THEME: BREAD AND WINE IN THE HANDS OF OUR LORD
READINGS: Genesis 14:18-20 / 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 / Luke 9:11-17
Solemnity of Corpus Christi
This year’s solemnity of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) falls on Father’s Day. May I, therefore, begin this homily by wishing all natural, foster and spiritual fathers, a happy day!
In the capable hands of a master chef, simple ingredients can be transformed into delicious meals. More so, in the masterful hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, bread and wine are transformed into His Body and Blood whose values cannot be quantified.
BREAD AND WINE AS WORKS OF HUMAN HANDS
In the first place, bread, as we know, is made from the natural ingredient of wheat. That is, while the grains of wheat are originally God’s gift, the bread is the work of human hands. This is well captured in the prayer of the priest when he offers the bread at Holy Mass: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.”
Secondly, wine is made from the natural ingredient of grapes. So, here too there is both the gift of God and the transforming work of human hands. Thus, the priest prays: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands it will become our spiritual drink.”
JESUS TRANSFORMS BREAD AND WINE
It is obvious from the above prayers of the priest that: (a) while human hands transform wheat into bread, the hands of the Lord transform the bread into “the bread of life”; and (b) while humans transform grapes into wine, the Lord’s hands transform it into “our spiritual drink”. Indeed, the values of the Lord’s transformations are infinite! Let us consider this further.
Our Lord is capable of transforming bread and wine both quantitatively and qualitatively. Firstly, let us consider the quantitative transformation. Whereas, humans only succeed to turn many grains of wheat into a loaf, the creative hands of Christ multiply it. For instance, He multiplied five loaves of bread to feed at least 5,000 people (cf. Luke 9:11-17). Also, whereas humans only manage to transform many grapes into wine, the miraculous hands of the Lord provide dozens of gallons of wine when there is none. For instance, at the wedding at Cana, He miraculously provided over 120 gallons of wine (cf. John 2:1-11).
More awesome, though, is the Lord’s qualitative transformation of bread and wine. Indeed, no one can ever quantify what He transforms bread and wine into. They become His most precious Body and Blood together with His Soul and Divinity (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23-26)! Who can measure this? Not even heavenly angels can measure this, for they cannot quantify His Divinity!
THE SYMBOLS OF BREAD AND WINE
Holy Eucharist or Communion is a sacrament – an outward sign of inward grace. So, by considering the significance of bread and wine in this sacrament, we can appreciate further the Lord’s qualitative transformation.
Firstly, the grains of wheat are crushed to make bread. Similarly, the grapes are crushed to produce wine. The crushing process signify sacrifice. Thus, Jesus has sacrificed His life to offer us His precious Body and Blood.
Secondly, from many grains, a loaf of bread is made. Similarly, a bottle of wine is made from many grapes. The process of turning many ingredients into one product signify unity. Hence, the Lord invites all of us who receive His Body and Blood into a common-union (communion).
Thirdly, the dough of wheat is baked, whereas the grape juice goes through fermentation to turn sugar into alcohol. The baking heat and the fermentation which turns that which was sweet into a bitter taste should remind us of the painful death of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26). Thus, as we receive Communion, He invites us to carry our cross to follow Him (cf. Luke 9:23).
Fourthly, as we enjoy ordinary bread and wine for our physical nourishment, so the precious Body and Blood of Christ nourish our souls. Our souls rejoice most in this spiritual nourishment as they recognize it as the food and drink of the heavenly banquet (cf. Matt. 26:29; Rev. 19:9; Isa. 25:6-9).
Fifthly, the bread used for Holy Mass is unleavened. This signifies purity. Thus, the Holy Lord who offers Himself to us in Holy Communion invites us to a life of holiness.
In the ever-creative hands of the Supreme Chef, Jesus Christ, bread and wine are infinitely transformed into His Body and Blood together with His Soul and Divinity. Therefore, if we receive Holy Communion with purity of heart, while appreciating the Lord’s sacrifice which makes it available, we will eventually enjoy the heavenly banquet.
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis