And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the world. [Matt 28:20]
Before Jesus ascended to the Father and no longer was visibly and tangibly present in human history, He promised his disciples that while he would no longer be with them in the same way that He had been in the world for 33 years, nonetheless He would in fact be with them until the end of the world in new and more wonderful ways. At the last supper He promised them “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” [John 14:18] And indeed, Jesus does remain in this world always, even after he ascended to the Father, just as Jesus had never ceased to be in Heaven with the Father while he was present on this earth. Jesus would not only remain with them, but, as he also promised, He would more wonderfully remain in them. For, as He taught them:“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. [John 14:20]
Thus, Jesus today lives not simply with us, among us, as he did two thousand years ago in Israel, but now he lives in us, is present within us, through the gifts of His Spirit and Sanctifying Grace. Whoever is in the State of Grace, then, has Jesus, indeed the whole Trinity living within his soul. For in whomever the Spirit dwells, there also dwells the Son of God, and whoever possesses the Son possesses the Father also who sends Him. So, by the gift of His Spirit and by the Spirit’s gifts of grace, the Lord Jesus fulfills his promise not to leave us orphans.
But in today’s celebration of Corpus Christi we celebrate a different way in which Jesus fulfills his promise not to leave us orphans, that is, to remain with us always until the end of the world. In the Eucharist, Jesus becomes present in such a way as to be both in us, and in a most wonderful way, with us, in our presence, in our midst, the subject of our worship and adoration. The Eucharist is Jesus’ new mode of presence “in the world,” just as by the gift of His Spirit Jesus becomes present “in the human soul.” Obviously, Jesus is no longer present “in the world” in the way he was present for those 33 years of his earthly life, but nonetheless he now remains in the world until the end of time, and in an even more wonderful way.
Some Christian theologians say, in my opinion mistakenly, that Jesus is no longer historically present, which means, or at least implies, that Jesus is no longer a part of man’s history as such, no longer an actor within our history. Again, it is obviously true that Jesus is no longer present in history the way we are, that is, subject to the conditions of time and space and other temporal limitations. But it is simply not true that Jesus is no longer a vital part of human history, is no longer a true actor within human history.
It is precisely this misunderstanding of the Gospel that has produced a world that is becoming totally secularized and devoid of the sacred dimension. The truth is that Jesus always remains present in the world, and in human history, and is always truly with us in our earthly pilgrimage. And He is with us not in a less wonderful way than he was here for 33 years, but in a far more wonderful and salutary way which we can barely understand. By His Eucharistic presence, Jesus is now present in the whole world, present with us everywhere the Church is present, everywhere the Gospel is preached, everywhere the sacraments are administered and the Eucharist is celebrated. Jesus is now present in the world in His new body, His mystical body, which is the Church whom He wedded to himself on the Cross, and He is present in the Church through the Eucharist by means of which He builds up His Mystical body. As we build up our physical body with food, so Jesus uses the food which is Himself, the Bread of Angels and the spiritual Manna, to build up His Body, for this supernatural food makes us one flesh with Him who is both Lord and God and Bridegroom of the whole church.
The Holy Eucharist is truly the heart of the world, for Jesus is Himself truly the center of human history [Gaudium at Spes] and is truly present, body, soul, blood and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. In the celebration of the Eucharist, Jesus draws the whole of creation, both the material world and mankind, into communion with Himself, and through Himself into communion with the whole Trinity. In this mystery, the whole of creation is destined for this communion, for in the Eucharist Jesus gives us the way that creation and man are to reach their God as their true destiny. In this sense, the Eucharist is not just another sacrament but the focal point of all history and the center of creation, for the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is not just any form of presence, but the very way to Eternal Life for man, and with man, all of creation.
The Church testifies to this continuing and saving presence of Jesus within human history, and within man and all of creation by its Eucharistic devotion. The Eucharist is given to us as our food for the journey to Paradise, the nourishment that enables us to make the journey through the perils of this world, through all the challenges of human history to our true home in Paradise, where Jesus has prepared a place for those who are united with/in Him. In the Eucharist we become one with Jesus in way that will become fully realized and permanent only in heaven. But this is all true only because The Eucharist is not a mere “symbol” of his love and spiritual presence in our world, but his continuing, active presence in human history in the fulness of his humanity and divinity, hidden, but nonetheless truly present in the Holy Eucharist. Because He is truly present in the Eucharist, to be our food and saving nourishment, we can and must honor him in this sacrament, not only when we receive Him at Mass, but wherever the Eucharist remains, for in the Eucharist Jesus is truly remaining with us and for us.
Corpus Christi celebrates the full mystery of the Eucharist, the truth that by God’s sacramental power basic elements and signs of. His creation, bread and wine, are transformed, trans-substantiated, into the living substance of the Lord of History. In this sublime mystery, material creation achieves its destiny in a preliminary and anticipatory way, as the humble, material elements of bread and wine become the flesh and blood of their now incarnate Creator. In this act of God, man also achieves his destiny in an anticipatory way, as he becomes one flesh, one in a communion of love and life with his Creator. In the Eucharist, received and adored, all worship achieves its destiny as the Lord of Creation is worshiped as Lord, and is offered to the Father as the singular reality who contains the whole of creation itself.
In heaven, the Eucharist itself will be fulfilled as God becomes all in all, but here on earth it remains as our only way to that destiny, because in it and through it Jesus remains with us always till the end. This is our faith. This mystery is the ultimate source of our hope. This ultimate gift is what moves us and enables us to love God and all God’s creatures, above all every human person, as we have been loved by Him, who truly never leaves us orphans.