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Food for the heart and soul

The story is told about a driver who often missed lunch or dinner because his Ilocano boss often forgot to give him a meal allowance whenever they went out. His problem was solved when he learned that the Ilocano term for hunger of the stomach is “bisin ti tiyan.” And so, every time he needed to remind his boss, his message was: “Sir, regards from Vicente Chan!”

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Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Feast of Corpus Christi. The body and blood of Christ are the food and drink of our soul that satisfy and nourish us spiritually. We are not to focus only on the hunger of our stomach, but on the hunger of our soul as well. In today’s gospel (Mk. 14, 12-16, 22-26), Jesus took the bread, blessed it, and broke it. He gave a piece to each of His disciples, saying: “Take it; this is My body.” In a similar way, he took the cup, gave thanks, and passed it to His disciples, saying: “This is My blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” In this Passover meal, the Eucharist was instituted, and the first Mass was celebrated.

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The Eucharist is the highest point of our Christian life and worship even as the Mass is the highest form of prayer. When we gather for a Mass, we surrender to the Lord all that we are, all that we have, and all that we do. Strengthened by the Lord, from receiving Him in the Eucharist, we go forth renewed to continue our journey to God’s heart as a Church, as a people.

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For some, the Eucharist is just a ritual, an obligation, or a supplement. Some may also regard it as a commodity—devoid of spirituality, vitality and meaning. May the Holy Spirit renew in us, priests and laity, an appreciation and love for the Eucharist in our lives, in the here and now.

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The Eucharist is a sign and a symbol of our unity as a people, but there is hardly any interaction among the congregation during Mass. People don’t get to know or even greet one another. Often, there is a tendency to be “first” and to overtake one another at Communion time. For many, the Mass is a “me and my God” thing, and hardly about “me and my neighbor.” Or, Mass-goers tend to judge, criticize, or compare. For some, it’s just about “me and myself.”

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Last May 31, I celebrated the fiesta Mass in the Holy Trinity Parish in Batangas City. As I started my homily, I looked up and saw three doves perched on one of the beams of the roof of the church. I asked everyone to look up and immediately, spontaneous applause came from the whole congregation. We all realized the message—the presence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in our very midst! Yes, God speaks to us in very simple, concrete ways. Very timely and fitting for last Sunday’s gospel message: “And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age” (Mt. 28, 20). May we be constantly reminded of the real presence of God, especially in every Mass.

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Every time I celebrate the holy Mass, I sincerely thank God for His tremendous gift of the Eucharist to us. Personally, I humbly thank Him for His gift of priesthood to me, unworthy as I am. I ask everyone to pray for us, your priests, as we pray for you in our Masses.

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For those who say that they have no time to go to Mass, let’s do some computation: There are 24 hours in one day, and seven days in one week. That adds up to 168 hours in one week—for all of us, young or old, rich or poor. God asks of us to be present in the church, before Him, at least one hour every Sunday. No time? We have time. Let us make time. Whether the priest is boring, it’s hot in the church, the people around us are hypocrites, etc., etc., we have a date with God. We have a commitment—to be there with God, with His people, in communion and worship, at least one hour every week.

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It has been a long summer. Finally the rain came in the afternoon of June 3 in San Jose, Batangas! One could almost hear the joy and jubilation of the trees and plants that have withstood the oppressive heat of the sun. After I praised God for the blessing, I spontaneously did something I had not done in a long time—I sang and danced in the rain!

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The elections are still far off—in May 2016—but the political climate is already beginning to sizzle. Expect more fireworks and political bombs to explode. Let us not focus on personalities to lead us out of our darkness. Let us not pin our hopes on them. Let us start—as a people, as a nation—to say: Not them, but us! The light will not come from them. The light is within us, between us, among us. That’s the Eucharist, concretized.

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A moment with the Lord:

Thank You, Lord, for the food You have generously given us—for our heart and soul. Amen.

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TAGS: body and blood of Christ, Eucharist, Solemnity of the Feast of Corpus Christi
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