Sunday, June 10, 2007

Corpus Christi - homily

I am in a great mood today! Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, one of my favorite feast days of the year. I am in such a good mood that I am going to give out some money. I have a stack of bills here - $ 20, $ 50, and $ 100 bills. Ok, so it’s Monopoly money, but it’s still money! You can still use it as money, right? It looks like money and feels like money. You can take it down to the mall or the grocery store and use it to buy what you need, right? No? So, what you’re telling me is that this money is not real, and is worthless in the real world.

Does anyone know why I would talk about Monopoly money on the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ? It’s because many people – even many Catholics – say that the Eucharist is just Monopoly money. They say it’s not real, and it’s a symbol only. Monopoly money represents money only; it is only a symbol of money. But, it’s not real, and is worthless in the real world. If the Eucharist is only a symbol of the body and blood of Christ, then it’s not real and worthless in the real world.

To those who say that the Eucharist is only a symbol, I ask this: where in the Bible is this taught? Does Jesus teach that the Eucharist is only a representation of his Body and Blood? No! In fact, he teaches the opposite. In John 6, Christ says over and over again that this teaching is for real: “the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you…my flesh is real food, my blood is real drink…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever”.

Now, the people who heard this discourse heard him literally. How do we know? Because they said, “this is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” And, they left Jesus. They had been following him every day; they had seen his miracles and healings, heard his teachings, and witnessed his cures. But, they left him over the Eucharist. And, this is a big point, he didn’t stop them! He didn’t say, ‘hey, you all misunderstood me. I wasn’t speaking literally’. He didn’t do that because he WAS speaking literally! Jesus taught about the Eucharist in John 6, and then instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, as St Paul reminds us in today’s second reading.

The Apostles and disciples took him literally also, and centered their lives on the Eucharist (Acts 2:42). The early Church began to develop a theology of the Eucharist, actually naming it the Eucharist (which means ‘thanksgiving’)around 100 AD. Throughout the history of the Catholic Church is the strong and unwavering teaching that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ under the signs of bread and wine.

I have experienced a daily encounter with Christ in the Eucharist for the past 15 years, thanks be to God. It is really Him! Many of the kids from our school have come to Adoration on Friday nights, where we bring the Eucharist out of the tabernacle onto the altar. Ask the 3rd graders who were here- they’ll tell you they had a real experience of the presence of Jesus, especially when I processed the Eucharist through the Church. Each one of you is invited to experience the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist – certainly in this and every Mass -but, every Friday night here in the Church from 7-8 pm for Adoration… it’s really Him.

Just before Holy Communion at every Mass, I give the invitation for ‘all faithful Catholics come receive our Lord’. I say this, mainly because of what St Paul writes in the few lines after what we hear in the second reading. He says that whoever receives the Eucharist unworthily “brings judgement on himself”. I don’t want anyone receiving unworthily and bringing judgement on himself. That is serious business! To receive worthily means to be in a state of Grace. If we have stepped out of Grace through mortal sin, we can’t receive the Eucharist until we’ve gone to Confession. It itself is a mortal sin to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. I know we worry about what people will think if we don’t receive, but we should be primarily focused on what He thinks. Above anything else, we should respect the Eucharist! It is out of love for Him and for you that I say what I say before Holy Communion.

I preach on the Eucharist so much because it is the love of my life. It is the greatest treasure on Earth! I have experienced so much joy and peace from the Eucharist, and I want to pass that on to you. It’s like what Jesus says in John 15:11: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete”.

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