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Counting down to what is central

From this Sunday count 33 days to the universal Church’s celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi on May 30.

In this Archdiocese, a spiritual journey launches today until this special feast in which all faithful are invited to reflect on the profound mystery of the Eucharist and its centrality to our lives as Catholic Christians.

This feast, which originated in the 13th century, is a joyful proclamation of our faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the consecrated bread and wine.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus declares, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).

This powerful image speaks to the intimate union we are called to have with Christ through the Eucharist. Just as the branches draw their life from the vine, we too are nourished and sustained by the very body and blood of our Saviour.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that “in the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained’.”

This profound truth, known as the doctrine of transubstantiation, is the foundation of our Eucharistic faith. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the words of consecration spoken by the priest, the bread and wine are transformed into the living presence of Christ.

St John Paul II, in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, refers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which describes the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life”. It is the source from which all grace and spiritual nourishment flows, and the summit towards which all our efforts as Catholic Christians are directed.

In the Eucharist, we encounter the risen Lord and are drawn into the very life of the Trinity.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in 2007, emphasised the Eucharist as “the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman.”

The Eucharist is not merely a symbol or a memorial, but the true and living presence of Christ, who offers Himself to us as spiritual food and drink. Through our reception of Holy Communion, we are united to Christ and to one another, forming the mystical body of the Church. Remember: one bread, one body.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is also a celebration of the Church’s mission to proclaim the Good News to the world. As Pope Benedict XVI noted, the feast was established “in order to publicly adore, praise and thank the Lord, who continues ‘to love us ‘to the end’, even to offering us his body and his blood.”  The Eucharistic procession, a hallmark of this feast, is a powerful witness to the world of our faith in the real presence of Christ and our desire to bring Him to all people.

The Eucharist then is the wellspring from which the Church’s mission flows, as we are nourished and strengthened to go forth and bear witness to the transformative power of Christ’s love.

No doubt a challenge sometimes, especially in a world that has for centuries not been totally receptive to the Gospel message. The atrocities of war, among the other evils which we perpetrate against each other, bear this out.

So, in a little over a month’s time, we will walk the streets in our communities again, publicly proclaiming our belief that Christ lives and He comes in the form of bread and wine.

Let’s not take these 33 days for granted and renew our faith in the Real Presence and recommit ourselves to living as branches united to the true vine.