Blood of Jesus despite no change in appearance. With our intellect we can understand that God must be keeping the universe together, that God is the origin of everything, but reason will only take us so far. Then we need to add faith to our reason and intellect. As Paul says, in the Christian life we go by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). We need to be humble and open to God performing a miracle every day in this church, the miracle of the Eucharist. Can you be humble enough to add faith to your intellect and reason, to admit that intellect by itself does not provide all the answers, and that God can perform miracles every day making it possible for bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Jesus while keeping the same appearance? Can you add faith to your intellect? When you submit to God you will not lose anything, you will gain everything. There is a beautiful chant, “Trust, surrender, believe, receive.” Add faith to your reasoning and receive the love of God for you! The Eucharist is the gift of God’s love for you.
To help us believe, from time to time, God has allowed visible miracles of the Eucharist to occur, Eucharistic Miracles as we call them. These are miracles that occurred during Mass when the bread changed into the form of flesh during the consecration and the wine changed into the form of blood during the consecration. Many such Eucharistic Miracles have occurred in various parts of the world and throughout the two millennia of Christian history and have been authenticated by the Church.
In the year 1263 a priest from Prague was on route to Rome making a pilgrimage asking God for help to strengthen his faith since he was having doubts about his vocation. Along the way he stopped in Bolsena 70 miles north of Rome. While celebrating Mass there, as he raised the host during the consecration, the bread turned into flesh and began to bleed. The drops of blood fell onto the small white cloth on the altar, called the corporal. The following year, 1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus, today’s feast, Corpus Christi. The Pope asked St Thomas Aquinas, living at that time, to write hymns for the feast and he wrote two, better known to the older members of our congregation, the Tantum Ergo and O Salutaris. That blood-stained corporal may still be seen in the Basilica of Orvieto north of Rome, and I had the privilege of seeing it during the time I lived in Italy.
Although that is the eucharistic miracle that led to the institution of this feast, a more famous eucharistic miracle is the eucharistic miracle of Lanciano, also in Italy, which took place many centuries earlier, in the year 700. A monk who feared he was losing his vocation was celebrating Mass, and during the consecration the host turned into flesh and the wine turned into blood. Despite the fact that the miracle took place almost 1300 years ago, you may still see the flesh in a monstrance which is exposed every day and the blood in a glass chalice. (The glass chalice is beneath the monstrance on the right.) I also had the privilege of seeing that eucharistic miracle during my time in Italy. The blood has congealed and is now in five clots in the glass chalice. In 1971 and 1981 a hospital laboratory tested the flesh and blood and discovered that the flesh is myocardium, which is heart muscular tissue, so we could say it is the heart of Jesus, the Sacred Heart, and the blood is of the blood group AB. In 1978 NASA scientists tested the blood on the Turin Shroud and interestingly also discovered that it is of the blood group AB. (The Sudarium, Face Cloth of Christ, in John 20:6 is also of the blood group AB.) Despite the fact that human flesh and blood should not have remained preserved for 1300 years the hospital lab tests found no trace of any preservatives. One final interesting point about the five blood clots in the chalice is that when you weigh one of them, it is the same weight as all five together, two of them together weigh the same as all five. In fact no matter what way you combine the blood clots individually or in a group to weigh them, they always weigh the same. (This shows that the full Jesus is present in a particle of the Eucharist no matter how small.)
These are two eucharistic miracles I have seen and which have been authenticated by the Church after investigation. All of these authenticated eucharistic miracles throughout the world are surely an answer to any doubts we may have about Jesus in the Eucharist. Jesus is really with us in the Eucharist. Jesus comes to us in every Mass under the form of bread and wine. The Eucharist is a celebration of the love of Jesus for us, His blood shed for us in love and His body scourged, crowned with thorns and crucified for us.
The wine poured and the bread broken is the love of Jesus for us, body and blood given for us. Because the Eucharist is the love of Jesus for us we always approach Jesus in the Eucharist with great respect and asking pardon for our sins. That’s why it is so necessary at the start of every Mass to ask Jesus for mercy because we are so unworthy of His love, and again before receiving Jesus we express our unworthiness, “Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Think of how precious a moment in our Mass it is when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion. When we receive Jesus, Jesus is in us and we are with Jesus. It is like what Genesis says about the marriage of man and woman, no longer two but one (Gen 2:24). It is the same when we receive Jesus. We are no longer two but one. “He who eats my flesh abides in me and I in him.” (John 6:57).
I know some find it difficult to believe that bread and wine change into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Can you be humble enough to add faith to your reason and intellect, to admit that intellect by itself does not provide all the answers, and that God can perform miracles every day making it possible for bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Jesus while keeping the same appearance? Can you add faith to your reason and logic? To help us in our weak faith, from time to time, God has given us Eucharistic Miracles so that we may believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Come to Jesus, not like a scientist trying to analyze, but come in trust, surrender, believe and receive His love. Say to Jesus that you believe He is really present in the Blessed Sacrament and gradually grow from merely believing, to loving Jesus, and being loved by Jesus. Trust, surrender, believe in and receive the love of Jesus for you in the Eucharist.
It is also a symbol of Jesus’ love for us. We cannot carry Jesus through every street or road in our parish but nevertheless we know that Jesus is with us and loves us, his blood is poured out for us and his body broken for us. As Jesus passes you in the Blessed Sacrament, adore Him and thank Him for all that He has done for us unworthy sinners. Also as Jesus passes you in the Blessed Sacrament ask Him for whatever healing you need. Try to put words on the deepest healing of your life that you need and ask Jesus to heal you. At Masses for healing, the healing always occurs when people are blessed with Jesus in the monstrance. He is waiting for you. Remember the words of the consecration of every Mass recalling Jesus giving Himself for us, “This is my Body which will be given up for you….This is the cup of my blood. It will be shed for you…”
May Jesus in the Eucharist always be the very center and heart of our church, the center and heart of our faith, the center and heart of our parish, and the center and heart of the lives of each of us.
O Sacrament most holy,
O Sacrament divine,
All praise and all thanksgiving
Be every moment thine.