Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bringing what we have

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, May 29, 2016:

During a celebration of First Holy Communion, a priest was trying to help the children understand what Holy Communion is all about. He said, “Holy Communion is a ‘joyful feast’. So, what does that mean? Well, ‘joyful’ means happy 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 we need at Mass for a happy meal?” One boy chimed in and said, “I know, a happy meal includes a hamburger, fr



ies, a regular coke, and a prize.”

Today, of course, we commemorate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, often called simply Corpus Christi. This feast invites us to reflect on the tremendous gift of the Eucharist and what it means in our lives. We could view this in many ways – how the Sacrifice of the Cross is related to our celebration; what it means to say that Jesus is truly and fully present in this bread and wine made Body and Blood; or how we need a greater devotion to the Eucharist today.

In my preparation for today, I was reading the homily of Pope Francis for today’s feast. In his homily, the Pope focused on our part in this miraculous exchange. We often focus on what the bread and wine become, or the way Jesus established the priesthood to continue this miraculous presence for all time. But, Pope Francis reminds us that the Eucharist requires something from us, too.

The Pope said, “Jesus says to the disciples in front of the tired and hungry crowds: ‘Give them something to eat yourselves’. Indeed, it is Jesus who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish. Jesus wanted it this way: that, instead of sending the crowd away, the disciples would put at his disposal what little they had…This needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.”

This is the intended goal of the Eucharist – that we will bring whatever we have to the Lord and allow Him to bless it and consecrate it and make it holy – and then, we go out to the world as His presence to feed, house, forgive, heal and transform what we find there. We might find this thought overwhelming and near impossible. We might feel like the disciples who, when Jesus asked them to feed the more than 5,000 people, said, “Five loaves and two fish are all that we have.” How could what they ever do what Jesus asks, given the little they bring?

And yet, this is how sacrament always works. We bring something to God and He transforms it into His real presence in us and through us to the world. What we bring is usually meager. In baptism, we bring simple drops of water, and God transforms that into belonging and membership in His family, wiping away the stain of original sin. In confession, we bring the absolute worst parts of who we are, we bring our deepest sins, our greatest mistakes, our painful experiences, and God transforms even those scarlet sins into the bright whiteness of forgiveness and healing. And here in the Eucharist, we bring simple bread and mediocre wine, and God transforms that into Himself for us. Don’t worry about what you bring to God – He only asks that we offer what we have, no matter how seemingly inadequate; and He will transform it into joy and healing, into compassion and peace – into Himself for the world, through us.

Today reminds us that our devotion and love of the Eucharist has to be more than a static appreciation of what happens on the altar. We are reminded that we are integral to its effectiveness – both by bringing who we are and allowing God to transform us as he transforms the bread and wine – to be His presence healing the wounds of our world.

A few years ago, speaking on the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, the Pope spoke of being that healing presence. He said, “We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy – giving to the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked, because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he's in jail, because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today. We need to touch these wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus, and this literally. Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed.”

So, what does it take to make this happy meal today, this joyful feast, this Eucharistic banquet? It takes you and me and the powerful work of God and our willingness to change our lives and change the world. As God, today, once again changes this bread and wine into His very presence, let us also place ourselves on the altar and ask that He change us so that we might bring his love and joy, healing and forgiveness to our broken world.

May the Lord give you peace.

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