Body and Blood of Christ 2013 - Homilies and Stories

Corpus Christi – 2013

Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration 

Since the very first days of the church — before St Paul had set out on his journeys or any of the gospels were written — our brothers and sisters have been gathering every week for this sacred meal. But when we routinely do anything, we often lose sight of just how wonderful it is. So today we are reflecting on just how wonderful it is to be called by the Lord to gather in his presence, to be his guests at his table, and to eat and drink from his wonderful bounty. In this banquet we become one with Christ, and are transformed into being his Body, and his Blood flows in all our veins giving us the strength to be his witnesses in the world and the life that never ends.

Michel de Verteuil
General Textual comments

Corpus Christi is an occasion for us to celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist.

It should also be an occasion when we enter into the symbolism of this great sacrament, letting it teach us deep lessons about life, our relationship with God and with one another.
Meditation on the readings for the feast will help us to celebrate the feast in both ways.

St Luke’s account of the miraculous feeding is very helpful as it is both a teaching on the Eucharist and on Jesus’ way of relating with people.

The story is introduced in verse 11 by a brief summary of Jesus’ ministry: “talking about the kingdom” is a powerful expression referring to the goal of his life.
Feel free to enter into the story of the feeding at whatever stage touches you.

Verses 12 to 14a set the stage for the miracle. Note the contrasting responses of Jesus and the twelve.
Verses 14b to 16 describe the feeding. The gestures of Jesus are reminiscent of the Eucharist, but are highly significant in themselves. So, too, verse 17 is symbolical both of the Eucharist and of life.

Gospel Note

From the beginning the Eucharist was understood within the pattern of Christ’s meals / feedings, so already when this story was incorporated by Luke into his text, it had Eucharistic significance: his meal is one of miraculous abundance for all.

John Littleton

Gospel reflection

In the story of the five loaves and the two fish, we learn that Jesus fed the hungry crowd by multiplying five barley loaves and two fish. He did this because he was concerned for the people who had stayed with him, listening to him and watching him cure the sick. In a sense, he was acknowledging their commitment to spending time with him.

Initially, Jesus tested his disciples by asking them where they might get something for the hungry crowd to eat. They had no practical answer to his question, because Jesus always practiced what he preached. He never asked other people to do what he was unwilling to do himself. He satisfied the crowd’s physical hunger and, in doing so, he enhanced the authority of what he had already said to them and of what he had already done when he cured the sick.

Interestingly, the multiplication of the loaves and fish is Jesus’ only public miracle that is recorded in each of the four gospels, thus stressing its importance for the Christian community. The love and generosity of Jesus in tending to the needs of the hungry crowd offer us an insight into his own total self-giving for others at the Last Supper and in his suffering and death.

Jesus’ miracle of the five loaves and the two fish, which responded to the physical hunger of the crowd, foreshadowed his miracle at the Last Supper when he shared himself in the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, with his disciples, thereby satisfying their spiritual hunger. It is surely noteworthy that Jesus had enough food for everybody, and then some remaining.

The lesson of the miracle of the loaves and fish is obvious: Jesus, who responded to and reached out to people in their need, wants his disciples to do the same. The question for all of us is: do we share ourselves, our gifts and our time with other people when they are needy? In other words, what are we prepared to do to help people avoid sin and save their souls? We are challenged to appreciate one another just as Jesus appreciated the crowd that had gathered to listen to him.

It can be particularly difficult to put other people’s needs before our own. However, that is what we are called to do as Christian disciples. In the miracle of the five loaves and the two fish, Jesus relied on his Father’s help as he responded to a crisis. Likewise, we who are Jesus’ disciples need to rely on his help as we respond to crises and needs around us. Jesus taught by example when he fed the hungry crowd. He instructed his disciples to do the same.

Can we once again begin to appreciate our total dependence on God’s endless love and mercy in Jesus Christ? In the same spirit, can we stop asking other people to do what we are unwilling to do ourselves? Let us, therefore, give generously and receive graciously, always imitating the generosity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who gives us the gift of himself in the Eucharist.

Homily Notes

1. The whole point of today is to cause us to reflect that we encounter the mystery of Christ in events which belong simultaneously to this world and to the world to come. As Jesus Christ is the sacrament between the mystery of God and our humanity, so he has left us the sacraments, above all this meal, as the means by which we encounter, here and now, the future banquet of heaven. The Eucharist is the ‘mystical meal’ (the language of the eastern churches), and the sacrum convivium … pignus futurae gloriae (Aquinas). Thus sacraments are something that are best understood through experiencing them, rather than hearing lectures upon them. So rather than try to deepen some mental awareness about the Eucharist with a homily, enhance the actual quality of the celebration. Here is an action plan: 

2. (Step A) If you live in an area where drinking from the cup is not standard (e.g. Ireland), then introduce it today.

(Step B) If you live where communion ‘under both species’ is normal (most English-speaking countries) then procure some of the very large breads that allow for a genuine fraction. The key to the symbolism of the Eucharistic meal is not bread as a generic substance, but a single loaf of bread. This has simultaneously the notion of scattered grains gathered into a unity – one loaf – and the notion of each person having a share (literally: participating) in that loaf which is Christ.

(Step C) If you are actually doing in the liturgy what we say we do (breaking the loaf, drinking the cup) then arrange for the congregation to stand around the table, become actual ‘circumstantes’, for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The normal arrangement is that of a sanctuary which is akin to the teacher’s part of the classroom or the stage in a theatre, and those in the audience / class area watch on and answer invitations to speak. Yet we are always talking about being ‘gathered around the Lord’s table’ – so give people the actual liturgical experience. 

3. The experience of the liturgy should act as a pointer, through faith, from what happens here to another reality. When the liturgy is celebrated in a minimalist, token fashion it is its own undoing. Then what actually happens (you go into a pew, listen to words, see the altar up there, walk up to communion, taste a little round pre-cut wafer that does not seem like bread, and then move off) must first point to what should happen here (look at the liturgy’s formulae), before, it can point beyond this dimension to the mystery. When your liturgy demands this double pointing (we got away with it pre-1965 in Latin for the linguistic inaccessibility was a mystical screen, an iconostastis, which made just being there enough), it sends out a signal that it is just a ritual of words. And when the Eucharist appears to be just that, then people vote with the feet – and they are doing so!

A Simple Reflection - Remembrance of Me.....

Marketing professionals brainstorm in thinktanks dreaming up ideas to keep the public interested in products or concepts. Egyptian Pharaohs built mammoth triangular, stone structures in the middle of the desert so that their names would never be forgotten – even after death. Yet, the success of every creative marketing professional seems to be only measurable by the number of weeks or months a consumer is captivated by a product or concept – rather than by the number of years. Who knows the names of the Pharaohs which the Great Pyramids commemorate? I do not. Yet 2000 years ago Jesus took a couple staples of societal sustenance – Bread and Wine – and told his friends that each time they especially gathered to consume this food and drink that they would be consuming his body and blood – and that they should do this regularly so as not to forget him. It worked. It was brilliant.

And so my Corpus Christi thoughts today are tied to a verse from the Eucharistic Prayer: Do this in memory of me. Why is this verse so central? Because it worked. It succeeded brilliantly.

He did not want his words to be forgotten. He did not want his example of mercy to be forgotten. He did not want his sacrifice to be forgotten. He did not want his miracles to be forgotten. He did not want his teachings to be forgotten. He did not want his command to love one another to be forgotten. He did not want his life to be forgotten. What he did worked. It was brilliant.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom

Message: Gratitude (taking the time to thank Jesus) and Eucharistic coherence (not acting or speaking against the commandments) - these two practices enable us to give our lives for others.

I'd like to begin this Corpus Christi homily with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. He asked a question regarding the Fr. Damien:

"The political and journalistic world can boast of very few heroes who compare with Father Damien of Molokai. The Catholic Church, on the contrary, counts by the thousands those who after the example of Fr. Damien have devoted themselves to the victims of leprosy. It is worthwhile to look for the sources of such heroism."

That's a great question: What is the source of the heroism of people like St. Damien of Molokai and his successor, St. Marianne Cope? 

We get the answer this Sunday. In today's readings St. Paul tells how Jesus took bread and said, "This is my body," and with the chalice of wine, "this is the covenant of my blood." Then St. Paul concludes, "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes." 

When we receive Communion - the Body and Blood of Jesus - we mystically enter his death and resurrection. That should give us strength - strength to spend our lives in service. Now, you and I are not St. Damien or St. Marianne, but the Eucharist call us - like them - to give our lives for others.

For Communion to have power, it requires a couple of things. The first is what Pope Francis referred to as "Eucharistic coherence." Eucharistic coherence, that's a big word. It means this: "People cannot receive the Eucharist and at the same time act and speak against the commandments." 

When he was the Cardinal of Buenos Aires, the pope emphasized the commandments regarding respect for human life from conception through natural death - and every moment between. We see Pope Francis living that teaching in the way he shows special attention to the infirm and the disabled.

There was even a report that the pope performed an exorcism on a troubled boy. A formal exorcism, of course, involves prior medical and psychiatric evaluation. Still, every prayer makes a stand against forces of evil. If you and I are going to help others, it means spiritual combat - and that combat, that service requires Eucharistic coherence - acting and speaking in line with the commandments. 

Besides Eucharistic coherence, we need something else. I can say it in one word: gratitude. The word, Eucharist, means to give thanks. On this Corpus Christi Sunday I would like to mention one act of gratitude: the prayer of thanksgiving after Communion. We lose the value of Communion if we "eat and run" 

A priest I heard of, if he sees someone leave early, he stops them and reminds them that only one person left the Last Supper early! Well, I am not going to do that, but I am tempted to do what St. Philip Neri did:

He saw someone leaving church right after Communion and he sent servers with candles and bells to accompany the man. The guy stormed back into the church and confronted the priest. "What kind of joke is this?" he demanded. 

St. Philip Neri said, "It's no joke. The rules of the liturgy say the Blessed Sacrament should be treated with reverence. You left the church immediately with no prayer of thanksgiving. You were carrying the Blessed Sacrament within you. So I asked the boys to accompany you to honor Him." 

After Communion you and I are tabernacles - the physical presence of Jesus continues in us for a brief time. That's why we have the Communion hymn, a time of silence, the Communion Prayer - and even the announcements - to build up the Body of Christ in practical ways.

I encourage you to use well the time after Communion to say thanks, to express your gratitude. 

   1) Gratitude - taking the time to thank Jesus, and
   2) Eucharistic coherence - not acting or speaking against the commandments
   3) These two practices enable us to give our lives for others.
"As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup," says the Apostle Paul, "you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes." Amen.

Prayer Reflection

Lord, we thank you for the Holy Eucharist.
Every Sunday, all over the world, people sit down in their church communities.
The priest takes the bread and wine,
raises his eyes to heaven and says the blessing over them,
then he breaks the bread and distributes it among the crowd.
We all get as much nourishment as we want,
and when we are finished the remains of the bread
is collected and reverently stored.

Lord, many in our country are being fed
with nourishment that is unworthy of their humanity.
We pray that those of us to whom you have given the priceless gift of education
may be like Jesus in our society, making the crowds welcome,
talking to them about the glorious kingdom you have prepared for us,
curing all those who need to be healed.

“The poor must recover their hope.”    Pope John Paul II in Haiti, 1982
Lord, we pray that in every country your Church may be the presence of Jesus,
curing the poor of the terrible disease of despair,
speaking to them about the kingdom you are establishing in the world.

“The world has enough for every man’s need, but not enough for every man’s greed.”     Gandhi
Lord, often today we see pictures of hungry people,
- mothers with ghostly babies at their breasts,
- children with swollen bellies,
- long lines of people outside food stores.
Like the disciples of Jesus, we say,
“Why can’t they go to villages and farms round about them to find lodging and food?”
Now and then the thought comes to us
that we should give them something to eat ourselves,
but we quickly dismiss that as impractical. We find all kinds of excuses:
- we are in a lonely place here;
- we have no more than five loaves and two fish;
- are we to go ourselves and buy food for all these people?
Lord, your solution is really quite simple:
sit people down in small communities;
take whatever five loaves and two fish you have;
raise your eyes to heaven and say the blessing over them;
break the bread and hand it around to be distributed among the crowd.
Not only would all eat as much as they want,
but when the remaining scraps are collected, we will fill many baskets.

Lord, it is an extraordinary thing:
if we complain about the little we have, we never have enough;
but if we take what we have, raise our eyes to heaven and say the blessing over it,
we have as much as we want, and even twelve baskets of scraps left over.

People come to us looking for the bread of compassion and we give them the stone of advice.”
A modern psychologist
Lord, so long as we look on people as objects of our attention,
saying to ourselves that when late afternoon comes
we will send them away to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food,
and that we don’t have to give them something to eat
from the five loaves and two fish we have,
we will never be true followers of Jesus.
Lord, have mercy.

ILLUSTRATIONS: (Courtesy to Fr. Tony Kadavil and others)

1: Communion on the moon:

The Lord's Supper ensures that we can remember Jesus from any place. Apollo 11 landed on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969. Most remember astronaut Neil Armstrong's first words as he stepped onto the moon's surface: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." But few know about the first meal eaten on the moon. Dennis Fisher reports that Buzz Aldrin, the NASA Astronaut had taken aboard the spacecraft a tiny pyx provided by his Catholic pastor. Aldrin sent a radio broadcast to Earth asking listeners to contemplate the events of the day and give thanks. Then, blacking out the broadcast for privacy, Aldrin read, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." Then, silently, he gave thanks for their successful journey to the moon and received Jesus in the Holy Eucharist surrendering moon to Jesus. Next he descended on the moon and walked on it with Neil Armstrong. (Dan Gulley: "Communion on the Moon": Our Daily Bread: June/July/August, 2007). His actions remind us that in the Lord's Supper, God's children can share the life of Jesus from any place on Earth — and even from the moon. God is everywhere, and our worship should reflect this reality. In Psalm 139 we are told that wherever we go, God is intimately present with us. Buzz Aldrin celebrated that experience on the surface of the moon. Thousands of miles from earth, he took time to commune with the One who created, redeemed, and established fellowship with him.
( Dear Fr. Tony,
I read your anecdote 'Communion on the Moon' with some amusement. Buzz Aldrin is Roman Catholic. He was an altar server to an uncle of mine Fr. Dennis Barry in St. Martin's Church, La Mesa, California. My uncle said Mass in his hotel room with Buzz as his altar server the day before his trip to the Moon; and I have photographs of that Mass with Buzz holding the wine and water at the Offertory. My uncle gave Buzz the Body of Christ to take to the Moon with him and that was his first 'meal on the moon'. I later met Buzz Aldrin at my uncle's funeral in La Mesa in 1986. So Buzz was not an Episcopalian. Thank you for your splendid service and keep up the good work. God Bless. Fr. Eddie Collins.)
2: The greatest work of art in St. Peter’s Basilica:

"One of the seminarians who gives tours of St. Peter’s told me of an interesting incident. He was leading a group of Japanese tourists who knew absolutely nothing of our faith. With particular care he explained the great masterpieces of art, sculpture and architecture. He finally concluded at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel trying his best to explain quickly what it was. As the group dispersed, an elderly man, who had been particularly attentive stayed behind, and said, 'Pardon me. Would you explain again this “Blessed Sacrament?”' Our student did, after which the man exclaimed, 'Ah, if this is so, what is in this chapel is a greater work of art than anything else in this basilica.'”  
3. “I will not permit Christ to return to Albania as long as I am in charge.”

Mother Teresa was given a reception by the cruel communist dictator Enver Hoxha who ruled Albania for 40 years from 1945 to 1985. He imposed atheism as the official religion in 1967. The possession of a Bible or cross often meant a ten-year prison term. Welcoming Mother Teresa in 1985, he stated that he appreciated her world-wide works of charity, and then added, “But I will not permit Christ to return to Albania as long as I am in charge.” In her reply after thanking the president for the reception Mother said, “Mr. President, you are wrong. I have brought not only the love of Christ into my native land but also the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist right into your presidential palace. I am allowed to carry Jesus in a pyx during my visit of this communist country where public worship is a crime. I keep Jesus in the consecrated host in my pocket. Jesus will surely return to this country very soon.”

Hoxha was gone a few days later on April 11, 1985. Communist rule collapsed in Albania in 1992 and Christians and Muslims reopened their churches and mosques for worship. Finally the Lord of the Eucharist has ruled the hearts and minds of the people of Albania.

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.

4. The Eucharistic piety that converted St. Elizabeth Ann Seton:

Two hundred years ago, a beautiful young Episcopalian woman accompanied her husband, a merchant, to Italy, leaving four of their five children at home with family members. They had sailed for Italy hoping that perhaps the change in climate might help her husband, whose failing business had eventually affected his health adversely. Tragically he died in Liverno. The grieving young woman was warmly received by an Italian family, business acquaintances of her deceased husband. She stayed with them for three months before she could arrange to return to America. The young widow was very impressed by the catholic faith of her host family, especially their devotion to the holy Eucharist: their frequent attendance at Mass, the reverence with which they received Holy Communion, the awe they showed toward the Blessed Sacrament on feast days when the Eucharist was carried in procession. She found her broken heart healed by a hunger for this mysterious presence of the Lord, and, upon returning home, requested instruction in Catholic Faith. Soon after being  received into the Church, she described her first reception of the Lord in the Eucharist as the happiest moment of her life. It was in St. Peter’s Square on September 14, 1975, Pope Paul VI canonized this woman, Elizabeth Ann Seton, as the first native born saint of the Unites states. The Eucharist for her was a sign and cause of union with God and the Church.

5. A message of unity and sacrificial love:

The Eucharist, (the body and blood of Christ) teaches us the importance of community, the bond that results from this sacrifice. Just as numerous grains of wheat are pounded together to make the host, and many grapes are crushed together to make the wine, so we become unified in this sacrifice. Our Lord chose these elements in order to show us that we ought to be united with one another and to allow and work with the Holy Spirit in transforming us into Our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the head and we are the body. Together we are one. That which unites us is our willingness to sacrifice our time and talents for our fellow members in Christ’s mystical body. This is symbolized by our sharing in the same bread and the same cup. Hence, Holy Communion should strengthen our sense of unity and love.

6. The duty of preparing properly to receive Holy Communion:

We have tarnished God’s image within us through acts of impurity, injustice and disobedience. Hence, there is always need for repentance, and a need for the sacramental confession of grave sins before we receive Holy Communion. We should remember the warning given by St. Paul: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves." [1 Cor. 11:27-9]. Hence, let us receive Holy Communion with fervent love and respect -- not merely as a matter of routine. St. Paul is speaking also of the mystical body of Christ, i.e., the people of God gathered at the altar. Such a union, plainly, means that our outward piety towards the consecrated Bread and Wine cannot coexist with rudeness, unkindness, slander, cruelty, gossiping or any other breach of charity toward our brothers and sisters.

7. Let us become Christ-bearers and conveyers: By receiving Holy Communion we become Christ-bearers as Mary was, with the duty of conveying Christ to others at home and in the workplace, as love, mercy, forgiveness and humble and sacrificial service.

As we celebrate this great feast of faith, let us worship what St. Thomas Aquinas did not hesitate to call, "the greatest miracle that Christ ever worked on earth ...... my Body ........ my Blood". Before the greatness of this mystery, let us exclaim with St. Augustine, "O sacrament of devotion! O sign of unity! O bond of charity!" Let us also repeat St. Thomas Aquinas' prayer of devotion in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament: "O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine!"

8.  “All we really need in our convent is the tabernacle.”  

The former archbishop of San Francisco, John Quinn, loves to tell the story of the arrival of Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity to open their house in the city. Poor Archbishop Quinn had gone to great efforts to make sure that their convent was, while hardly opulent, quite comfortable. He recalls how Mother Teresa arrived and immediately ordered the carpets removed, the telephones, except for one, pulled out of the wall, the beds, except for the mattresses taken away, and on and on. Explained Mother Teresa to the baffled archbishop, “All we really need in our convent is the tabernacle” (Msgr. Timothy M Dolan in “Priests of the Third Millennium” 2000 p. 218).