Corpus Christi and Transformation

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The Second Mass reading for the day is St. Paul’s account in Corinthians of the institution of the Eucharist,

that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

As the reading from Paul suggests, this feast puts our focus on Jesus’ act of transforming bread and wine into His Body and Blood. However, if that is our only focus, we miss a perhaps more important aspect of transformation that we are invited to contemplate today, that is, our transformation.

Talking about the gift of the Eucharist, St. Thomas Aquinas talks about the reality that our receipt of the Eucharist unites us

by faith and charity to Christ who is contained in this Sacrament of the altar; so that the communicant becomes transformed into Christ, and becomes his member. For this divine food is not converted into the receiver, but it converts the receiver into Christ; according to Augustine, “You shall not convert me into you, but you shall be converted into me.” Consequently, this food of the Blessed Eucharist is capable of making men divine, and if filling them with the divinity.

It is worthwhile to spend some time with Aquinas’ words on this day. Jesus didn’t transform bread and wine into His Body and Blood for its own sake. And our receipt of the Eucharist is not just a reenactment of a dinner scene that happened a long time ago. Rather, we are transformed into Christ. That is the transformation we should focus on today.