Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Body & Blood of Christ
The Body and Blood of Christ - Cycle B - Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
When Albania was still a Communist nation, Mother Teresa paid a visit to her homeland. In the office of the Communist dictator, she heard him say defiantly, "Jesus will never return to Albania while I am in charge." The ninety pound wizened woman was laughing to herself all the time. She was carrying Jesus in a pyx pinned to her sari by a cheap safety pin. She believed Jesus had returned to Albania under the appearance of bread.
When push comes to that famous shove, it doesn't matter what Mother Teresa or you or I believe about the Eucharist. What does matter is what Christ Himself believes about it. For the answer one must go to the record. Today's Gospel of Mark is as good a place to start as any.
The Master, who had a great fondness for the simple declarative sentence, spoke His mind clearly on the question. In clean, unqualified prose, He said, "...this is my body...this is my blood." If Christ meant the Eucharist to be nothing but a symbol, He chose the worst kind of language to express His intentions. But, as history attests, Jesus was a master of words before whom even Shakespeare must bow.
One of the oldest symbols for Jesus the Christ in Christian art is the pelican. It is not a pretty bird, but it does deliver the goods. When fish are foolish enough to swim near the water's surface, the pelican dive-bombs to retrieve them for its young. However, when fish prove smarter than the pelican and stay deep in the waters, its children need not wonder where their next meal is coming from.
The pelican bites into its flesh and blood to feed its brood. This is precisely what the Christ does for us. Nor does He wait for an emergency like the pelican. Rather, He gives Himself to us each day of the week. There are limits to human affection and generosity but, happily for us, not to Christ's.
In John 14:18, Jesus promised He would not leave us orphans. He has kept His word. He has left Himself to us in the Eucharist. Today we salute His thoughtful generosity on this seven hundred year old feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.
It was not by accident that the Teacher chose bread to represent His flesh. It is one of the staples of our life. It can be made easily and quickly even by neophyte cooks in the most primitive ovens. Or it can be purchased for a few coins. One finds it on the tables of both the poor and rich at every meal all over the world. Jesus is reminding us as graphically as He might that His presence with us is not confined merely to grand occasions. He is ours whenever we wish. Bread is both a healthy food and a wonderful energy supplier. Transfer the latter characteristics into spiritual language and one must heartily applaud the choice of Christ. He takes everyday table bread and by His divine power turns it into WONDER BREAD.
Psalm 104:15 advises us that God gives us wine to gladden our hearts. What better drink then could Christ have chosen than wine to represent His blood? If bread fills our stomachs, then wine gives wings to our spirits. Christ not merely puts simple food on the Eucharist table, but also He has not forgotten to give us rich desert. In any list of the great hosts of the world, one must find Christ's name. He leaves nothing to chance. He thinks of everything. His is a five star operation. If we are spiritually undernourished, it is not the fault of the Master.
Once we receive the Eucharist, "the seed of God," as Meister Eckhart would remind us, "is in us. As pear seeds grow into pear trees and as nut seeds grow into nut trees, so God seeds grow into God." With the Eucharist, we should be transformed people.
Many people about us are anxiously seeking a sign of God's concern and love for them. Unhappily they are in the same position as the shipwrecked sailors who were dying of thirst. They shouted hoarsely to a native on shore for water. They were completely unaware their lifeboat had drifted into a fresh water cove. The native shouted back to them, "Dip your bucket where you are." Perhaps you and I should play the role of that native this week for our own family and friends. We should urge them to dip their bucket into the Eucharist.
The monk says, " Being close to Christ is not a prize He challenges us to earn. It is a gift He invites us to accept."
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Body & Blood of Christ
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord:
The Food of Christianity
Our society has perfected the concept that if a statement is made enough times, no matter how outlandish it might be, then the statement is given some degree of credibility. We particularly see this in politics where the facts often have little to nothing to do with the so-called truth of a situation. Lenin is quoted as saying: “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” So, in 1991 in an effort to prevent a pro-life vote from having a seat on the Supreme Court, a woman, Anita Hill, made an outlandish accusation against the nominee, Clarence Thomas. Even though her claims were shown to be thoroughly false, and even though parts of her testimony were shown to have come verbatim from a filthy novel, Justice Thomas has been permanently stained and Anita Hill remains a martyr to sexual harassment. Her outlandish statements were given credibility by sheer repetition.
On the other side of the political fence, Senator John Kerry was a decorated war hero receiving purple hearts for heroism during the Vietnam War. But even though every member of his Swift boat crew present during Kerry’s heroism asserted that the events did take place as the navy determined, ludicrous statements questioning the events were made over and over during the 2004 campaign by an opposing group of Swift boat veterans, none of whom were present. The result was that their statements were given a degree of credibility, probably costing Kerry the election.
Similarly, there are false statements made against Roman Catholics that gain credibility by their sheer repetition. One of these claims is that Catholicism is adverse to Sacred Scripture and that Scripture is not part of the Catholic prayer life. You will meet Catholics who believe this, even though two-thirds of every Mass is devoted to reading, praying over, and developing scripture, and even though every sacramental rite begins with scripture. The clergy, religious and many of the laity pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily, prayers made up of Psalms and readings from other sections of the bible. Most parishes have scripture study and prayer groups such as those led here by Deacons Edgerton and Moschetto, and Fr. Molloy and myself. Still, you will come upon Catholics who will state that we avoid scripture in the Catholic Church, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the inaccurate anti-Catholic statements.
I’m presenting this because one of the thoroughly false statements made against Catholics over and over again is that Catholics do not develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I really can’t think of anything more ludicrous. Not only do we speak directly to the Lord in our prayer life, the deepest treasure of our faith is our personal meeting with Christ every time we receive communion.
It is to remind us of the value we place on this personal contact with the Lord that the Church celebrates the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi. When we receive communion, we receive the real presence of Jesus Christ. This is our treasure. There is nothing we value more in our spiritual lives than our union with Christ in the Eucharist. A few years ago we were given the gift of a presentation by Fr. Thomas Hagan of Hands Together for Haiti. I remember he said that he loved being a Roman Catholic and that he could not get through a day without the Eucharistic presence of the Lord, without receiving communion.
Our sacramental communion with the Lord is fundamental to our prayer life. This desire to receive the Eucharist sets the course of our moral lives, as we reach out to others in charity and become a Eucharistic people, a people who wash the feet of their neighbors. At the same time, our desire to cultivate the presence of Jesus within us and share in his Eucharistic Presence determines the choices we make, choices to be a moral people open to the Presence of Christ not just in our statements of faith but in our living the faith.
The great prayer, the central prayer, of the Church is the Mass. It is in the Mass that we recreate the paschal mystery of the Last Supper, Death and Resurrection of the Lord and then share in this mystery by taking the Paschal Lamb within us. Every Mass is a battle for the Kingdom which we participate in through our determination to live the Eucharist we receive, our determination to be Christlike.
The reception of the Eucharist is also an act that is Catholic and Orthodox. Yes, other Christian faiths have communion celebrations, but for Catholics and Orthodox, the reception of the Eucharist is far more than a meal of fellowship. It is taking Jesus within us. When we receive communion our personal relationship with the Lord is brought to a new level. We have Jesus within us. We speak to Him. We celebrate Him.
And then, if we are truly Eucharistic, we bring Him to others. For to the degree that we bring the Presence of the Lord to others, to that degree we exercise our Catholic identity. So, when Fr. Hagan cares for the people of the slums of Haiti, when Blessed Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity and priests, religious and laity throughout the world care for the suffering, when we reach out to the hurting people of our own society, be it in our families, our country or our world, then we are living our Catholicism, we are living the Eucharist. We love Jesus so much that we want to make His Presence a reality for others. We bring this personal relationship with the Lord that is the heart of our faith to those who long for meaning, purpose, and for a love that does not end.
Today is a day when Catholics throughout the world will follow the Eucharist in a procession. There is a wonderful symbolism to this liturgical action. We follow the Eucharistic Presence wherever the Lord might lead us. This means making decisions to step away from the security of friends and into the arms of impoverished strangers. It means standing up for the unpopular way of Jesus Christ, in contra position to being immersed in the popular pagan way of life. It means choosing someone to make a life with based on his or her spiritual depth, not his or her external looks. It means choosing a life full of sacrifice rather than a life full of self indulgence.
To receive the Eucharist is to live the Life of Jesus Christ. We enter into the New Covenant with the Lord on a regular basis whenever we receive communion. Do we Catholics cultivate a personal relationship with the Lord? Of course. Our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is real, living and Eucharistic.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* available in Spanish - see Spanish homilies
Body & Blood of Christ
Most Precious Possession
(June 3, 2012)
Bottom line: As we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we recognize the Eucharist as our most precious possession. In spite of life's disappointments and tragedies - and in spite of our own sins and failings - the Eucharist makes it through.
Today is Corpus Christi Sunday - the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. To illustrate the role of the Eucharist in our lives and in human history, I ask you to imagine this scene:
It is an intersection with a stoplight. On one corner a boy shows off his new bike while another looks on with sad eyes. Behind them a lady consumes her second chocolate sundae. Across the street a store owner counts his money while the hired hand lies back in a chair and a youth flips through magazines. A driver honks his horn at the car ahead of him. As the light turns green, a parish minister drives through to take Communion to a nursing home.
What does this scene represent? First, it illustrates the seven capital sins. The employee laying back in his chair represents sloth or laziness. The lady with the second sundae is gluttony. The boy flipping through magazines, lust. The owner counting money, avarice or greed. The driver honking, anger or rage. The boy with the bicycle - a certain kind of pride. The bicycle is not so much a means of transport as a way of showing his superiority. The other boy is looking on with envy. He doesn't so much want his own bicycle as he wants the proud boy to have a wreck!
We can all recognize the capital sins. They effect even children. And when you look at human history, you can see that arrogance, envy, greed, wrath and so one have been at the root of our conflicts. They make human history a sad story.
But there is something else here. At that intersection, when the light turns green, the Eucharist goes through it all. The Eucharist makes it through - even our sins and failures.
Blessed Pope John Paul II said, "the Eucharist is the Church's most precious possession in her journey through history." In this life - so often marked by disappointment and tragedy - we have nothing greater that the Body and Blood of Christ.
I have been a priest for over forty years. I have had my good days and bad days - lazy days and crazy days. I have shared wonderful joy with people, but also horrendous suffering. Through it all, what has sustained me is the Eucharist. My greatest privilege has been to celebrate Mass.
I hope the Lord gives me more years of priestly service. But, I have to say that one of my great inspirations is a man who had a very short priesthood. His name was Karl Leisner. He was teenager when the Nazis took control of Germany. As a theology student, he worked to form youth groups independent of the government. In 1939, at the age of 24, the famous Bishop Galen ordained him a deacon. That same year the Nazis arrested Deacon Leisner and sent him to the Dachau concentration camp. For five years he suffered extreme mistreatment and humiliation. On December 17, 1944, a French bishop - who was a fellow prisoner - ordained Karl Leisner to the priesthood. Liberation came in May, but Fr. Leisner was so ill that he died a few months later.
Pope John Paul beatified Karl Leisner when he visited Berlin in 1996. The feast day of Blessed Karl Leisner is August 12, the date of his death. He was a priest for less than eight months. To celebrate Mass in prison and afflicted with tuberculosis was a Calvary for the young priest.
Although few of us - please God - will have to suffer as Blessed Karl Leisner did, still for us the Eucharist is Calvary. When we participate in Mass, we stand at the foot of the cross together with the Blessed Virgin, St. John and all the saints.
As we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we recognize the Eucharist as our most precious possession. In spite of life's disappointments and tragedies - and in spite of our own sins and failings - the Eucharist makes it through. Amen.
Homily from Father Andrew M. Greeley
Body & Blood of Christ
Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many"
The gospel today is of course Eucharistic in its intent. While the story happened before the last supper, it became part of the Gospel after the last supper and for the early Christians it was an allusion to the last supper.
It connected the ordinary food that God serves us at our regular meals, the extraordinary food Jesus served at the multiplication of the loaves, and the supernatural food of the Eucharist. The point is that there is a continuity between a family supper and the Eucharist. Both refer to one another. Both tell us something about each other.
The Eucharist invades our home and sanctifies our regular meals. And our regular meals illumine the Eucharist as a family and community feast.
Remember the two little kids who (as they would later tell the story) “almost drowned” in the storm on the lake? After their father had brought them ashore, what did he do? Well, of course, he gave them something to eat. Now their father was not much of a cook and their mother had gone shopping with their big sister. So he didn’t know quite what to give them to eat. What would you like to eat, he asked them. Ice cream, said the little boy. Chocolate ice cream said the little girl. With chocolate sauce, the little boy insisted. And whipped cream the little girl added. And raspberries, the little boy finished their litany of wants.
Well, the father wasn’t even very good at making chocolate ice cream sundaes with raspberries and chocolate sauce and whipped cream. But his little kids wanted it and they had just recovered from at terrible scare so he did his best. And do you know what else he did? WELL, he cut a banana down the middle for each of them and emptied the whipped cream can and called it all a banana split. And the kids love every bite of it.
And you know why the daddy made the banana splits for them (and they didn’t even know what a banana split was!)? Sure you know why!
He was their daddy and he loved them.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Body & Blood of Christ
The Body and Blood of Christ
Mark: 14:12-16, 22-26
The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, which we call the Eucharist, is not just one of the seven Sacraments. It is the supreme Christian Sacrament and it is presented as such in all the Gospels. Mark makes it clear that Jesus instituted this Sacrament during a Passover meal, which in turn re-enacts the central Exodus event in the history of Israel. For Jesus, this Sacrament interprets his own dying and rising as the definitive Exodus--the supreme act of liberation from bondage--now intended for all people and for all time. This represents for us, therefore, the ultimate liberation from sin and death…and therefore from the bondage of guilt and fear and despair.
In this profoundly symbolic action at the Last Supper, Jesus reveals to his disciples the meaning of his imminent death and resurrection. He will not be dying as a misguided idealist, who loses everything at the end and who is believed by some naïve persons to have been somehow victorious. Rather, he is one who freely gives his life for others and whose love leads directly to his resurrection, since God cannot ignore such generous and unselfish love.
The earlier readings in today's liturgy, taken from the Book of Exodus and the Letter to the Hebrews, make it clear that participation in this Sacrament implies a solemn covenant, by which we commit ourselves to the kind of unselfish love that we see in the life and death of Jesus.
It is important to take seriously the words of Jesus about the reality of his presence among us in the Eucharist. It is a mistake, however, to think that the profound symbolic meaning of this Sacrament is in any way incompatible with its reality as the very Body and Blood of the Lord. In fact, if the reality alone is emphasized, there is always the danger of a simplistic and magical understanding of this Sacrament.
When we truly appreciate the symbolic and universal meaning of the Eucharist, we will see it, not only as the supreme example of the love of Jesus, but also as a claim on all who receive it to make that unselfish love the central feature of their own lives. In other words, we must by all means reverence this Sacrament and receive it with great devotion, but it is even more important to live its meaning when we return to our workaday lives. Receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord and continuing to be self-centered and insensitive at home or at work is clearly a serious contradiction.
It is very difficult, of course, to be truly and consistently dedicated to unselfish service. When we receive the Eucharist with profound awareness of its true meaning, we experience the reality of God's love for us and, as that experience deepens, we become ever more free to be the kind of loving presence in our world that Jesus calls us to be.
The importance of all this becomes clear when we realize that our participation in the victory of Jesus will ultimately depend on how well we have lived his message of love and concern for others. In other words, in the end it will be the quality of our loving that will be decisive and not just the frequency of our reception of the Eucharist. It is precisely that dedication to unselfishness in all we do that will enable us to join Jesus in his glorious resurrection. Honoring and receiving the Eucharist will surely help us to live in that way but it is our loving care and concern for others that will make the Eucharist victorious in our lives.
Father Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Cusick
http://www.christusrex.org/www1/mcitl/lowhome.html Meeting Christ in the Liturgy
Body & Blood of Christ
Genesis 3:9-15; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35
Brethren in Christ,
We interrupt the customary greeting to bring you the following important message: "Who are my mother and my brethren? Here are my mother and my brethren! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister and mother." (Mark 3, 33-35) Obedience makes us the family of God!
Should the scriptural concept of "brethren", which in this case means cousins (see CCC 500), be rejected because other words better express the truth about man created by God as male and female? It may certainly be true that for some members of the Body of Christ certain forms of address are seen to exclude. In authentic Christianity, however, differences of opinion, some very legitimate, are never more urgent for the Body of Christ than the essential unity of our one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Language excludes only those who place a higher priority upon words and a lower priority upon the truth which those words are used to express. We are all "brethren" of Christ, his brothers, sisters and mothers, when we do the will of God.
In today's Gospel good is likewise called evil. Christ is accused of working with the devil in exorcising the people of possession by demons. "He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." (Mark 3, 22) But even the devil requires unity, for he must have the obedience of the demons in order to do his malicious work. "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. (Mark 3, 23-24) Christ points out the sinfulness of those who further the devil's work of division by attacking his good works, "for they had said, 'he has an unclean spirit.' " (Mark 3, 30) "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin." (Mark 3, 28-29). By calling evil good and good evil one sins against the Holy Spirit through whom all good comes. Attacking the unity of the Church by distorting or changing the words, prayers, actions or signs of the liturgy brings disunion and division and can never be called "good". The liturgy belongs to the whole Church and is not the province of one or a few. Worship "in spirit and in truth" is obedient to the norms of the liturgy.
Unity is brought about by one people who profess and proclaim one Word of God and who worship God according to the one Eucharist. The Church preserves unity by guarding the Scriptures and the liturgy for the sake of unity. Our unity is essential and is made a reality by Christ, not by choice of words or language. We are brethren when and as we are obedient to God's will for unity in the Church by the power of the Spirit, the Lord and giver of life. The Holy Spirit, poured out at Pentecost, is given to those who obey God. Those who obey the charism of unity are blessed by the Holy Spirit of love.
For the sake of unity we are willing to sacrifice our preferences for language or custom, time or place and devote ourselves generously to the perfect expression of our unity: the liturgy, the "public work" of the People of God. When in Rome Catholics from every nation under heaven are able, in a beautiful expression of the unity of the Church, to pray together. They do so in Latin, the language of our Roman Rite. This tongue, though foreign to some, becomes in the liturgy a good for all because it is the language by which oneness is proclaimed and made visible.
By mandating the what and how of the liturgy the Church sacrifices the preferences of individuals for the sake of holy unity. Unity in the liturgy, for example through vernacular translation faithful to the Latin norm, expresses the perfection that Christ has given to his bride, the Church, in making her one and universal. The one faith in Christ is proclaimed most compellingly throughout the world today in those places where the liturgy is preserved as an authentic expression of the universal Church. Evangelism starts with authentic liturgy.
I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(Publish with permission.) http://www.christusrex.org/www1/mcitl/
(For further reading on today's Gospel see also the following paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 500, 539, 548, 574, 1864 .)
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Body & Blood of Christ
The inauguration of the Holy Eucharist is celebrated first and foremost on Maundy Thursday in its natural place the night before Jesus died on the Cross. But because that celebration takes place very much in the context of the sadness of the events of Christ’s passion and death, the Church gives us this second feast in the course of the year to help us to get to explore more fully the Eucharist, the commemoration of the Last Supper.
Two Sundays ago we celebrated Pentecost and last Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Blessed Trinity and now we commemorate the Blessed Eucharist. There is a certain logic in this sequence of celebrations.
Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church and on the Feast of the Blessed Trinity we look at the very nature of God himself. Today in the Feast of Corpus Christi we examine how God continues to make himself present to his Church, how he sustains and nourishes us. And he achieves all this principally through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
On the night before he died Jesus gave his disciples a Last Supper. It was a meal with a difference. It was a meal during which, and through which, he showed them the very depths of his love.
He gave them special instructions both by word and example; the example being the washing of feet. And then, as we know, he took the bread, blessed and broke it and said: this is my body which is given up for you. Do this as a memorial of me. And then he did the same with the wine.
By these actions Jesus brought into focus, and in a mysterious way actually made present, the events which were to happen on the following three days.
And through our following out of Jesus’ command, and doing this in memory of him, in an extraordinary way those same events are made present here on this altar, and in this Church and in our hearts.
The Last Supper wasn’t an event that was sprung on the Apostles out of the blue. Jesus celebrated many meals with his disciples and at those meals he communicated the heart of his teaching.
Also the many formal meals at the houses of the rich were sometimes an occasion for particular incidents during which Jesus predicted his passion. We only have to think of the occasion on which his feet were anointed by the woman we call Mary Magdalene and how Jesus defended her by indicating that this anointing was in preparation for his burial.
At each of those meals recorded in the Gospels he prayed and gave thanks to the Father just as he did at the Last Supper. In fact every time we pray the Grace Before Meals we are explicitly making that same link between the meal we are about to share and the meal that was the Last Supper.
Here in the celebration of the Eucharist—whether it be on a high day with hundreds of people, all the ceremony, altar servers, choirs, bells and smells or quietly and in a very subdued manner with just a few people on what you might call a ‘low day’—we encounter the Lord Most High and he gives us real nourishment for our souls. So much nourishment that it would take a lifetime to begin to appreciate.
Besides the actual Liturgy of the Eucharist we begin each mass with the equally important Liturgy of the Word in which we are made welcome, we share the scriptures and we talk together about the Kingdom of God.
And then there is the aspect of healing which was so central to Jesus’ ministry and the connection between healing and eating. He raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead and the first thing he says is “give her something to eat”. We all know that the return of one’s appetite indicates a return to health.
The very word salvation means healing, but not at any superficial level for the healing that Jesus brings, the healing we find in the Eucharist, is actually a profound experience of salvation. It permeates every part of our being.
During these weeks we have been celebrating the First Communion of our young children; the moment when received Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for the very first time.
These are great days for them and for their families and indeed for the whole parish. We take this opportunity to congratulate all our First Communion children and to assure them of our prayers for a full and faithful Christian life.
We have been speaking about what a profound mystery the mass is and we know that huge tomes have been written on the theology of the Eucharist, we are aware that there are theologians who have worked on the subject for whole careers and not yet exhausted its depths.
Yet the Church has determined that by the age of seven our young people have the capability to understand what it is that they are receiving.
This is because the basics are simple. Through the intercession of Christ the bread and wine are transformed into his body and blood. At the mass we are united with the Last Supper and here on this altar just as then in the Upper Room we receive the body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine.
You can go into the metaphysics of it if you like, but it is not necessary. The Lord who commanded the wind and the waves, who made water into wine, who by his word healed the paralytic, this same Lord offers us his body and blood under the form of these simple elements.
Let us praise and thank God for this great gift which enables us to be united with Christ’s work of redemption in a real and most intimate way. And let us celebrate this Eucharist in his memory and come to communion with him as we share his Body and Blood.
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