Homily: Corpus Christi, The Bread That Cannot Replace The Love It Signifies
Exodus 24: 3-8 Hebrews 10:11-15 Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
Last weekend, we celebrated Memorial Day. We were invited to recall all the women and men who have died in protection of our nation’s freedom, who defended democracy and liberty, who died in our military defense of freedoms. We need to celebrate also those who have defended our freedoms in other ways as well – by standing up for human rights and by defending the freedoms we hold so dear in other, more non-violent ways. Freedom is too dear to defend it only with guns. We have to come to its defense in many ways, many times non-violently as well.
And so, this weekend, we as Church gather to remember again the Death of this One Who laid down His life for His friends. His Body was poured out so that we might be the fruitfulness of His life-saving, love-giving life, death and resurrection.
In our First Reading from Exodus, Moses calls upon the Israelites to recall how God had found them, guided them and preserved them as a special people of God. They are being asked to go into the future as more faithful disciples, remembering how God had fed them with a strange and mysterious bread in the past.
It is always true that if we do not relate our stories, we will forget who we are. And so, it is by the Israelites retelling their stories of God’s fidelity to their nation, they see themselves as God’s people in their own eyes. They have been given much and much will still be offered them, and they will have to live out what it means to both receive and believe.
In the Gospel, Mark retells the story of the Last Supper. Jesus says to them, “This is the cup of the Blood of he New Covenant.” They remember the history of Moses having poured the blood upon the altar at the foot of the mountain of the tablets. That covenant is now made New. But it is followed by their journey to the Garden of Olives. Their sharing in His suffering is about to begin..
God provided manna and water for the wandering Jewish people in their critical time of journeying in the desert, In the same way, Jesus provided bread and fish for the hungry pilgrims of His time. At the Last Supper, Jesus introduced his disciples to His Body and Blood as the food, the strength for their difficult times and their rejoicing for their times of joy and celebration.
His Body and Blood are the real presence for the critical times of our salvation. What is so beautiful about His Eucharistic Presence is its permanence, its availability, and God’s radical embrace of those special times in our lives, ofen times we would rather not be in.
We call it, no doubt, a great and terrible mystery; but what is a mystery to me is that, in all the conditions in my life from which I would rather flee, His presence graces me to show up in my own body and blood. His “Real Presence” graces me to be present in as real a way as possible, especially in those critical times. His Presence graces me especially to be an available grace at the critical times of other people, when they would rather flee as well. His Real Presence offers you and me the grace to be a real presence ourselves. His Body and Blood makes your and my body and blood sacred to others. Larry Gillick, S.J. Creighton University
You see, when John speaks of faith, he always means a personal decision to imitate in one’s own life the unselfishness of Jesus, which is also the primary meaning of the Eucharist. Unselfish love is difficult, but the rewards are beyond imagining.
John then goes beyond the other gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke in spelling out the amazing consequences of both receiving and living the Eucharist. The one who participates in the Eucharist will begin to share the very life of God — the life that courses between the Persons of the Trinity. A life such as that laughs at death and makes our earthly life seem to be little more than sleepwalking.
Jesus calls us His followers to be converted from our tendency to be self-centered to a new kind of life where the concerns and needs of others become a major factor in all our decisions. Jesus himself showed us this ideal by giving his life for us. Little wonder, then, that the Eucharist, representing his Body broken and his Blood poured out for others, would be the very heart and soul of our Christian teaching and ritual.
We, as church, have surrounded this sacrament with elaborate ceremony and has made it the subject of so much fine art and music and poetry. And so, the great danger is that we will focus on these externals of this awesome sacrament, and fail to live the message of the Eucharist about behaving unselfishly.
You see, it is quite possible to be very devout in one’s reverence for the Eucharist and still live in a way that is self-centered, thoughtless and hardhearted. Even the church itself can be so consumed by the awesomeness of this sacrament, that, in celebrating it, even the church can lose sight of the reality of love and reverence for all people that it celebrates. The splendid liturgy we glorify each time we gather should not be allowed to obscure the real meaning of the Eucharist, which John sums up. “This is my commandment,” Jesus says, and he might have also added, “and my sacrament, that you love one another as I have loved you”
The invitation of Jesus to share through the Eucharist in the very life of God is a wonderful challenge to enter into a mystical union with God. It is so very consoling to realize that this is what God wishes for us. And it promises to drive all fear and anxiety out of our lives. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.