Monday, June 07, 2010

Solemnity of Corpus Christi - homily

We are on summer break at the Newman Center. There are some students who are around this summer, mainly because they are working in D.C. These students are unbelievable! It is summer but they still want to go deeper in their faith. They not only wanted to continue with our weekly Bible Study, they asked to do an 8-week series on the story of the Bible. We are getting more students for that than for our Bible Study during the year! And, then, last week they asked if we go do Eucharistic Adoration which we did for 2 hours on Wednesday night. I wouldn’t mind a bit of a summer break (!), but I am totally impressed and inspired by GW students regularly. They are great kids!

Today we celebrate one of the greatest feasts in the Church’s year: the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ…can I get an “Amen”? Amen! Speaking of the Bible, the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is presented very clearly in Sacred Scripture. In John 6, Jesus teaches about the Eucharist. He says over and over again that “my flesh is real food, my blood is real drink” and “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”. Then, at the Last Supper, he instituted the Eucharist with these words: “this is my body”. Acts 2:42 tells us that the early Christians centered their life on the “breaking of bread”, the Eucharist. In our second reading, we hear that St. Paul handed on what he received from the Lord, namely the tradition of celebrating the Eucharist. Today’s first reading and Gospel give fuller meaning to our sacred weekly ritual with the priest Melchizedek offering bread and wine as a blessing for Abram. This was a preview to the Eucharist. And Jesus, the high priest, blessing bread and fish to feed five thousand in an eucharistic manner. So, the teaching that the Eucharist is for real is found throughout Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church. To be Catholic means to believe in the Eucharist.

And yet, the majority of Catholics don’t believe in the Eucharist. Studies from years ago found that 70% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is only a symbol. Where do they get that? I’ve asked myself that very question because for the first 20 years of my life – after 12 years of Catholic education – I thought that the Eucharist was just a symbol. And, this affected the way I approached coming to Mass every week as it does the 70%: coming late, leaving early, not dressing reverently, not being attentive or participating fully. If people don’t believe that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ at every Mass, then they will show it outwardly. I think that people don’t believe because they don’t know. They haven’t heard the teaching of John 6 on a regular basis. They don’t know what I learned when I was 21: “this is my body” means this is my body.

“This is my body” means this is my body. Can I get an “Amen”? Jesus doesn’t say “this symbolizes my body” or “this represents my body”. His teaching on the Eucharist in John 6 is clearly literal. He repeats the teaching over and over again and the people hear him speaking literally. The Apostles took Him literally and were the only ones who believed Him. They passed it on and the Church has believed it ever since and made the Eucharist the center of her life. The Eucharist is for real! I have staked my life on it. I ask you to do the same. Be among the 30% who believe that “this is my body” means this is my body. Show your faith in Jesus’ words and the Church’s tradition in word and deed. Come to Mass on time – even a few minutes early to prepare for this amazing event – and stay until the final blessing (or, be like the saints who prayed in thanksgiving after Mass for the incredible gift that they just received). Be attentive during Mass, most especially at the Consecration when the priest says, “this is my body…this is my blood” (when the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ). Fully participate in the liturgy – hey, if I can sing, anyone can sing…and you probably want to drown me out anyway). Wear your Sunday best for Jesus; as the Old Testament says in a few places, “worship the Lord in holy attire”. And, when the minister says to you at Communion, “the Body of Christ”, you say: “Amen”. Amen…I believe. I believe that what is placed in my hand or on my tongue is the Risen Body of Christ. In all of these ways, we show our belief and trust in the Lord that “this is my body” means this is my body.

Finally, we don’t know HOW the change in bread and wine takes place; we believe THAT it takes place. We believe that God can do all things. If He can change water into wine; if He can walk on water; if He can rise from the dead; then, He can turn bread and wine into His Body and Blood. And, why does He do this? Why does He become so small and vulnerable for us? Because He loves us so much and wants to be so close to us that He wants to be in us. He wants to be in our lives so intimately and wants us to be in His life so intimately. As we prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist tonight, let us reflect on what we are about to receive: the greatest treasure on earth. And let us respond to this gift at Communion and throughout our lives by saying clearly, “Amen!”


Matt Shoemaker said...

Father! As I just found out yesterday- while the Church commemorates and remembers the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, Corpus Christi is specifically celebrating "the greatest Treasure Christ has given Holy Church." AWESOME

Anonymous said...

Over the last four years, I’ve been fortunate enough to begin to discover the intricacies of the Eucharist. What I’m learning is that the understanding the Eucharist is not a one time, “I get it” moment - it’s a culmination of many “I get it” moments.

A few years ago I heard the bread of life discourse mentioned in a homily. I didn’t know what the priest was talking about. I kept my ignorance (and pride) to myself and went on-line to see what I could learn. I found an article that referenced a prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit philosopher that I’d never heard of. Teilhard de Chardin’s prayer is heavy reading, but after reading it a few times, the end of his second sentence jumped out at me.

“Lord God, when I go up to your altar for communion, grant that I might derive from it a discernment of the infinite perspectives hidden beneath the smallness and closeness of the host within which you are concealed. Already I have accustomed myself to recognize beneath the inertness of the morsel of bread a consuming power which, as the greatest doctors of your Church have said, far from being absorbed into me, absorbs me into itself.”

When I read, “…far from being absorbed into me, absorbs me into itself” I felt like I’d been hit on the head with a 4x 4. I realized I’d been approaching communion with the thought of Christ becoming part of me but never, ever thought in terms of me becoming part of Christ. John 6: 56, “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him” took on a whole new meaning for me. At that moment, I realized the obligation that comes with my assent, my “Amen” to the priest’s, “…through Him, with Him and In Him…”.

A second truth that I believe the Eucharist reveals has to do with suffering. Pain and suffering are something I have a hard time grasping and embracing. I was thinking about the Eucharist I realized that when I receive Christ’s body, I have to be willing to take the whole package –the good, the bad and the ugly. I know I want the salvation end of His deal, the good stuff – who wouldn’t want eternal life surrounded by nothing but calm and love? But, at that moment, I realized that suffering goes hand in hand with salvation. It's all part of eternal life. Somehow the suffering we all endure made a little more sense.