For almost as long as human persons have been huddled around fires cooking their food, bread has been the staple, and sometimes only, food by which people have been fed. Sacred Scripture is full of signs and images that are related to this humble food – from the bread and wine offered by Melchizedek in the book of Genesis, or the manna in the desert that sustained the Hebrew people, bread is referenced hundreds of times throughout the Bible. In today’s Gospel reading we see yet another reference to bread. Jesus shows us that the manna in the desert, which his followers knew was a symbol of the good things that the Messiah would bring to us, was in fact a figure of the extraordinary gift of the Eucharist; Living bread that gives us life during the whole of our earthly existence and into eternal life. 

Jesus gives himself to us in the most loving way conceivable, not only to humanity as whole, but to each and every person in particular during the reception of Holy Communion. Through his Body and Blood he gives us indispensable strength for the journey, even more sustenance than the Prophet Elijah, who traveled through the desert for forty days with the strength given to him by an angel. Every day we travel a new bit of our path which leads us to heaven, and it’s the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist that is meant to be the singular food that gives vigor to our steps. 

Later, during the first centuries of the Church, the Eucharist was reserved after Mass so that Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, our Living Bread, could be taken to those who couldn’t come to the celebration of the Mass; namely the sick and those who were suffering in prison, awaiting to be martyred for confessing their faith in Jesus. The believers of the early Church treated the reserved Eucharist with the greatest possible reverence, leading to even greater public devotion. We find testimonies in the most ancient documents of the Church to the veneration by the early Christians which would make way for the feast we celebrate today; Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This Solemnity in particular dates back to the thirteenth century, when Pope Urban IV instituted its celebration for the entire Church. The meaning of this feast is the prayerful devotion to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

From the very early Church until now, it is Our Lord and God, the creator of the universe and the savior of all humanity, who awaits us under the guise of bread in the tabernacles of each and every Catholic Church throughout the world. When we go to visit the Blessed Sacrament we can say, in the very literal meaning of the words, “I am in the presence of Jesus. I am in front of God.” We can be fully confident in those words, just as his disciples were as they encountered him on the roads and streets of Jerusalem. Our faith pierces the veil of the tabernacle and finds Jesus, truly present, waiting for us to make an act of faith, love, or thanksgiving. The same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, who was carried in the arms of Mary and Joseph in the flight to Egypt, who grew up in Nazareth, and who died and rose on the third day and who now sits at the right hand of God the Father, patiently waits for you in the tabernacle of your parish. Never be afraid to seek him there, and worship the God who loves you.