19 Jun Corpus Christi
June 18, 2017
Father Shawn Hughes
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you.
I would like to share with you one of the most beautiful stories about the Eucharist that I have ever heard.
I was out for dinner with one of my brother priests recently and he was telling the beautiful account of one of his parishioner’s last few days. The man in his late 80’s had lived a deeply devoted life, but in his last year or so, with the rigours of age and some dementia, wasn’t always clear about what was taking place. Often while receiving Holy Communion he could not find the word ‘Amen’ to respond to Father’s: “The Body of Christ.” In the last couple of days, Father took him Holy Communion for the last time As Father held up the Sacred Host and said “The Body of Christ,” his parishioner, who at times could not even remember his own name, looked lovingly at the Blessed Sacrament and immediately responded “Imagine!” and then reverently received Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and died later that day.
Imagine indeed! We are so privileged that our Lord has so humbled himself as to give Himself to us as spiritual food in Holy Communion: feeding the hunger within us that only God can feed. A hunger articulated by St. Augustine in his famous quote: “Lord, our hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee.” (Confessions) A hunger that according to our first reading the Israelites were led into the desert and made to experience to teach them a valuable lesson: “People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Today’s Scriptures challenge us to seek an authentic relationship with God before anything else so that we will have the wisdom to make correct decisions as well as the grace to generously share all we have of our time, our talents & and our treasure.
God provided manna for the Israelites during their wilderness journey, enabling them to survive. But in the gospel Jesus pointed out that the effects of this manna were temporary – the Israelites grew hungry again and had to continue eating. In today’s gospel Jesus says he will provide a different kind of nourishment. The sustenance He offers will last forever.
Jesus describes Himself as being sent from the Father, as sharing the very life of the Father. He is fully God and fully man. To the people of his time these were remarkable claims. But even more remarkable is His claim in today’s gospel that he will give his own flesh as our food, so that we might share in His divine life. In the Eucharist we have the life of God within us. These claims caused his listeners to argue amongst themselves. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6: 52) they asked. The very next line of today’s gospel states: “After hearing this, many of his followers said, ‘This teaching is difficult. How could anyone accept it? (John 6: 60)…‘After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.’ (John 6: 66)
This was the perfect opportunity for Christ to say, “Wait a minute, what I really meant was that my body and blood will just be symbolized by bread and wine.” As many left, it was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to say: ‘Of course I didn’t mean that bread and wine really would become my body and blood. Don’t be foolish.” The strange thing is he doesn’t say this when they leave. He does not water down his claim. In fact he states again the importance of really eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Seven times throughout this section of Chapter 6 of John’s gospel, called the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus repeats that his flesh is to be eaten and his blood is to be drunk by those who wish to have eternal life. Seven times. Everyone present understood he meant what he said and many of them did not accept it and they left Him. And He did not call them back and clarify….. in fact, underscoring that He meant exactly what he had said he turns to those who remained and asked “Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67b-69)
Those who stayed later, at the Last Supper, understood more deeply what Jesus was saying when He gave us the Sacrament of the Eucharist – his flesh made into our food, his blood made into our drink. He said: “This is my body” “This is my blood.” 1 He did not say this is a symbol of my body, this is a symbol of my blood. He did not say this bread is my body, this wine is my blood. He said: “This is my body” “This is my blood.”
Love gives itself. It gives itself completely. It can’t be superficial. It can’t be symbolic. Love shares its very self completely. Christ loves to the extreme: he gives us his own life. This is what is so beautifully depicted in the image on the front of your bulletins this weekend. Christ gives us his own life and in doing so he shares with us his own divine existence – as we heard in the gospel: “56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.” (John 6:56-57) other translations say “whoever eats me will draw life from me.” (NAB) This is why he gave us Himself in the Eucharist. It is given so that we can receive His life, divine life. This is recalled at the Offertory of every Mass, when the priest or deacon is pouring some water into the wine he prays quietly: “By the mingling of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”
This is the meaning of Holy Communion. It is the sacrament of Love par excellence. It is a great mystery. We will never know how it happens. But we do know that it does happen…. because Jesus has said so AND we know why it happens; he wants us to live forever.
In the face of such love the only appropriate response is to humbly accept this precious gift, relish it and give our own love in return…To Him and to our neighbour. In the face of such love the only response when the priest holds up the Blessed Sacrament and says “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world…” is to fall to our knees saying: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We are not worthy. I am not worthy. You are not worthy. No one on this earth is worthy. But the Word has been spoken and we are healed. He makes us worthy.
The only appropriate response in the face of such love when the priest, the deacon, or extraordinary minister of the Eucharist holds up the Blessed Sacrament and declares “The Body of Christ”…In the face of such love the only appropriate response is an audible “Amen.” Meaning: Yes, It is so, I believe…Not only that this is so but that I am in communion with all the teachings of the Catholic Church. St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 that those who receive without discerning the body and blood of Christ bring judgement on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11: 29)
The only appropriate response in the face of such love is to open our lives completely to His Divine Life being given to us and to allow it to transform us. If we cooperate with this grace this transformation takes place little by little…St. Paul tells that “all of us… are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…” (2 Cor. 3:18). All the grace to draw us into the divine life is given to us in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist.
The only appropriate response in the face of such love is to cooperate with the grace we receive in Holy Communion so that we become more and more like him, in self sacrificial service to those around us, by the lived witness of our lives.
Today we pray, “O Lord, open my eyes so that I will see you as you truly are in this mysterious sacrament and know the depth of Your love for me in giving yourself in the humble form of bread and wine.”
Today on this feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord: in adoration, in awe, in love…we contemplate the unimaginable depth of the love the Lord has for us in giving Himself to us in the Eucharist. He said he would be with us always ‘til the end of the age. (Matthew 28:16) It is in the sacraments that this presence with us becomes real…the divine life of God poured into us in the sacraments worthily received. Imagine!!!
- 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26; Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22: 14-20