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Father Loseke: Celebrating the Eucharist is more than mere remembering

Traditionally, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (that is, Corpus Christi) is celebrated on the Thursday after the second Sunday after Pentecost – Thursday being the day of the week when the Lord Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. 

However, due to its great importance and to give as many people as possible the ability to celebrate this feast, it has been perpetually transferred in the United States to the second Sunday after Pentecost, which falls on June 23 this year.

As Catholics, the very pattern of our worship is derived from the mystery of Jesus’ Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension. There is no more pleasing sacrifice one could offer to God than that of his own Son. His sacrifice was once for all and has fulfilled all the other sacrifices of the former covenant. At the Last Supper, Jesus instructed his apostles to celebrate the Eucharist as a perpetual memorial of his upcoming paschal mystery (see 1 Cor 11:23-26). In doing so, the faithful are joined to Christ their Head in offering to the Father the great gift of sacrificial love that obliterates sin and reconciles humanity to God.

When we celebrate the Eucharist as Jesus commanded, “in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24-25), we are doing something much more than merely calling to mind what he did some 2,000 years ago. In theological terms, this special kind of remembrance is known as anamnesis, which may be thought of as a sort of Great Remembering. By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we are spiritually united to that singular moment of our salvation and are able to participate in it as it happens.

That Jesus desires our participation in effecting the saving sacrifice is foreshadowed in the miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (see Lk 9:11b-17). When the apostles asked Jesus to dismiss the hungry crowd because evening was nigh, he instructed them, rather, to feed the people themselves. Shocked by this statement, the apostles looked to what they had – five loaves and two fish – and wondered how they were going to feed so many with this meager amount. Of course, it was Jesus who would work the miracle and so satisfy the crowd’s hunger; nevertheless, he wanted his followers to participate in the work he was doing, even if they had only a little to offer.

By turning over even a small amount to the Lord, we imitate the ancient example of our father in faith, Abraham, who turned over a 10th of his belongings to the priest Melchizedek (see Gn 14:18-20). The act of tithing arises out of a deep knowledge that we have been richly blessed by God, and in gratitude, our hearts are stirred to offer God a sacrifice of praise. Our meager participation in the sacrificial offering, when joined to the offering of Christ on the Cross, is magnified and has an eternal effect.

The great feast of Corpus Christi reminds us not only of the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood given up for us in sacrifice and presented to us in the Holy Eucharist, but it also calls us to participate as active members of his Mystical Body for the salvation of the whole world.

Father Jeffery Loseke is pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Gretna.