Sunday, June 26, 2011

Every Communion is a Holy Communion

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, June 26, 2011:
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NOTE: I am on vacation this week and so here is a homily from the archives.  I delivered this one in 2005 - FT
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Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, often called simply by its Latin title, Corpus Christi. This feast has been celebrated in the Church since 1264 and is an incredible opportunity for us to reflect on the Eucharist and what it means in our lives; and to give thanks to God for His abiding presence to us through the Body and Blood of His Son. This feast always makes me reflect on different powerful experiences of the Eucharist; First Communions and Last Communions and many others in between.

We think of the little girl or boy, dressed in white, approaching the altar for their First Holy Communion. By this time, there have already been big events in their lives – birthdays, Christmas celebrations, the first day of school. But, this First Holy Communion is in many ways the climax of their young lives. We all witness that as these children move expectantly towards the altar; their eyes transfixed on the Host. With practiced hands they receive the Host and pass it reverently to their lips. God is with these children now, in a temple innocent and pure.

We think of the old woman or man, waiting on their deathbed for their last Holy Communion. There have been big events in their lives too – wedding days, the birth of children, the first time they were called “Mom” or “Grampa.” And now with their last Holy Communion comes the climax of their final years. The priest moves near. They open their eyes as they did in their childhood, raise their white-haired head from the pillow and welcome the Savior with all of the fervor their body will allow. God is with them now, and will be with them for all eternity.

The First Holy Communion is always a fervent one. So is the Last Holy Communion. We bring to the first one the freshness of youth; we bring to the last one the clarity that age brings to life. But, what about all of the communions in between? What about the countless routine trips to and from the altar? Communions missed through indifference or even sin? Does it matter? Well, of course, it does matter; and it matters a great deal; and I’ll give you four reasons why I think so.

First, in Holy Communion, Jesus nourishes us. He gives us food for our souls. In our Gospel passage today, Jesus says, “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.” The Eucharist gives us life. What soil does for a plant, what milk does for a baby, what solid food does for an adult, Holy Communion does for our soul. By receiving regularly and with fervor, we will thrive spiritually on the body and blood of Christ.

Secondly, in Holy Communion, Jesus makes us one with Himself. We know in life that people can be close to each other in many ways – as fellow workers, as friends. The most intimate human relationship we know is that of husband and wife. But, the closest intimacy possible for us is the intimacy found in the Eucharist. Again Jesus says in John, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in them.” It isn’t a question of living with another person, like in marriage, but of living in one another, sharing the same life. In Holy Communion we share the very life of Jesus. This union began in our Baptism, is sealed in Confirmation, but reaches its peak in Holy Communion. And we can reach that peak of intimacy and union each time we receive Holy Communion.

Thirdly, in Holy Communion, Jesus makes us one with each other. This sacrament is not only an intimacy between ourselves individually and Jesus. It is that; but it is also so much more. It is a love affair that embraces the whole community. It is not just my personal communion with Christ; it is our shared communion with each other in Christ. As St. Paul said, “As there is one bread, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one bread.” It is not just a personal sacrament; it is not just a straight line of contact between you and Jesus. It is a social sacrament too, a circle that includes Christ, yourself and all of your brothers and sisters. As communicants, we are not like stones scattered around a field; rather, we are likes stones in a wall, keeping each other in place and being kept in place by others. Or better still, we are not like diners in a restaurant each at their own table; we’re members of a family gathered around a common table – like Jesus and His Apostles at the last supper. When we stand before this altar, it is a sign of our love for each other, a pledge of charity towards each other that finds its source in the Eucharist.

Finally, regular reception of Holy Communion is an assurance of our resurrection. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise [that person] on the last day.” Our individual resurrection may seem remote to us now at this point in our lives, so remote that our mind can’t focus on it. But, as remote as it may seem, the Resurrection is the one event on which we base all our hope. Death is not the supreme reality – eternal life is. We are not born for death; we are born for eternity; for resurrection. And we have it on the word of our Savior that, if we are faithful to the Eucharist, we too will rise on the day of resurrection. It is a mighty thought, a happy thought, a hopeful thought.

And so we pray today that through the great gift of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we may all be nourished, united with our Lord, united with one another and assured of our eternal resurrected home in Heaven. May God increase your love and devotion for the Body and Blood of His Son.

May God give you peace.

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