Gen 14:18-20; I Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11-17
The Pelican is excessively dedicated to its young one. The pelican collects small fish and stores in the pouch at its neck. In the process of feeding them the bird presses the pouch against its neck. There is a reddish tinge at its breast plumage and redness at the tip of its beak.All these specialties of the pelican have given rise to a legend of the Pelican feeding its young with its own blood.
The mother Pelican pierces its breast, opens her side and lays herself across her young pouring out her blood over the young. The young ones feed on the mother’s blood and revive strength and come back to life. This symbol of pelican was used by the medieval church to indicate the sacrifice of Jesus.
Today we are celebrating the feast of the Body and blood of Christ. This feast reminds us of the great sacrifice of Jesus and His command to his disciples, “Do this in memory of me.”
From the time of the election of the Israelites God’s presence was manifested in various ways among them. Moses received 10 commandments in Mount Sinai. As he brought it to the people they made a Tabernacle and placed the Tablets in it. The presence of God lingered over the tabernacle.
God’s presence has always been with His people in various ways. He manifests himself through the astounding beauty and immensity of creation itself. Through the voice of the prophets, through the wisdom of the sages, and finally God manifested Himself in human form through Jesus. Jesus at his departure instituted the Eucharist to continue his presence with his people. St Francis of Assisi who had a profound experience of Jesus declared, "Just as He appeared before the holy Apostles in true flesh, so now He has us see Him in the Sacred Bread. For in this way our Lord is ever present among those who believe in him, according to what He said: "Behold, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world." (Mt. 28, 20)
In addition to the presence of God, throughout the Old Testament God expresses His concern for the people. During the exodus when the people craved for food God sent them the heavenly bread, “Manna” which people ate and they were satisfied. The Scripture says, “He provided Manna which neither you nor your fathers had experienced before (Deut 8:3). When they were thirsty God asked Moses to strike the rock and water gushed forth. Prophet Jeremiah preached to the people (Jeremiah 9:15) “Therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, and give them water”. In the New Testament we have numerous instances where Jesus expressed his concern for the poor and hungry. The miracle of multiplication of bread to feed the crowd is an instance of Jesus’ concern for them.
The Eucharist, therefore, is the symbol of God’s presence. St Maximilian Kolbe wrote, “God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.” It is the symbol of God’s concern and God’s immeasurable love. St. Peter Julian Eymard expressed it as, “The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but Heaven itself.” Jesus is present among us in Eucharist. And we keep the Eucharist most venerably in the tabernacle.
When we receive the Holy Communion we become the tabernacle where Jesus is present. So Maximilian Kolbe says, ‘If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” Hence, it is binding on us that we should keep the tabernacle, ourselves, holy. St Francis de Sales preached to the people, “When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage, welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.” Blessed Damian dedicated his life for the service of the lepers. It was a hard choice. He said, “Blessed Sacrament is, indeed, the stimulus for me to forsake all worldly ambitions.”