You must have seen the Catholic faithful filing up to the Altar to receive Holy Communion. One may ask, is the Holy Communion the real Body and Blood of Christ or is it an ordinary Bread? Those who receive the Body of Christ are they cannibals or flesh eaters? What is the essence of Holy Communion? What has the Eucharist to do with our Salvation? Is there any relationship between the Holy Communion and the Church? And what is the relationship between Holy Communion and the Mystical Body of Christ? Who are the mystical Body of Christ?
Today is Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Body of Christ. Corpus Christi is a Latin word which means “Body of Christ.” We are celebrating today the Real Presence of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic element. Corpus Christi is celebrated Sunday after the Pentecost Sunday. In most parts of the world there is usually a procession with the Blessed Sacrament to mark this great event. For pastoral reasons and especially because of the raining season this procession is shifted to the Last Sunday of the year, the solemnity of Christ the King.
The gospel of Luke 9:11-17 presents the Eucharist as the Body of Christ and as the highest form of Thanksgiving Prayer: “He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them…” At the Last Supper, “Jesus took bread,]blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body” (Matthew 26:26). After his resurrection, his disciples recognized him through the breaking of Bread (Luke 24:30-31). The early Church was established on the daily breaking of bread (Acts 2:46). This is exactly what the Catholics do at every morning Mass. The Eucharist is indeed the essence of the Church. It sustains the life of the Church and its members.
The first time Jesus told his fellow Jews that He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) they could not believe him. As a matter of fact, “The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” in order words, we are not cannibals? Jesus insisted, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:52-56). The Holy Communion is the Real Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the channel of Eternal Life. It is an angelic food, our spiritual nourishment.
The Holy Communion is also a uniting force. It is a symbol of unity. It connects God’s children with our Lord Jesus Christ. The more we receive the Holy Communion the more we abide in Christ. And the more we abide in Christ the more we are connected with the Most Holy Trinity. Hence, the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, “…that they may be one as We are one” (John 17:11). This divine union is what the faithful receives each time they receive Holy Communion.
In his first Letter to the Corinthians St. Paul declares, “…as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Vine while all the members of the One Body are his branches (John 15:1-5). It is only when we are united with our Lord Jesus Christ that we can bear much fruits. For apart from him we can do nothing.
The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. It is not just an ordinary building (Basilica, Temple, auditorium) as most people wrongly think. In his first letter to the Corinthians St. Paul declares, “You are the temple of God… the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Church cannot exist without a temple. The temple is the dwelling place of God. Each individual member of the Church is a temple of the Most High God.
By receiving the Holy Communion we are not just receiving Jesus Christ we are equally receiving members of the Body of Christ, the Church. We are receiving in a symbolic and mystical way, all the members of the Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and we all are different parts that make up the One Body, the Church.
The early Apostles devoted their time and resources in building the Mystical Body of Christ. The church was erected on the principle of unity and sharing. Acts 4:32-35 states: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” The Church is not just a place where we pray to God, it is also a place where celebrate and support one another.
The Order of Deaconate was even established for the daily distribution of food and other relief materials to widows, orphans and the poor. “When the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” The business in question is the daily distribution of food to widows and orphans. Nowadays, the moment the deacons are ordained they will spend most of their time printing and distributing invitations and souvenir for their priestly ordination. They will not even have time to cater for the widows and orphans. At most you will find them on the altar serving Bishops and priests. Whereas their primary assignment is the daily distribution of food to widows and orphans.
St. James declares “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). The church is purified through charity and almsgiving. By implication, any religion or Church that does not cater for orphans, widows and the poor is not authentic religion.
Most Church leaders, especially here in Africa, prefer to build structures instead of building the actual Body of Christ. By so doing they impoverish their members. This year, the Lord God ordered me to tell all the Men of God, Church leaders, that they should use half of their harvest money to empower the youths in their churches. The other half can be used to build their so-called structural church that hardly get completed. By building the youths we are not just building the Body of Christ we are equally solving the problem of unemployment and insecurity in our nation.