Today is the great solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. At the close of Mass this weekend I said that much of our faith in this sacrament of Sacraments is summed up in: O SACRAMENT MOST HOLY, O SACRAMENT DIVINE, ALL PRAISE AND ALL THANKSGIVING BE EVERY MOMENT THINE.
Here is my homily followed by the gospel.
Last year I said that according to St Augustine, only 3 things were needed for holiness. I’m sure you all remember them but it doesn’t hurt to recap. The first thing is humility, the second thing is humility and the third thing is humility! Humility is much about knowing our need for God and to be taken out of the illusion of our self-sufficiency. The word HUMILITY comes from HUMUS which means EARTH. We are reminded of our earthiness each Ash Wednesday when we receive the ashes with the words: “Remember man thou are dust and unto dust you shall return.”
In the first reading we heard how God led the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt to the Promised Land thru a 40 year desert journey. This was to teach them their true dependence on God. During this time God fed them with Manna, bread that literally fell out of the heavens, which they collected up and ate. Without this they would have starved. The big lesson of this desert journey is summed up in the reading by: “Man does not live on bread alone (material things) but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
All of us committed Christians are on a similar spiritual journey to the new Promised Land. We too need spiritual food to complete this trip. In the Gospel Jesus tells us about a new manna from heaven that he calls LIVING BREAD. This will give us the spiritual strength to reach the Promised Land and gain eternal life.
What is this new manna, this living bread? Jesus goes on to say that he himself will be this spiritual food. To quote him: “As I myself draw life from the Father, so he who eats me will draw life from me.”
So how are we to eat Jesus as spiritual food? This is indeed a big question that would only be answered a few years later when we come to the end of Jesus’ life and the Last Supper, the first Mass. Here Jesus by his divine power changed bread and wine into his Body and Blood. He then gave his Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine to the Apostles as this promised spiritual food. This same feeding has been going on at all Masses ever since in obedience to the mandate: “Do this in memory of me.”
In this way what Jesus said in today’s gospel was accomplished: “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” This spiritual food makes us strong and fills us with divine life and love. Thus in our Christian lives we can count on loving with Jesus’ love rather than just our own human love.
My final point is about this verse of today’s gospel: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him.” This is what we mean by Holy Communion, holy common-union between Jesus and us. Jesus loves us so much that he is not merely happy with living close to us. He wants to live inside of us, in our heart and for us to live inside him. Such great love!
Ultimately, the Eucharist is a great mystery that we must approach with wonder and awe and accept that we will never fully understand it because it is a divine mystery. We must accept it not so much on common sense but in faith in Jesus, his Word and promise.
In summary: To be holy, to be spiritually healthy, to get to the Promised Land we need spiritual food. In Holy Communion Jesus gives himself to us under the appearance of bread so we can draw spiritual life from him.
Gospel John 6:51-58
My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
Jesus said to the Jews:
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give
is my flesh, for the life of the world.’
Then the Jews started arguing with one another:
‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said.
I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread
will live for ever.’
The Gospel of the Lord.