Sweetest Jesus, Body and Blood most Holy, be the delight and pleasure of my soul, my strength and salvation in all temptations, my joy and peace in every trial, my light and guide in every word and deed, and my final protection in death. Amen.

These beautiful words, a prayer after communion written by St. Thomas Aquinas, are especially fitting on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, because what we celebrate today, and every Sunday, is not a doctrine, not a ritual, but a Person who is present here with us, whom we must not only speak about in the third person — “Jesus this”; “God that” — as if we were here talking amongst ourselves and he were somewhere else.

It’s like how two weeks ago at the Pentecost Vigil the bishop was here to confirm our candidates, and at the beginning of Mass, like he does every year, our pastor welcomed him and talked about the honor of having him here. But he didn’t just talk about the bishop, like I’m doing now — that would have been rude. He spoke to him, because he was right here!

Jesus is right here. Jesus, sweetest Jesus, you are here with us, today, in this sacred place, not only in your divinity, present at all times and all places, but also in your humanity, your body and blood most holy.

And when our celebrant elevates the bread and wine over the altar and repeats your words at the Last Supper that we just read in the Gospel, changing the bread and wine into your body and blood, you will offer yourself to the Father on our behalf — the same sacrifice that you offered 2,000 years ago on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper and on Good Friday in your crucifixion. That same sacrifice, offered for us, here, today, in the eternal Today of this sacred liturgy.

“As if we had been present there”

Pope St. John Paul II, in his great encyclical on the Eucharist, writes:

When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation [the Lord’s death and resurrection] becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”. This sacrifice [the Lord’s death] is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there —

— just like St. John was present there, and our Lady, and Mary Magdalene, among others. That is what happens when we come to Mass St. John’s, or to any Catholic church in the world: We join St. John and our Lady and the others at Calvary, at the foot of the cross, just as if we had been there ourselves.

The Holy Father continues:

Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits. … What more could Jesus have done for us? Truly, in the Eucharist, he shows us a love which goes “to the end” (cf. Jn 13:1), a love which knows no measure.

A love that goes to the end, without measure. Sweetest Jesus, what more could you have done for us?

You give yourself to us, body and blood, soul and divinity, as food and drink, to be consumed by us, received on our tongues, taken into our bodies.

You give yourself to us because that’s what you do, because that’s who you are, you and the Father and the Holy Spirit in the eternal mystery of the holy Trinity: gift of self. This is what it means that God is love: Love is gift of self.

God does what he is

It’s because God is a communion, a society of Persons, that he created us in his image, as social creatures called to love, as he is love. That’s why each of us is called to love the Lord with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And when our first parents, Adam and Eve, took the gift of their own selves that God had given them, and, instead of giving themselves back to God, chose to keep themselves for themselves, God did what he does, what he is: He gave even more. The Father gave his Son to be born as one of us of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, true God and true man.

And Jesus did what he does, what he is, what we could not do for ourselves: He gave himself to the Father at the Last Supper and on the Cross.

And now today he continues to give himself to us and for us, body and blood, soul and divinity, as food and drink, to be consumed by us — in order to transform us into himself, to enable us to do what he does: to give ourselves, to offer ourselves to the Father with him and to give ourselves to one another. To lay down our own lives for each other, as he did. To love to the end, without measure.

What would be too much to ask?

At times even in extraordinary heroic ways, like that science teacher at the Indiana school shooting, Jason Seaman, who took three bullets charging the shooter, or the football coach in Florida, Aaron Feis, who died shielding students with his body. Love to the end, without measure.

But we’re also called to give ourselves in more ordinary ways, every day. To serve those around us with true generosity, putting their needs above our own. To return good for evil. To answer an angry or sarcastic word with a gentle and patient one. 

To be considerate with others in things as ordinary as the way we drive — letting other people merge and so forth. Caring for our families day after day, children, spouses, siblings, parents. Never holding grudges, never harboring resentment or envy.

Some of us God may be calling to give in other ways. To consider, in some cases, if it’s consistent with your condition, whether you might have a vocation to religious life, the diaconate or the priesthood.

Or simply to give our Eucharistic Lord one hour a week in the adoration chapel. Certainly to be really present here, today, during the Mass, as he is really present — the whole Christ and the whole you, not just your body but your mind and spirit.

What would be too much for him to ask? What more could he have done for us?

Sweetest Jesus, Body and Blood most Holy, be the delight and pleasure of my soul, my strength and salvation in all temptations, my joy and peace in every trial, my light and guide in every word and deed, and my final protection in death. Amen.