June 13, 2009

The Pelican

Solemnity of Body and Blood of Christ
Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26 “Take it, this is my body…this is my blood…”

One of the oldest symbols for Jesus in Christian art is the pelican bird. In Medieval Europe, the pelican was thought to be particularly attentive and caring to her chicks. When a mother pelican failed to catch fish, she would strike her breast with her beak and feed her young with her blood to prevent them from starving to death.

This is precisely what Jesus did on the cross. His blood saved us. But He wanted more. He made a promise of continuing presence, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) and a promise, “when I go, you will not be left alone, I will come back to you.”(John 14:18). And He fulfilled these promises by instituting the Eucharist.

Today as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, we thank our Lord for His unconditional generosity of sharing Himself - by feeding our spirits with His body and blood in the form of bread and wine. The Eucharist satisfies our spiritual hunger and thirst each time we partake in the Holy Communion. Each time we receive the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, we allow ourselves to commune with Him, and Him with us. The Eucharist nourishes us and gives us life. Such realization of Jesus living in our hearts should console and transform us into His likeness.

Unfortunately, we have taken for granted this wonderful sacrament. The celebration of the Eucharist becomes so ordinary and routine to us that we failed to see its importance in our lives. It is ironic that we are always asking for signs of God’s presence and yet we failed to see that the body and blood of Jesus we receive in the communion is the greatest sign of God’s real presence in our midst. We have taken for granted the Holy Eucharist, thus we’ve never fully experienced the hidden saving power of the sacrament in our life.

Think about these: If we say we believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, how come we are not excited to attend a Sunday Mass? Is attending Mass out of obligation or out of our heart’s desire? When was the last time you attend a weekday Mass because of your great desire to receive communion? If we believe that it is Jesus we receive in the Eucharist, how come we are still sad after communion and go home feeling empty? We are like the disciples in last week’s gospel, “they worship him but doubted.” (Matthew 28: 17). We are like shipwrecked sailors who died of thirst without realizing that their boat had drifted into a fresh water cove. They failed to dip their bucket into the fresh water. In our case, we failed to dip ourselves in faith into the mystery of the Eucharist. Thus, some of us, in spite of attending the mass, still went home with an empty heart and broken spirit.

We need to rediscover the importance of the Eucharist in us and in our families. The Eucharist is our home. It is in the Eucharist that we are forgiven, loved, and fed. When one cannot feel God’s presence in the Eucharist, we should not put all the blame to the priest for his unprepared homily, to the choir’s lousy singing or to the lector and commentator’s wrong pronunciation. We should transcend all human limitations and faults that may distract our participation in this saving mystery unfolding before us… the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Jesus - for our spiritual nourishment. Our human senses cannot help us see the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine. Faith will help us. Believe in Jesus, “This is my body…this is my blood…” Participate prayerfully and listen attentively. And you will see and taste the goodness of the Lord in the Eucharist.

One monk says, "Being close to Christ is not a prize. He challenges us to earn. It is a gift. He invites us to accept."

- Fr. Willy M. Samson,SJ
St. Joseph Parish, Zamboanga City / June 14, 2009

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