Saturday, June 9, 2012
"I live in you!"
HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS, Corpus Christi, June 10, 2012:
During a celebration of First Holy Communion, the priest was trying to help the children understand what Holy Communion is all about. He said, "The Bible tells us that Holy Communion is a 'joyful feast'. So, what does that mean? Well, 'joyful' means happy,” he said, “And a feast is a meal. So a 'joyful feast' is a happy meal.” Turning to the kids, he asked, “So, who can tell me what elements we need at Mass for a happy meal?" A little boy put up his hand immediately and said, "I know: a hamburger, fries, and a regular soft drink?"
Well, today, on this joyful feast we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, often called simply Corpus Christi. This feast asks us similarly to reflect on what the Eucharist is all about and what it means in our lives. It is a critical question because too many of us don’t think about the Eucharist that much. Some, believe it is only a symbolic moment; others receive the Eucharist more out of habit than a conscious action of faith. So, this feast provides us an annual opportunity, again, to rethink the Eucharist and revive its power in our lives.
For me, this feast calls to mind 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.
And we also think of the old woman or man who are waiting on their deathbed for the 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 where we all find ourselves today – at one of those countless Holy Communions in between? What about the countless routine trips to and from the altar? Or the 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 the Gospel of John Jesus says, “If you do not eat of the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” What soil does for a plant, what milk does for a baby, what pasta 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, was strengthened 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 also 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, “Anyone who 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 in each of us our love and devotion for the Body and Blood of His Son.
May God give you peace.