Monday, June 27, 2011

Corpus Christi Homily 2011

Cross posted at

A little over a month ago I was flying home from Denver, seated next a farmer from Arlington. This man, a Baptist, quickly asked me questions of faith, probing into the book of Genesis and the story of creation. We quietly debated creation and evolution as the plane took off. At several points he said: “I’m just trying to take the Word of God simply, read it for what it says and not add other things into it.” So I asked him, “What about John chapter 6?”

I don’t know how our Lord could make things any simpler than he does today. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” The Body and Blood of Christ is truly present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. This Feast of Corpus Christi honors this greatest of ongoing miracles.
The Eucharist, in many ways, is the highest expression of our faith and so it is always a comfort and a challenge to us. Jesus in the Eucharist comforts us when we suffer from sin and sadness and he challenges us when we cooperate with sin.

The Eucharist comforts us when we suffer under sin. The Eucharist offers us comfort at funerals, the promise of help at weddings, and final strength when we receive it on our deathbed. When St. John Vianney received his final communion, as he lay sick and dying he said: “How kind the good God is! When we are able to no longer go to him, he himself comes to us!” The warm red glow of the tabernacle lamp greets us from within the darkened Church as we make a visit when we’re torn, confused, or weighed down.
The Eucharist challenges us when we cooperate with sin. Do we receive the Eucharist in a prepared way? Do we fast before Mass? Do we go to regular confession? If we are aware of mortal sin do we abstain from receiving the Eucharist until we confess? Do we live a life that corresponds to the “amen” we say? Do we act like the Eucharist is our Lord and Savior? Do we kneel and pray after we receive Jesus? Do we live after Mass like Jesus is living in us?

One of the greatest challenges of the Eucharist is to be too familiar. You’ve heard the phrase, “familiarity breeds contempt.” Do we approach the Eucharist lie it is any old bread, any old morsel of food? In 1969 when Pope Paul VI allowed us to receive the Precious Body in our own hands, he said: “The option offered to the faithful of receiving the Eucharistic bread in their hand and putting it into their own mouth must not turn out to be the occasion for regarding it as ordinary bread or as just another religious article. Instead this option must increase in them a consciousness of the dignity of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, into which they are incorporated by baptism and by the grace of the Eucharist. It must also increase their faith in the sublime reality of the Lord’s body and blood, which they touch with their hand.”

Examine your own attitude in receiving the Sacred Body of Jesus. Is it ordinary bread or even just another religious article? Something mysterious and powerful is going on here. At the end of our Gospel passage today, close to 5000 people quit following Jesus because of what we just heard about the Eucharist: body and blood, true food and drink. My new Baptist friend from the plane doesn’t believe John chapter 6 either. We who strive after Jesus in the Eucharist must not forget to find the balance between comfort and challenge. Perhaps this prayer will help us. It is the one the priest prays privately before he himself receives the Eucharist: “Lord Jesus Christ, with faith in your love and mercy I eat your body and drink your blood. Let it not bring me condemnation but health in mind and body.”