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We Recognize Jesus In The "Breaking Of The Bread"

When I was a seminarian studying in Belgium in the late 1960's, the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord (in Latin-Corpus Christi), which we celebrate today, was a day of a large religious procession through the streets of Louvain. Each parish had all of its organizations with their banners and its bands and its various statues of saints hoisted on the shoulders of some men of the parish prayerfully processing throughout the city. At the rear would come a bishop carrying a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. The sidewalks would be crowded with people singing hymns, saying the rosary and other various litanies and prayers. Many people would erect little shrines in their windows on the route that the procession was going to follow. It was a custom that had begun in the Middle Ages professing a joyful faith that Christ was in the midst of his people, that the Lord was close with his mercy and his love. The Lord promised "I am with you always.” (Mt. 28:20) and his promise is realized in a totally unique way in the Eucharist. Those processions were a testimony to the faith of the church from the very beginning. As St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote in the 3rd century, "Do not see in the bread and wine merely natural elements because the Lord has expressly said that they are his body and blood."

On this great feast of the church it is fitting that, even if we do not find ourselves taking part in religious processions, we too proclaim our faith in the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist and rejoice at the wondrous gift of himself and his life that he makes to us in this most central of all the sacraments. In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus says, "My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” (6:55-56) And the Lord promises further that if we abide in him we will have life because of him and we will live forever. No wonder that the Lord commands his followers to "Do this in memory of me.” (Lk.22:19) For it is his plan that it is in the reception of the Eucharist that he will unite us to himself in his dying and rising unto eternal life. It is in the Eucharist that he will share with us his victory over sin and death and give us a share in his eternal life. What a gift! What a loving Lord we have!

The disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized Jesus in the "breaking of the bread". So has the Church down through the ages, and so do we today in our parish family of St. Joseph.



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