Sunday, June 26, 2011

Corpus Domini - Caena Domini

A number of my priest friends are celebrating significant anniversaries this year, so I have had the occasion to attend several Masses offered in thanksgiving for the gift of the priesthood. One of those celebrations was held today. Holding this anniversary celebration today, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, showed in a special way the connection which Pope Benedict pointed out in his homily for this feast when he said,

"The feast of Corpus Domini is inseparable from the Holy Thursday Mass of in Caena Domini, in which the institution of the Eucharist is also celebrated. While on the evening of Holy Thursday we relive the mystery of Christ who offers himself to us in the bread broken and wine poured out, today, in celebration of Corpus Domini, this same mystery is proposed to the adoration and meditation of God's people, and the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the streets of towns and villages, to show that the risen Christ walks among us and guides us towards the Kingdom of heaven."
On this day, we are called to renew our faith in the Eucharistic presence and accept the transforming power of God who through the Eucharist makes us like Himself. As I look around my diocese, however, I see Masses being celebrated less frequently. Saturday morning Masses and nearly nonexistant and most parishes no longer have Mass every day because we do not have enough priests. Many parishes do not have a resident priest and more priests are called on to serve two and even three parishes. Fewer men are being ordained, but that doesn't mean that priests are not dying, retiring and falling ill.

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is inseperable from the events of Holy Thursday because Christ not only instituted the Eucharist on that day, He also instituted the priesthood. The Eucharist is dependent of the priesthood. For that reason, any person who loves the Eucharist must also love the priesthood. At his ordination, the priest becomes the conduit through with God provides the Himself to us in the Eucharist. It is simple: no priesthood = no Eucharist.

The Eucharist is also what binds us to God and to each other. For that reason: no sacraments = no Church. Without the Eucharist we would be little more than a prayer group or a social club, but with the Eucharist we are the family of God, the Church. We are a family so intimately bound to each other because we are bound to God. It doesn't matter if we have met that person or even ever seen him, we are connected because we are united to Christ.

Sadly, there are many Catholics who attend Mass and claim to love the Eucharist without recognizing the intimate connection between the Eucharist and the sacramental priesthood. Today, as you give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist take time to also give thanks for the men who are the only ones who can bring this great gift to us. Pray for them and pray for an increase of men to respond to the call to serve the Church in the priesthood.

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