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Call and response

There are many evocative phrases that have inspired generations of people:

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

"Read my lips: no new taxes."

"I have a dream."

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

"It's morning in America."

But none of them can compare in grandeur, drama, promise and power to the words of Jesus given to us by St. Paul: "This is my Body," "This is my Blood," "Do this in remembrance of me."

These words of the Lord are repeated thousands of times, every day, all over the world. They bring peace, consolation and hope to millions of people every day.

Today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi or, as it is called today in the Roman Missal, the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. To accent this feast, some parishes will have Corpus Christi processions; others may have special holy hours; others have long had adoration chapels that are open day and night throughout the year. Because the Eucharist is so central to our faith as Catholics, great churches have been built to house it; splendid music has been composed to honor it; magnificent poetry has been written to describe it; great works of art have been created to celebrate it. We search the Old Testament Scriptures to find previews of it, as with Melchisedech in today's first reading.

In the Mass, bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, Although still clothed in the appearances of bread and wine, their inner substance is changed into Christ Himself.

The main purpose of the Eucharist, however, is to be received reverently. It is not the cathedrals, the music, the paintings or the poetry that the Lord had in mind at the Last Supper. It is you and I coming to receive in sacrament the Lord we hope one day to see face to face.

The vessel in which the Eucharist is held for public veneration is called a monstrance. The Roman style of monstrance, sometimes called the "sunburst" monstrance, has rays radiating from the center. That style of monstrance reminds us that the Eucharist is not kept as a jewel to be admired. The Eucharist radiates a call, in fact, several calls. It is a call to unity, a call to imitate Christ's sacrificial love, a call to walk more closely with the Church, a call to look forward to life beyond death and a call to be open to the particular graces the Lord brings that we need in our life today.

Finally, the Eucharist is a call for us to imitate the sacrifice and the generosity of Christ displayed in today's Gospel of the multiplication of loaves and fish that previews the Eucharist.

Can we be as generous as the Lord was in today's Gospel as we meet the many hungers of the human race today ranging from the physical hunger of Africa to the spiritual hunger of the countries of the West? The Eucharist should inspire us to step out of our private world into that wider world of diverse human hungers and try to contribute what help we can. The Eucharist calls us to imitate the generosity of Christ.

If we bring our few loaves and fish to the needs of today, Jesus will do the rest. A question for all of us is, "What are we bringing to the Lord?"

Fr. Krempa is pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016