Corpus Christi

The extraordinary gift of the Eucharist fits a pattern of beautifully humble acts that marked the life of Christ during His earthly sojourn. He revealed Himself first to the world as an infant, born in a lowly stable and resting in a manger. Our Savior chose to live in the modest home of a carpenter and likely practiced that simple trade as a young man. He submitted to the baptism of John and dove into the waters as a sign of diving into the fullness of our human condition. Finally, Our Lord surrendered His life to the Father and died on a wooden cross between two criminals. Today, we celebrate the profound reality that Jesus chose to offer us the supreme gift of His self under the disguise of simple bread and wine. The humility of Jesus is a marvel to ponder.

Jesus' gift of the Eucharist is an invitation for us to respond to Him in kind with humility. We do so by accepting in faith that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus; by coming to the table on a regular basis with our brothers and sisters in Christ to share in the meal of all meals prepared for us by our Heavenly Father; by rejoicing at the sacrifice that He made of Himself for our salvation; and by embracing our need for the spiritual nourishment that we receive at the table of His word and of His Body and Blood.

Perhaps the most appropriate response to the Eucharist is good old-fashioned wonder and awe. Every parent is most pleased when a child's heart is filled with gratitude and an awareness of the immensity of a gift that is given out of love and with great sacrifice. We need to beg God for a deeper faith in Christ and to see with believing eyes the wonders that the Father has done in Christ Jesus. The Eucharist is one of God's greatest works of art; it is His greatest gift of love, because it is the gift of His Son.

St. Francis of Assisi had a profound devotion to the Eucharist. He made heroic efforts to attend Mass on a daily basis. He spoke often to his friars about the precious gift that Jesus gave us on the night before He suffered and died. Francis sought and received special permission from the church to have Mass said while he and his brothers went on retreat in the mountains in preparation for their preaching adventures.

In St. Francis' "Letter to All the Friars," he said in reference to the Mass: "Let humanity fear, let the entire universe tremble, and the heavens exult, when on the altar, in the hands of the priest, is Christ, Son of the living God … O admirable rapture and amazing designation. O sublime humility. O humble sublimity, that the Lord of the universe, God and Son of God, so humbles Himself as to hide under the small appearance of bread."

My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us implore the Holy Spirit to stir into flame the gifts of faith and love in Jesus so that we may truly marvel at Jesus' gift of the Eucharist. May our humble, loving response befit the humble, loving gift that has been given.

Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington and director of the Youth Apostles Institute in McLean.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015