Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

2024 CORPUS CHRISTI (usus recentior)

1/2 June

God has come to make us whole in His Eucharistic Gift

The Feast of Corpus Christi is, historically, a reasonably new feast – celebrated from the thirteenth century, it is one of those celebrations that we might call “devotional feasts” that have become part of the annual liturgical cycle of the Church, which don’t attach to a particular event or mystery in the life of Our Lord, His Mother or a saint. One is Trinity Sunday, which we celebrated last week; Corpus Christi, traditionally on the Thursday following it, is kept this Sunday. While almost two months ago, on Holy Thursday, we celebrated the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, today we keep this feast simply to honour the Lord, present in the Sacrament, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It’s not so much caught up in the story of Our Lord’s Passion; it’s not celebrated in tandem with the Holy Priesthood, the Mandatum (the washing of feet) or the stripping of the church in anticipation of the Lord’s Passion. It’s a feast of joy and honour of this “source and summit” of our life, present in a tiny Host.

The desire for it grew out of a revelation to a saint, Juliana of Liege. When she was 16, she had a mystical vision of the moon: she saw it full, shining in its glory, but noticed a dark spot, a hole, an omission, contained in it. When she asked Jesus what this means, Our Lord told her that this spot, this “omission”, represented the lack of a feast to honour the Blessed Sacrament in the liturgical calendar of the Church. Through her spiritual director, and the local bishop, slowly there emerged (in local calendars) a festival in honour of the Blessed Sacrament, accompanied with what we often see associated with Corpus Christi even today – processions, carpets of flowers, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and, in some places, even a public holiday! Pope Urban IV, eager to promote the feast, and himself once a cleric in Liege, called on a faithful son of the Church, the Angelic Doctor, St Thomas Aquinas, to compose prayers and hymns of the Mass and the Office of the Blessed Sacrament, most of which are used even to this day in honour of the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus. His famous Tantum ergo, the last verses of the Pange lingua, are sung at every Benediction in our church. And, today, we even have a special liturgical poem, called a Sequence, which can be said or sung at all Masses. The Lauda Sion Salvatorem is a glorious hymn urging Sion – the people of God – to praise the Lord, Who is their Saviour. We’ve heard some of the 24 verses that comprise the whole hymn; it is rich in Biblical images of the Holy Eucharist, and how the Lord, Mighty and Strong, has come to save us even today in a small Host, veiled under the accidents of bread and wine. God has made us for Himself, and wills to heal our “holes”, deficiencies and wounds with the gift of Himself.


The First Reading, from Exodus, shows the people sprinkled with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, which unites the wandering Jews – to whom God had given His laws and ordinances – the same Lord, made present in the cloud, light and thunder that accompanied Moses up Mount Sinai when he received the Commandments. They must have recalled the previous sacrifice, then in Egypt, where the households were marked with blood of a lamb before God freed them from slavery. They were not to forget the Lord’s goodness to them as they had once done: the Lord had always will to be close to them, uniting them to Himself by freeing them from the bonds of sin and burden, healing the holes and deficiencies of sin. Was He not the same Lord Who had given Abraham the ram trapped in the thorns to free “Isaac bound”? Would He not continue to honour His promise to Israel, bound to Him in love? These same bound-people, now pilgrims, are fed by Him with “manna to the fathers sent”, as though by the hands of some angel each morning.

And what should Israel do in the face of this goodness of God, Who has “loosened my bonds”? The Psalmist meditates on this with the words the priest uses in the Older Liturgy at the purification of the chalice – “How can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me?” I should offer Him a sacrifice; I should raise the chalice of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord. While the priest is purifying the chalice, catching the smallest fragments of the Host and the tiniest droplets of the Precious Blood, he is conscious that even the smallest Particles there present contain the very substance of God, and are enough to save the whole world. This chalice is not the priest’s, but it is Christ’s Own.

This Sacrifice is the same that is offered on the Cross in Christ’s Blood – not the blood of goats or calves or bulls – but His Own, even in the smallest fragment. And it is this offering, this Sacrifice, this Body and Blood, that we honour today – mystically present on the altar, fulfilling all of the ancient sign-posts and types, in which the Bread of Angels is now given to us. And receiving Him, we are “sprinkled” with His Blood, even by receiving one Sacred Crumb from the hands of the priest. We are bonded more completely to the Lord, Whom we receive. In some sense, it is He Who receives us into Himself, presenting us to the Father as a living sacrifice, healing us, bringing fulfilment to our souls, which are otherwise empty without Him.

How shall we repay the Lord for His goodness to us, in giving us so great a sacrament?


We are something like that Syro-Phoenician woman, who comes to ask Jesus to heal her daughter, possessed by a devil. The Lord tests her faith, saying that the miracles are for the Jews and that their bread should not be given to dogs. But she confesses her faith in the Lord, the Bread of Life, begging to have even a discarded crumb from the Master’s table. And her faith, in the Lord Who now is present in every crumb of the Altar, responding to her faith, makes her daughter well.

What does the Lord require of us? And what does faith in Him, and His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, demand of us?

The Lord requires of us what motivates Him to be present under the appearance of a simple Host: love that embraces humility. We know we are not perfect, but God is healing us. It means not being so attached to our own sinfulness that we can’t go to confession frequently. It means preferring to be a dog at His altar than some other majestic beast at the banquet of some other god. It means being satisfied with even a crumb of His real presence than satisfied by the lavish offerings of things that promise the world, but deliver our death. It demands, as the Sequence tells us, to offer ourselves to Jesus, the True Bread, letting His “love befriend us”, “defend us”, “refresh us” so that His “eternal goodness [will] send us” to the “land of life”, which is Heaven with Him.

It means, like young Saint Juliana, to review the moon of our lives and see the moments where the blacked spots can be made more perfect, more complete, with a lively devotion to Our Great God, Who has made Himself so low and humble as to be present in a little Host for love of us. With Saint Paul, we’re able to examine our consciences, and bring purification with a good confession, being prepared to receive Christ – the medicine of a prepared soul – in Holy Communion. To omit this examination, a good confession and the preparation needed for Holy Communion prevents the graces we receive in Holy Communion from being effective within us. In fact, we “eat condemnation on our souls” (1 Cor. 11:27) without being made ready for God, Who wants to heal us.

What God requires of us He has already demonstrated for us, and which He promises to give us in honour of His humble love. And many other saints inspire us this way, too – St Thomas’ prayers and writings about the Holy Eucharist inspire us to faith in this great truth of our faith, which might deceive the senses, but “Truth Himself speaks truly, or there’s nothing true”. Our holy Father Philip’s whole life was an act of devotion to the Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, that “Treasure” which God has entrusted to us. Saint John Henry Newman knew that the Host contained that very Sacred Heart, which desires us with an eternal desire. And even modern saints – young and short-suffering like Blessed (soon to be saint) Carlo Acutis – call us to see in the Eucharistic Lord our “highway to heaven”, or – more – even the Lord of Heaven Himself.

To receive Jesus in Holy Communion is our joy and our hope. God’s love for us desires us to receive Him, even though we cannot claim to deserve Him. We should be well prepared for Communion, never being tempted to receive the Host without making a good confession – this is how we repay the Lord for His Goodness to us.

But it also means making our whole existence essentially Eucharistic: for the priest never to lend his consecrating hands to any act that would displease the Lord, Who descends miraculously to his grasp. For the faithful, never to let words that bring hurt, dishonour or offence to the Lord, Who allows Himself to come under the roof of our mouths, resting on our tongues. To dress well for the Lord, especially at Holy Mass; the Lord, Who has chosen the humble veils of bread and wine as His Sacramental clothing for us, is greatly honoured when we honour our bodies. To make frequent acts of love to Jesus in the lonely tabernacles of the world, in reparation for all those times when His silent presence there is forgotten or poorly treated. In some sense, we want to try and make Jesus present – in some way – in all of our works, in each of our conversations, in all of our busyness.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Holy Eucharist, that radiant Moon of Reflection, from whom Our Lord took His Flesh and His Blood, continue to honour her Son, Whom we honour in this Solemn Feast. May she, at the words of Consecration, pray for us as we give our lives to the One about Whom she can rightly say, “For this Son is from my body, Who feeds the hungry with good things, and exalts the lowly, Who has called you to do this in memory of Him; do whatever He tells you.” With the Lord having filled us with His Own Body and Blood, our lives will be whole, and holy, and His. May he find in us a radiant “moon”, reflecting His Own love, present in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Amen.