In 1263 a German priest, Fr. Peter of Prague, made a pilgrimage to Rome. He stopped in Bolsena, Italy, to celebrate Mass at the Church of St. Christina. At the time he was having doubts about Jesus being truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. He was affected by the growing debate among certain theologians who, for the first time in the history of the Church, began introducing doubts about the Body and Blood of Christ being actually present in the consecrated bread and wine. In response to his doubt, when he recited the prayer of consecration as he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, blood started seeping from the consecrated host and onto the altar and corporal.
Fr. Peter reported this miracle to Pope Urban IV, who at the time was nearby in Orvieto. The pope sent delegates to investigate and ordered that host and blood-stained corporal be brought to Orvieto. The relics were then placed in the Cathedral of Orvieto, where they remain today.
In the gospels there are plenty of times when Jesus is with people eating and drinking and today’s gospel is no exception. As always, Jesus is concerned with people and their real needs. They are hungry, so he feeds them. He is gracious in his abundant giving. But he feeds them not only with food; he also feeds them at a much deeper level. He teaches them, he welcomes them and he heals them. He treats us the same way; when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus welcomes us, he speaks to us and through his Body and Blood, we are nourished and we are healed.
The Eucharist is God’s greatest gifts to us. But it is not our right and we cannot demand it. Pope Francis reminds us of this when he says, ‘the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.’ That’s all of us and each of us!
Today, we are not only celebrating receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, we are called to remember that we are the Body of Christ, the Church. As St. Paul reminds us, ‘Now Christ’s body is yourselves, and each of you with a part to play in the whole.’ (1 Cor. 12.27). Today reminds and challenges to realise that we are the living Church, the Body of Christ, whose head is Jesus himself. Through our communion with Jesus and each other we are called to be living stones making a spiritual house.
St. Augustine, the great church writer said, ‘become what you receive.’ If we celebrate the Eucharist with each other and receive the Body and Blood of Christ, then we are called to be the Body of Christ, the Church today. And we are asked to be a missionary church. At the end every celebration of the Eucharist we are sent out with this great prayer of mission, let us go now to love and serve the Lord. If we share in the gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood, then we are also asked to share this with others when leave church. Today on this wonderful feast, may each of us be fed, nourished and healed through the Body and Blood of Christ.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.