By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, brings to fulfillment the power of Pentecost and the unfathomable mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. We are now on the cusp of the long liturgical season which the Catholic Church celebrates as Ordinary Time when, as always, we will gather at Holy Mass, the Eucharist, the tables of Word and Sacrament to be inspired by the Sacred Scripture and nourished by the most holy Body and Blood of Christ.
In season and out of season, the Eucharist is our daily bread, food for the journey, the union of heaven and earth and the promise of eternal life. “He who eats this bread and drinks this cup will live forever.” (John 6,54) The Lord could not be any more direct at the Last Supper. “This is my body; this is my blood; do this in memory of me.” (Matthew, Mark, Luke). Faithful to the Lord’s mandate, the Eucharist is celebrated on a daily basis, except for Good Friday, proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes.
The document Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council bestowed upon the Church a fountain of wisdom, exhorting us to cherish the gift and the mystery of the Mass as the source and summit of the Christian life. (#11).
The treasury of God’s word and the sacrament of the Eucharist, the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ are a fountain flowing up to eternal life. From the universal elements of bread and wine, fruit of the earth and of the vine, flow the gift of salvation brought to fulfillment in the Lord’s lifegiving death and resurrection. Like the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi, which originates as a modest stream, the humble institution of the Eucharist in the Upper Room has unfolded in God’s plan as an immeasurable river of grace flowing through time. Beginning in Baptism and nurtured at the altar of sacrifice, the Lord intends that his body, the Church, is to be a blessing for the world.
This is evident at the inception of the Eucharist when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper and purposely stated, “I have given you an example. As I have done, so you must do.” (John 13,15) He went on to say on this same night before he died that his disciples will be an astounding blessing wherever they go. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14,12) What are some of the works that Jesus did that we will far surpass? In the Gospel of Luke from last Sunday’s feast of Corpus Christi, Jesus fed the 5,000 who had followed him into deserted places. (Luke 9, 10-17) He said to his disciples who wanted to dismiss the crowds, “you give them something to eat.”
And immediately he took the bread and the fish, raised his eyes to heaven, blessed them, broke them and gave them to his disciples who proceeded to wait on those clustered in groups of 50. Over the centuries, the Lord’s disciples have fed uncountable throngs. This is Eucharistic and the mission of all disciples of the Lord Jesus from one generation to the next, to be a blessing to all whom we encounter, beginning in our homes and reaching out to the ends of the earth.
In most countries of the world nearly 2,000 years later, we celebrate the Lords passion, death and resurrection at the altar and we continue to further the work of God’s Kingdom in our world as his body, a blessing for billions and billions. The Lord intends that his disciples will work in the church for the salvation of all, evident in the manifest signs of the Kingdom, justice, peace and the joy of the Holy Spirit.
At the Bishops’ Conference recently concluded in Baltimore, overwhelmingly we voted to strengthen all the protocols for which the entire people of God are clamoring in order to root out the evil and crime of the sexual abuse of minors. Pope Francis recently issued a Motu Propio, “You are the Light of the World,” in which he has established universal standards for untiringly combating the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and the exploitation of vulnerable adults. The full scope of the bishops’ deliberations and endorsements are contained in this issue of the Mississippi Catholic.
Unless we overcome this demon of sexual abuse and exploitation we can never be the blessing the Lord intends us to be, nor can we accomplish the works of salvation that the Lord assured us are guaranteed in his name, the fruit that will endure. It is encouraging because transparency and accountability are a growing forest in the Church, in the words of Saint Francis, that were evident in substantial and measurable ways in the body of bishops in Baltimore.
For those who experienced the Church as a curse due to the sins of sexual abuse and exploitation, we commit ourselves to restore the original blessing intended by our God who so loves this world and by the Lord Jesus who commands us to love one another as he loves us.
May the gift of the Eucharistic recently celebrated on the feast of Corpus Christi keep ever before us that where sin increases, grace overflows all the more.” (Romans 5,20) May the church, the Body of Christ, be the blessing the Lord intends us to be in the power of his Holy Spirit.
The anointing of the Holy Spirit opens up for us a world of wonder and mystery, blessing and promise, commitment and purpose.
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz