For Sunday, June 11th, 2023
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. This feast was first established in Belgium in the 1200s as a response to the debates about the True Presence and frequent reception of Holy Communion. It came from Julianna of Cornillon’s vision, where Jesus lamented the absence of a particular feast in the Church’s calendar focused on his sacramental presence on the altar. The feast was only a local celebration until one of its major supporters, Archdeacon Jacques Pantaléon, became Pope Urban IV in 1261. This feast is historically celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday (last Sunday), but in the United States of America, the feast has been moved to Sunday.
Today we will reflect on the frequent reception of the true body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. History has witnessed many different attitudes toward the reception of the Eucharist. In the early Church, all the baptized received the Eucharist; in the Middle Ages, the Church’s call to live a sinless life led to a holy fear of receiving the Eucharist, making it more distant from the laity. Most lay people received the Eucharist only three times a year at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, after going to confession and preparing themselves.
In 1910, Pope Saint Pius X promulgated a decree in which he famously lowered the age of First Communion to that age at which a child can distinguish between the Bread of the Holy Eucharist and ordinary bread. Not only did he lower the age for First Communion, but he said that after First Communion, children should “frequently approach the Holy Table, even daily if possible.” He declared that the “daily approach to Communion is open to all, old and young, and two conditions only are required: the state of grace and a right intention.” These two conditions deserve further reflection.
The State of Grace: This means that you are free from all mortal sins. If you are baptized and have validly confessed all of your mortal sins—grievous offenses against the law of God—then you are filled with the life of God—the life of grace. In this state, you ought to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
A Right Intention: Pope Pius X said, “A right intention consists in this: that he who approaches the Holy Table should do so, not out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect, but that he wish to please God, to be more closely united with Him by charity, and to have recourse to this divine remedy for his weakness and defects.” This list is a wonderful examination of conscience before approaching the altar at Mass. Ask yourself if you are only approaching the Eucharist out of habit, or for your own glory, or human respect. Ask yourself if you want to please God, to be more closely united to Him by charity, and to have his remedy for your own human weakness and defects. In your silent prayer today, reflect on your intentions. Pray that the Lord will purify your intent to please God, be united to him, and have a remedy for your weakness. If you are in good standing with the Catholic Church, free from all mortal sins, and have a right intention, then receive the Lord in Holy Communion with great joy.
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