The Solemnity of Corpus Christi
By Deacon Ramiro Garza
This weekend the Roman Catholic Church in the United States celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (or Corpus Christi). It is a time when we celebrate the real presence of Christ – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist.
In a 2019 Pew Report of people who identified themselves as Roman Catholic, 69% of them said that they did not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. What was more alarming is that of those people who indicated that they go to Mass every Sunday, only 63% believe in the real presence. This means that 37% of weekly church goers do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Is this due to a lack of good catechesis (teaching), a lack of faith or a lack of understanding? Probably a little bit of all these reasons. You see, “presence" is one of those concepts which we all think we know, but which is difficult to describe and define. If we understand the word to mean, “being with,” then we can sense that God shows his “presence” in nature and all of creation. He is present in His Church and in the Scriptures in some manner. He is also present in all of us to some degree; however, when it comes to the Eucharist, this “presence” has a profound meaning. From the beginning of the Church’s history, early Christians understood that Jesus was uniquely present in the Eucharist. St. Paul admonished the Church in Corinth when they did not reverence Jesus’s presence in the breaking of the bread (Eucharist), “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27). This presence for St. Paul was so real that if one was seriously sinful or did not acknowledge Christ in the Eucharist and received it, then they would be considered to be irreverent to Jesus himself!
During the Protestant Reformation, many Protestants who wanted to do away with the need for a priesthood began to reinterpret the Sacred Scriptures to make it seem that the Eucharist was only a symbolic representation of Christ and not his real presence. The Church responded in the Council of Trent (1545-1563): "If anyone denies that 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 in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, but says that Christ is present in the Sacrament only as in a sign or figure, or by his power: let him be anathema (not with the Church)."
So, what should we do if we have doubts? Like anything else of faith, prayer is a good place to start. Prayer before the Most Holy Eucharist or Adoration should be considered. As an early convert, I too had to come face-to-face with my own doubts about the Eucharist. After my first couple of times in front of the Eucharist, I still hadn’t removed my doubts, but I kept going every week. Eventually, I did have a faith-changing experience. I was able to overcome my doubts and believe that Christ was truly present in a very real way in the Eucharist. Through Adoration, I eventually solidified my faith and solidified my calling to the vocation of the diaconate. It changed the course of my life, and I believe it can do the same for you as well. Bring Christ your doubts, bring Him your weaknesses, and with His grace, you too may come to believe.