June 2nd – Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

My Dear Friends,

Ten years ago this month, I led my first pilgrimage to Italy. Now while I had to Italy particularly Rome before, this time I was taking my parents who had never been and showing the greatness of the Eternal City to my friends and parishioners. Now anyone who has ever been on a pilgrimage with me knows that I tend to disappear every now and then to do what the Lord did and just be on my own and seek time of solitude and prayer. So apart from the tour, I entered countless churches, cathedrals, and basilicas. All of them were works of art, yet beyond the artistic treasures they contained, every time I walked into one of them, there was treasure that I looked for above all others: the tabernacle. For no matter how big or small the church, the greatest treasure it contained was reserved in that small box for in it was Jesus Christ himself. Take St. Peter’s Basilica as an example. If you have been inside St. Peter’s with its glorious architecture and marble floors, and Bernini’s altar, and the high decorated ceilings, you get lost in the immensity of that structure. Or you just get plain lost. There are so many people, most of them tourists, who are part of guided tours that are having the basilica explained to them. They are taking pictures, posing for selfies with the statue of St. Peter, and as beautiful and wondrous and magnificent as this sublime edifice is…it is not a house of prayer. That is, unless you go to a small chapel to your right tucked away near the tomb of St. John Paul II where tourists are not allowed to enter. Two guards stand outside the chapel door to make sure you are going in to pray, and when you enter you find the Blessed Sacrament exposed in what is probably the most beautiful Blessed Sacrament chapel in the world. There are two nuns keeping vigil up front. There are maybe a dozen or so people inside, mostly priests and religious. No photos, no tours, no talking. Only silence in the presence of the Almighty, for he is really and truly present there. That presence, His presence, is what we celebrate today on Corpus Christi. Jesus fed us, nourished us, and stayed with us. 

The only Mass that I did not celebrate alone during that pilgrimage was on the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua. It is a big feast for Italians and I was invited to concelebrate with some Franciscan friars who insisted that I read the gospel in English but I declined fearing the “are you kidding me?” looks that I would get from the Italian faithful on such great a feast if they heard a foreign tongue. When the words of consecration came, I was struck by the Italian translation of what I say every day: “Prendete e mangiatene tutti (take this all of you and eat of it.).” The Italian word for “eat” is so much stronger and has so much more meaning within the Italian culture, “mangia,” for it not only means to eat, but it means to eat until one is full and satisfied. I meditated on those Italian words for days when I would escape on my own. This is what Jesus desires when we approach his altar: to eat and be satisfied.  

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi reminds us of two fundamental truths about our Catholic faith: that our Lord wants to feed us and that he wants to stay with us. All we need we find at this altar. We walk around this earth aimlessly looking for life, fulfillment, peace, and joy when all we have to do to get all of these is to walk into a church on Sunday. Embrace the gift that Christ gave us which was the gift of his very self in this Eucharist and hold it above all other treasures. Let us look for His Presence. Let us be fed by His hand until we are satisfied. Let us, like Jesus, become a gift for others, and let us take that gift of His presence out into the world.

God bless you all,

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