The Solemnity of the Body & Blood of Christ

Fr Anthony Charanghat

The Solemnity of the feast of Corpus Christi, which was the former name of this celebration, now called Body and Blood of Christ, is a special feast set aside to reflect on the Eucharist itself, the gift of Jesus to His Church. This gift of His presence is not a token or a mere alibi of His presence, but is the whole of Himself - the Real Presence which is represented by the term 'Body and Blood of Christ'. This is the central and distinct teaching of the Catholic doctrine of our belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

The liturgical readings of the Mass on this day point to three aspects of this core mystery of our faith: the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; the Eucharist as the source of our unity with Him as well as our community; and the Eucharist as nourishment for the soul. The Real Presence is the teaching of the sixth chapter of St John's Gospel found in these statements. "Don't search for bread that perishes, but look for the bread that lasts unto eternal life." (John 6:27) "I myself am the Living bread come down from heaven." (John 6:51) "The one who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has life eternal," says the Lord. (John 6:54) 'Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you.' (John 6:53)

What Catholics glean from these texts is that the Eucharist is not simply a sign or a symbol. It is Jesus really, truly and substantially present under the Eucharistic signs of bread and wine. When Jesus says it, because of who He is, He is the Word Himself, His words have the power to transform reality at the most fundamental level. The substance of the bread and wine, the deepest reality of the bread and wine, change into the substance of the Body and Blood of Jesus (Transubstantiation). 

Now when the ordained priest at Mass effects the Eucharistic change, what really transpires? He is not speaking his own words, but rather, at the consecration, the priest speaks in Persona Christi, in the very person of Christ. He recounts what Jesus did, and then he moves into that first person discourse, "Take this, all of you, and eat. This is my Body." "This is my Blood..." He speaks with the full authority of Christ, because he is mandated by Him to do this in memory of Him (zikaron) which means to make the past really present, and not just imagined as present. This is why His words have the power to change the elements.

By the promise and power of His real presence given to His apostles, Christ is made truly present in the Eucharist. That is what is meant by the 'Real Presence.' Whenever we come to church, the Lord is present in the tabernacle and at the celebration of the Mass, not symbolically, but actually. His presence does not depend on our mood, our feelings, our holiness. His presence in the Eucharist is permanent and can be preserved in the Tabernacle, not only limited to the period of time intended by the minister while consecrating the sacred species of bread and wine, as some modern day theologians opine.

The Lord also gave us the Eucharist to draw us together. The same Jesus gives Himself to all. He did not just gather a little nucleus of really faithful souls. He gave Himself to all who believed. In the Eucharist, Jesus does not simply come among us like a dignitary passing through a crowd. He is coming to each of us as food and drink. And because we all receive the same Christ, the Eucharist makes us more strongly united as a part of the Body of Christ. It is the spiritual adhesive that holds us together. 

Lastly, the Eucharist nourishes us like the manna in the desert. The Old Testament manna nourished the body of the Jewish people led by Moses who perished. The Eucharist nourishes the soul, so that it may have life eternal. The Mass, the gathering of the Church, reminds us of our identity as Christians, that is both personal and as a community who share in the mission of the Church. We are not just living a life, but are on a journey to the promised land of heaven. 

Through difficulty, pain and problems, the Eucharist is our assurance that the Lord is with us. The Eucharist is our manna, our food for the journey which gives us grace and promises us future glory. The Mass, the Eucharist, is the great school of Jesus where we learn about Christian life, about Christ's love, about our own dignity and unity as Christians, and about our mission in life. The feast of Corpus Christi each year is a memorable moment to reaffirm our Catholic faith in the Eucharist. How deeply do we believe this great mystery? Do we "show in deed what we hold by creed"?

Most Holy Trinity  – Template for Christian Life and Love

The Holy Trinity is not merely an object of abstract theological debate or a concept; rather, it forms the foundation and basis of our relationship with God. God as One and Three points to the primacy of Love at the heart of Christianity, at the heart of existence itself. God is Love, and the three Persons of the Trinity live in a perfect communion of Love, giving and receiving of themselves unceasingly. Together, they form an inexhaustible font of life and love that becomes the genetic material and building blocks of Creation.

The mystery of the Trinity indicates to us that God is not a monolithic solitude, but a diversity of loving relationships that become the basis for human life and survival. We can love because God has first loved us. Even more, true love can only be Trinitarian, because as per Jesus' own declaration of the one, true and perfect commandment - 'I' must love 'God' and 'humanity' with all my heart and strength. This is the trinitarian formula for love.

Our Blessed Mother is a perfect example of one who mirrored the love of the Trinity in her life. She lived in humble obedience of the Father, always keeping His will above all else; accepting His will, she bore the Son in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, and raised her son according to the precepts of God, being a Holy Mother to Him, but also becoming His most perfect disciple. She lived her life manifesting the fruits and gifts of the Spirit and was present in the Upper Room with the disciples to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In this way, she became a temple worthy of a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity, and hence becomes the model and image of the Church for every disciple to follow and imitate. Like Mary, each one of us must strive to become a temple worthy of the indwelling of the Trinity.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity comes immediately on the heels of the conclusion of the Easter season and the Feast of Pentecost. Though we now return to 'Ordinary Time', this does not mean that we are allowed to wane or slump in our practice of discipleship after the highs of the Paschal Mysteries and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Instead, we are called to zealously participate in the life of the Divine Trinity at every moment, giving and receiving love, striving for understanding and communion, and being open to the action of divine grace in our lives.

In this way, we continue to be marked by the sign of the Trinity, a process first begun on the day of our Baptism. "I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." We belong to the Triune God because we are marked in His Name. And we re-affirm this each time we make the sign of the Cross – at the Eucharist, at prayer, or when we just bless one another. The famed theologian Romano Guardini once remarked, "We do it before praying so that... we may put ourselves spiritually in order; focus our thoughts, heart and will on God; after praying, so that what God has given us may remain within us... It embraces the whole being, body and soul... and everything is consecrated in the name of the Triune God."

Finally, the Most Holy Trinity is the template of Christian Life and Discipleship.

Like the Father, we are called to be infinitely and unconditionally merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in justice. Though we are pained by the transgressions of others against us, we must quickly forgive because God has forgiven us all our sins. In fact, He gave what was most precious to Him so that we could be saved.

Like Jesus, we must be ever obedient to the will of God in our lives. We are called to imitate His humility, by which He emptied himself for us and took the nature of a servant, embracing death on a Cross for us. During His life, He manifested the gift of wisdom, making God His foundation, and the Scriptures and prayer the fulcrum of His thoughts and actions.

Like the Holy Spirit, we must become an Advocate and Mediator for others, so that they can be protected from evil and strengthened in their relationship with God. We must reflect the fruits and gifts of the Spirit, thus becoming an inspiration for others to follow, and thus we become instruments of peace and holiness in the fields where we are sown, in the gardens where we are planted.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

Pentecost - A Gift of Easter

Fr Anthony Charanghat

The great Solemnity of the feast of the Pentecost is the 50th day that marks the fulfilment of the event of the Passover, Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus through the gift of the Spirit of the Risen One. In the past few days, the Church has prepared us for Pentecost with her prayer, with her repeated and intense invocation to God to obtain a fresh outpouring upon us of the Holy Spirit. The Church has thus relived all that happened at her origins, when the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room of Jerusalem "with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1:14).

The feast of the Pentecost is known as the great birth of the Church when the Holy Spirit came down in wind and flame to transform the Apostles and disciples into great missionaries of the Gospel and make of them a Church, a kind of Easter harvest. We know Pentecost as the time when the Holy Spirit was given to the Church to make her and keep her one, to make her and keep her holy, to make her and keep her apostolic, to make her and keep her catholic or universal.

The Holy Spirit is present not just in tongues of fire or in extraordinary charismatic gifts. We terribly underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit, if we limit the Spirit's presence only to extraordinary gifts. Maybe with a celebration of emphasis only on the special great gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Church, we can miss an important dimension to Pentecost and that is the Holy Spirit and us. We can look for the Holy Spirit only in the grand historical places of history, in the lives of Prophets, Popes, in the teachings of ecumenical councils and great moments in the life of the Church or miraculous healings and overlook the daily presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We have each received the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation to enable us to live a courageous Christian life. That Holy Spirit within us brings the courage to withstand the negative influences of our culture: wisdom to look past so much of the foolishness and shortsightedness that surround us, knowledge to apply the Gospel to our lives, understanding to comprehend the deep truths of Christ and the truth that the importance of our life in God's sight may be vastly different from what others may think of us.

These are the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable us to live the Christian life. With the state of the world around us as it is, we have the words of Jesus, "He that is in you is greater than he who is in the world." We have a presence, a source of renewal, revival, refreshment given to us by the Holy Spirit, which we can miss if we limit the presence of the Holy Spirit only to the great events in the life of the Church and forget that He is part of our life as well.

We should try to appreciate this great interior gift, planted in our soul by the Risen Lord. Whatever happens in our life, whatever roads we may travel, the Holy Spirit is present as conscience, as repentance, as a way back, as an inner moral compass, as an urge to pray, as the desire to forgive, as a concern for someone who has experienced tragedy, as outrage against injustice, as direction for the future.

Far more important than the extraordinary gifts are the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit  catalogued by St Paul, when we try to understand others, when we try to unite rather than divide, when we show courage in not only proclaiming but living the Gospel, when we open our hearts in prayer, when we make wise choices, when we are faithful to our vows and promises, when we appreciate the majesty of God's presence — these are the powerful everyday gifts of the Holy Spirit so often overlooked because we are looking only for something unusual. We can achieve great holiness without the extraordinary gifts; we can not do so without the ordinary gifts. We can live without miracles; we can not live without grace.

The Holy Spirit shows His power not primarily in events that are fantastic but in lives that are faithful. The Holy Spirit is our personal link to what count - our personal link to God. The Holy Spirit is Christ's Easter gift to the Church and to each one of us. 

Speaking with the Heart; Speaking Truth with Love

The Holy Father's Message for this year's World Communications Day, which will be celebrated on Ascension Sunday, flows in continuity from the previous two messages, in which Pope Francis had emphasized the verbs "Go, See and Listen" as conditions for good communication. Once we have done this, we can now enter into a communication of dynamic and dialogue, a communication of kindness and empathy, which the Holy Father calls, "speaking with the heart."

The Holy Father points to different areas of human interaction, where communicating with heart and love has become essential more than ever before. The first area is that of personal communication as a Christian disciple. Jesus warns us that every tree is known by its fruit (cf Lk 6:44)… "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks". That is why in order to communicate truth with charity, it is necessary to purify one's heart. A pure heart will listen purely, see purely and hence lead us to speak and act purely. In a world that encourages hate and acrimony, Christians can quite often be tempted to bless the Lord and then curse men and women who were made in the likeness of God, with the same tongue (cf Jas 3:9). As Christians therefore, we must be mindful that our mouths attract people to Christ and not instead repel them away from the goodness of the Gospel.

The second area is that of media and politics. We unfortunately live in a time marked by polarisations and contrasts. Much of the media today encourages a 'communication of hate' to attract eyeballs and TRPs. This creates acrimony and rage, pitting one against another. There is a tendency to discredit and insult opponents from the outset rather than participate in a respectful listening and dialogue. Television news debates today are so much like this, where truth and falsehood, right and wrong, friend and enemy, are all decided even before the debate has begun. We need a media today that is objective and committed in telling the truth with courage and freedom, and rejecting the temptation to become mere puppets in the hands of their political masters.

A communication of rage also fuels war across the globe. The Holy Father says how terrifying it is when the powers that be make open calls for the destruction of peoples and territories and encourage acts of heinous violence, justifying it in the name of global peace. That is why, Pope Francis says, rhetoric and propaganda must be rejected by political and government leaders, that manipulates truth for ideological and selfish ends. The Holy Father has so far resisted calls to openly condemn Russia in the ongoing Ukraine war, and has instead spoken of the suffering on both sides. While Russia has been called to cease the current conflict, it has also been recognised that the actions of Western nations in the world arena quite often sow the seeds of discord and create conditions for war. The West has also been criticized for turning a blind eye to the proliferation of western manufactured arms, poverty created by the liberal capitalistic economy, and pushing poorer nations into further debt and dependence.

Closer home, our own politics is gripped with hate and the sowing of divisions for political gain. After the resounding victory in the Karnataka elections, Rahul Gandhi remarked, "Nafrat ka bazaar bandh hua hai; Mohabbat ki dukhan khuli hai". We need a 'heartfelt' communications today that challenges the times we live in and rejects manipulation and disinformation. Media and politics must foster a culture of peace and create the conditions to resolve controversies and divisions. This is not just a responsibility of politicians and media, but of each one of us. It is our own communication – or maybe a lack of it - that quite often amplifies and multiplies a state of indifference, indignation and enmity.

Finally, the Holy Father says that there is great need of speaking from the heart in the Church. Church communication today must be prophetic and find new ways and means to proclaim the Gospel relevantly in the third millennium. We have a pressing need for a communication that kindles hearts, comforts those who are suffering and puts the neediest at the centre. We are called to light the fire of faith and bring the Gospel to our contemporary world rather than be tempted to sit in the comfort of tradition and preserve the ashes of a self-referential identity.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

Celebrating Motherhood!

In May, the world will honour mothers with gifts, flowers, cards. Every human person owes his or her life to a mother, and almost always owes much of what follows in life to her. Pope Francis in his Gen Audience 2015, makes a point – "Yet, despite being highly lauded from a symbolic point of view — many beautiful things said poetically of her — the mother is rarely listened to or helped in daily life, rarely considered central to society in her role."

During May, the Church calls us to open our hearts in a special way to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who graces our lives with her Motherly presence. Mary is "the image and model of all mothers, of their great mission to be guardians of life" (Pope Benedict XVI). Motherhood is a woman's vocation – an eternal vocation. Motherhood is a gift of God, a grace and joy that springs from the Creator's goodness (St John Paul II); through the marriage union, woman and man share in the creative power of God. A woman's life of carefree irresponsibility is not the same after she has a child and begins a family.

A mother-to-be is filled with wonder and "understands" with unique intuition what is happening inside her. For a woman embarking on her first pregnancy, fear of the unknown is still a common emotion. Mary's words at the Annunication: "Let it be done to me according to your word" – signify the woman's openness for the gift of self and her readiness to accept a new life; the woman ''discovers herself through a sincere gift of self". Being a mother is also a life choice. What does a mother choose? The life choice of a mother is the choice to give life." (GA 2015). We salute mothers who are interiorly ready to accept a child and bring it into the world.

 "When a mother is in travail, she has sorrow, because the hour has come, but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world" (Jn 16:21). Too little attention is given to how the new mother feels about the event of child birth, an event which transforms her life. 'Mothers "divide" themselves from the moment they bear a child to give him/her to the world, gives birth to him/her, nurse them, help them grow and care for them with affection. She gives him/her life. That's martyrdom. Perhaps mothers, ready to sacrifice so much for their children and often for others as well, ought to be listened to more' (Pope Francis, GA 2015). The memories of a mother's unconditional love will always remain, for, in that silence of daily life, a mother is giving her life little by little for her family.

A mother anticipates new pleasures with each age of her children, she also faces emotionally charged events in the course of rearing her children. The value of faith is inscribed in the first prayers, the first acts of devotion that a child learns from a mother through her simple and profound warmth. The woman as mother and first teacher of the human being (secular education and spiritual formation) has a specific precedence over the father. Mothers trust God to work, filling childhood with memories of love given through sacrifice and perseverance.

A mother of adolescents and teens develops patience and wisdom, even as she feels vulnerable in dealing with adolescents, at times despairing and insecure. The lessons of godliness, other-centredness and integrity inculcated day in and day out through her patience and personal example are not lost, as a proud mother sees the life of goodness take root in her children, a life which sees God in the neediest, and the same patience reflected in them when confronted with difficulties. A mother is filled with joy and gratitude for the fruitful lives of her children as she rejoices with Mother Mary, "For He that is mighty has done great things for me."

On Mother's Day, let's cherish, understand and pray for all mothers, strive to give them the love and respect they deserve. Let's remember too to be grateful to the men who fulfil their roles as spouses and fathers generously and responsibly, cherishing their wives and supporting them in the vocation of parenthood. May Mother Mary's maternal mediation bring to us fructifying family relationships!

Severina Peres is a parishioner of Our Lady of Salvation Church, Dadar, and a retired banking professional who writes short articles based on Encyclicals and Church Documents.

The Path to Peace

Power of Prayer and Practice of Penance

Fr Anthony Charanghat

The memorial celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima recalls the apparitions of Mary to three peasant children in Fatima, Portugal in the year 1917. Over a six-month period starting on May 13 in that year, Mary appeared to the three young children, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia as a woman surrounded by light and who identified herself as the Lady of the Rosary. In the course of these apparitions, Mary entrusted messages to the children about the sufferings which the Church and the world would endure through war and the godless beliefs of Communism. Mary spoke to the children and through them to the world about the importance of the power of prayer of the Rosary and the practise of penance as a way to reverse the disastrous moral slide of the world to sin and war paving the path to Peace which the world cannot give.

The messages of Fatima are often portrayed as messages of apocalypse and future disaster. They really are messages of hope that the power of prayer is greater than the powers of evil that would trample upon the inalienable rights of persons and destroy the God given dignity of human beings. Communism as practised in the former Soviet Union is in large part gone from the world stage. This is indicative of the power of prayer and penance, and through our devotion to the intercession of Mary’s Immaculate Heart and our continuing fidelity to Christ that Mary promised, would triumph over sin and death to enter into the fullness of life.

It is very tempting for us to situate the evil of the world in countries and peoples we consider our enemies. The Soviet Union was considered the locus of evil years ago. But the power of prayer, described with such dramatic imagery to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta by the Madona of Fatima served a formidable counterforce to evil to minimise and restrict its total decimation.

But there are also forces in disguise that oppose the Gospel of life and thwart the justice of God that remain. As damaging as communism was to people years ago, human dignity today is being destroyed by the abortion industry, the entertainment and pornography industry, the drug industry, the weapons industry, and corporations that place the size of their profit above the value of people.

The players on the world stage have changed. The shape of evil has taken on forms different and more ominous than atheistic communism because they are not external to but within our own society.  When we feel impotent in the face of such gigantic and well-financed forces of sin, the message of Mary reminds us of the power of prayer especially the Rosary and the power of conversion of life to do battle with evil. The appearances at Fatima remind us that the Church militant will become the Church at rest only at the end of history. Until then, we fight the good fight through prayer and penance.

All of these are formidable forces larger than any one person, which can destroy the bodies and souls of millions. The message of Fatima and its call to live in Christ’s love as Jesus commands us to us in the Gospels and reflected in the mysteries of Christ life as we contemplate and pray the Rosary.

What is important for us from all of this, is to use the power of prayer to change ourselves and others. We must be vigilant of the forces of evil and specially of evil in subtle forms that are present among us and that can destroy us from within. It is like a person spending a great deal of money on security systems to protect his house from external intruders, all the while neglecting the cancer growing within him. The message of Our Lady of Fatima even after over a century of years, is relevant and as vital to us today as it was in 1917. The path to a peaceful world lies in prayer, penance and conversion of life. There is no other way to abiding peace within ourselves and in our world.