Corpus Christi • Year A

Archbishop Robert F. Prevost, O.S.A.
Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops
Vatican City

Deut 8:2-3, 14b-16a
Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
1 Cor 10:16-17
John 6:51-58

The first reading of today’s celebration, from the book of Deuteronomy, places us in the context of the people of Israel, the chosen people, recalling how they wandered for forty years in the desert, feeling lost, discouraged, suffering from hunger, and wondering about what might be ahead. Moses reminds his people: “Do not forget the LORD, your God… who guided you through the vast and terrible desert…, who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna…”

We are a pilgrim people, called to walk together, not to remain in one place, not to be static, but rather to recognize how important it is to have the courage to renew our lives, to be healed and strengthened in our faith, to take part in Eucharist, understanding and believing that the Body and Blood of Christ is indeed our food for the journey.

This year, this dimension of the celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ strikes me in an especially poignant way. For a number of years, I had the privilege of walking with a diocesan family in Chiclayo, Peru, where we would have magnificent celebrations of this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Thousands of people gathered together for Eucharist, and then we would walk together in procession, proclaiming our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This particular dimension of our Catholic faith in Christ’s presence is a great mystery, and is a magnificent gift to all those who believe. Recently, after years of missionary service in Peru, I was called to take on a new ministry in Rome, leaving behind a diocesan family that was deeply rooted in and centered around the Eucharistic mystery, and now I have been called to serve the universal Church and to assist our Holy Father Pope Francis in choosing and accompanying bishops throughout the world. For many people, change is not easy; pulling up roots can be difficult; accepting change in the Church or in society can be a real challenge.

And yet our faith calls us to move forward. I am reminded of St. Augustine’s encouragement when he tells his listeners to keep on walking, to adventure forward, to make progress: “Think about the things to come, do not look back,” or you may become stuck, feeling satisfied with yourself, and losing sight of the real goal of growing closer to God (Sermon 169). Eucharist, which is indeed nourishment for the journey, the Bread of Life, is so important for all those who need the strength and healing power of God’s love in their lives.

The celebration of this Solemnity is a time to renew our faith in the healing grace that comes to us as we are nourished with the Body and Blood of Christ. It is in partaking in this great mystery that we grow in unity and are united in Christ. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6). Pope Francis tells us that “the Eucharist is like the destination of a journey along which Jesus had prefigured through several signs, above all the multiplication of the loaves” narrated in the Gospel according to Luke. “Everyone can experience this loving and concrete attention of the Lord.”

How many individuals, families, communities find themselves in situations that are like being lost in the desert, wondering if they will ever find the peace or happiness that they are longing for? Jesus offers us his own Body and Blood as he promises us that he who is the source of all life will be with us always.

This year, in the month of October, bishops, men and women religious and laity will gather together in Rome to continue the reflection and discernment in the “Synod on Synodality.”

Synod means “walking together,” and again, our celebration today of the Body and Blood of Christ is a way of understanding that the Body of Christ is alive, the Church is called to move forward, to be ever renewed, and to be open to the new directions that the Holy Spirit may be calling us to. United in prayer, in Eucharistic prayer, this year’s celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to “walking together,” to renew our understanding of being and living as the Body of Christ alive in the world today.

Finally, I think it is especially important to remember, and to remind myself first of all, that at the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Just as Moses encouraged Israel to remember, so too we are called to live the memory of all that Jesus was and is in the Church today and in a special way, in all those who are in need (the poor, the sick, immigrants, so many who feel excluded). Wash the feet of those who are needy; serve one another; be humble and welcoming. May we all be truly united in the Body and Blood of Christ.