Dear brothers and sisters,
This weekend the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, commonly known as the Feast of Corpus Christi. This occasion holds great significance as we honor Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is truly present in the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine. In the Eucharist, we encounter not mere symbols or representations, but the actual and living presence of Christ Himself.
The belief in the Real Presence is a fundamental doctrine that lies at the very core of our Catholic identity. It affirms that, through the words of consecration spoken by the priest during Mass, the ordinary bread and wine truly become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This extraordinary transformation, theologically referred to as “transubstantiation,” takes place in every celebration of the Holy Mass, allowing us to partake in Holy Communion and receive Jesus Himself. It is a miraculous gift that sets our Catholic faith apart from all other religions and Christian denominations.
Unfortunately, there has been a decline in the understanding and belief in the Real Presence among Catholics in the United States. Understood properly, it is not a mere theological concept or an abstract doctrine; but rather, it is a profound encounter with the living God. This sublime mystery, therefore, calls for our deepest reverence, adoration, and devotion.
In our parish, I find inspiration in the devotion of many parishioners who spend time in adoration before the Eucharistic Lord. However, I am also disheartened by the occasional lack of respect and reverence on the part of some among us. One troublesome behavior is the presence of hats and caps worn by some individuals in church, even during Holy Communion. I struggled to find any reasonable justification for such behavior.
While it is understandable that forgetfulness or habit may lead to such actions, it is important for us to remember that the Holy Eucharist deserves our utmost reverence and respect. An act as simple as removing a hat or cap upon entering can be a powerful acknowledgement of the sacredness of the moment and the dignity of the One whom we are encountering. As a firm believer of the ancient church principle “Lex orandi, lex credendi”, namely, our external actions reflect the disposition of our hearts. I enjoin you all to approach the presence of Christ with awe and humility, removing any distractions or barriers that may hinder our encounter with the divine.
Moreover, as a concerned pastor of souls, I cannot emphasize enough the significance of receiving the Lord worthily. The Church’s guidelines make clear that Catholics are to abstain from food for at least one hour before receiving Holy Communion. This means that not even chewing gum or drinking sodas is permitted before Mass. This fasting serves as a symbol of our hunger and longing for the spiritual nourishment that only Christ can provide. Furthermore, it is also crucial that we be in a state of grace, free from any mortal sin. If we have knowingly committed a grave moral offense, we must seek the forgiveness and mercy of our loving God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to receiving the Eucharist. Receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is not only unworthy but also detrimental to our spiritual well-being, because it is an abuse of the Body and Blood of the Lord and therefore a sacrilege.
In one of his Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Francis teaches: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 47). These words serve as a reminder that the Eucharist is not reserved only for those who have achieved spiritual perfection. It is not a gift only for those who feel worthy, but for all of us who recognize our need for God’s mercy and grace. It is through receiving the Eucharist that we are strengthened, healed, and transformed by the presence of Christ in our lives.
As we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, let us embrace the gift of the Eucharist with profound gratitude and reverence. May our hearts be filled with awe and wonder as we approach the Altar to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord.
With my prayers and blessings,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham