During my time in the seminary I was an early raiser. Our mornings would start about 7am with breakfast, morning prayer at 7:30 and our first class at 8am. I am sure there were some guys in seminary who got up at 7am, quickly showered in time for morning prayer and then eat breakfast after morning prayer. However, I was different. Call me crazy, but my first alarm went off at 4:30am. Yes, three hours before my first required activity of the day. However, by 5am I was usually getting my coffee and after a few sips of coffee to wake me up I headed to the chapel to spend an hour in prayer. Amazingly there were already a small handful of people up already in the chapel praying usually the same three or four men who were committed to prayer like I was. By 6am I got more coffee than headed back to my room to get ready for the day. By 7am I was downstairs for breakfast. To make a long story short, this was my routine for the later part of my seminary years. It took me time to get in the habit of daily prayer but once I did it was early in the morning. I believe it was those mornings of prayer, those hours before Jesus in the blessed sacrament which helped me get through my time in seminary.
Today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, which is Latin for the Body of Christ. We as Catholics believe that Jesus himself is present in the bread and the wine we come to receive at mass. What is even more true and more amazing is right now God is present in the tabernacle right behind us. Soon we will have the opportunity to receive him in the form of bread.
The readings speak to this reality as well. We first heard from the book of Deuteronomy. To put it simply Moses was reminding the people of the pilgrimage they were on through the desert. Through this pilgrimage they were seeking the promise land, a deeper communion with God and to be in the land God promised them. But they didn’t always stay true to following the Lord and sometimes they went astray and followed other gods. While they were in the desert the Lord gave them a miracle. Bread came down from heaven, called mana, and they were fed daily. It was a foretaste of what they would receive in the promise land as the mana had the taste of honey. They were promised that they would receive a land of milk and honey.
We too are given a miraculous bread, a mysterious wine and bread. The mana which the Israelites received was a foretaste of what Jesus gave his disciples at the last supper, which we remember and participate in at every mass. St. Paul puts it well. “The bread we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ.” We are not just receiving a miraculous bread from heaven, we are receiving God himself.
We are receiving his very body and blood soul and divinity.
We may be asking why does Jesus give us his very body and blood to eat and drink. Jesus answers that in the Gospel reading. He gives us his body and blood so that we can have eternal life. He gives us the Eucharist in order to save us and bring us salvation. How though does this help us in our daily journeys with him.
Thinking back to my time in seminary, my daily prayer gave me the chance to grow in a deeper relationship with my Lord, to have a conversation with him and to consider what was going on in my life. At the seminary, our chapel was similar to this church here. Pews on each side, an aisle down the center, but most importantly an altar and a tabernacle. So, no matter if Jesus was exposed in adoration or not, no matter what was going on in the chapel at the time, God himself was present there for us to pray with, to have a conversation with.
Another important thing that helped in my life in seminary was the fact that we went to mass every single day. We received Jesus in the Eucharist every single day and through that reception I believe God helped me discern my vocation, helped me get through difficult times, and eventually become a priest.
I believe the same can be true for all of us as well. We don’t have to come to mass everyday but we are given an opportunity to receive God himself in the Eucharist. IT can help us get through a difficult time in our life, it can help us discern what God may be calling us to do. Along with many other things as well!
There is something I would like all of us to reflect on as we leave this mass and continue on in our lives. We are own on a pilgrim journey, we are like the Israelites in the desert who were searching out the promise land. They were given mana to give them the strength they needed on their journey. We are given God himself present in the Eucharist given to us to feed us and sustain us on our journey. Our challenge is to make time for our lord in prayer and to make the Eucharist the center of our lives.