6 June 2021Body & Blood of Christ

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

Corpus Christi: On Eucharistic Adoration

Since last Friday was a First Friday, we had, as we always do, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in our chapel. So I went to the chapel to spend a little time before the Blessed Sacrament and to hear what the Lord wanted me to present to you in this homily. As soon as I walked in, I was confronted with the question: Why are you here? It was clear to me that I was not being asked why I was here on earth, or why I was here in Florida at St. Ignatius, but why was I here before the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord? I didn’t have any deep theological answer to that question, just, simply, that I was here, there actually, to look at the Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist and to know that He was looking at me. I was there to pray, to talk to Him, and, hopefully, to quiet my mind down enough so that I could listen to Him.

I know that many of you go to Eucharistic Adoration on First Fridays, when we have 40 Hours during Lent and on retreats. Eucharistic Adoration is a highlight for our young people on our December Retreat.

Recently, there have been concerns voiced that perhaps for some Eucharistic Adoration detracts from the Mass. For example, many times our young people will be asked, “What was the highlight of the conference, or the week?” and they often respond, “Eucharistic Adoration.” Some are concerned thinking that their response should be the Mass. They are correct in affirming that the Mass is the most important action of the Church. But, I do not share this concern regarding Eucharistic Adoration. Having an experience of the Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist is a blessing to be treasured, whether this blessing is experience at Mass or at Eucharistic Adoration, or at both.

Is the grace received at Eucharistic Adoration of the same dimension as that received at Mass? Of course not. At Mass we join the Lord in renewing the Sacrifice of the Cross. Jesus is once more offered up for us to the Father “for our sins and the sins of the whole world,” as the chaplet of Divine Mercy so elegantly declares. At Mass we take the Savior within us and are mystically united to Him before the Father, offering Himself for us. Our union with Him as the Head of the Living Body of worshipers, our union with the community, our communion, is the great gift that Catholicism has jealously preserved even in the face of persecution. In the history of the Church, including the present times, those who attack Catholicism first attack the Mass. Priests were tortured to death, hung drawn and quartered for saying Mass in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. There are still many places in the world where it is illegal for a priest to say Mass. There are many places in our country where anti-Catholic bigotry is expressed in a mocking of the Blessed Sacrament. Magicians used to use the term hocus pokus on the stage. That was a mockery of the word of consecration in Latin, “Hoc est enim corpus meum,” For, this is my Body.” The mockery of the Blessed Sacrament infuriates us because we treasure the Mass. And, yes, it is and should be the highlight of our lives.

Eucharistic Adoration leads us to a deeper understanding and appreciation of what we are doing at Mass and Whom we are receiving at communion. Should Eucharistic Adoration ever replace Mass? Of course not. Nor could it. Should it be disparaged in any way? What a pity that would be. At the same time, care needs to be taken that Adoration services don’t become merely an emotional experience. Nor should they be cold, dry experiences devoid of human expression similar to the old pre-Vatican Benediction services. With this said, I am saddened that anyone would want to take the experience of Jesus Christ at Eucharistic Adoration away from anyone else, particularly the young.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi forces us to take a deep look at our belief in the Eucharist as well as our participation in the Eucharistic Community that is the Church. The solemnity reminds us: This is Jesus. He is present on our altars offering Himself up for us to the Father. He is present within us in the reception of communion. He is present at Eucharistic Adoration looking at us as we look at Him.

And He is present in our tabernacles. What a pity it is that so many of our churches have become social halls before Mass. Some people even ignore the people next to them trying to pray before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. Perhaps a good reminder for us all of what a Catholic Church is would come if we return to the fundamentals: genuflecting when we enter the pew, right knee people, and kneeling to speak to the Presence of the Lord before us. We should also genuflect or at least bow any time that we cross in front of the tabernacle. By the way, we should be sure that there is as little movement around the Church as possible during the Eucharistic Prayer.

So what am I doing here? I asked myself that question at Eucharistic Adoration. Ask yourselves: What am I doing here when I come to Mass, when I receive communion, when I go to Eucharistic Adoration. What are we doing? The Solemnity of Corpus Christi tells us what we are doing. We are experiencing the Presence of Jesus Christ in the Great Gift of the Eucharist.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Body & Blood of Christ

Blood of the Lamb

Bottom line: The blood of the Passover lamb has power because it points to the perfect Passover Lamb - Jesus, his Body and Blood.

Later this month we have a Priest Convocation. I'll be gathering with some young priests who are members of my Jesus Caritas group. Since I'm celebrating my 50th anniversary, they asked me what I wanted for a jubilarian banquet. Now, for me steak, salmon or prawns would make a special meal. But one dish stands out above all the others. I said, "lamb." The young priest designated as cook said he could prepare a delicious rack of lamb. Now, that's something you don't have every week or even every month. Maybe once or twice a year. That's the way it was at the time of Jesus. That's what we hear in today's Gospel:

"On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,
Jesus' disciples said to him,
'Where do you want us to go
and prepare for you to eat the Passover?'"

For the Passover they didn't use any old lamb. It had to a year-old male. Before the priest sacrificed the lamb, he checked it to make sure it had no defect or blemish. He then opened the lamb's throat to let the blood flow into a basin. The blood, he splashed on the altar. In the Old Testament they sprinkled blood not only on the altar, but on the people. That's what Moses did in our first reading:

"Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
'This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his.'"

The Israelites did this each year for forgiveness of sins and spiritual renewal. Now, if the blood of animals can have such an effect, then what about Blood of Jesus? The author of Hebrews says:

"how much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works
to worship the living God."

The Blood of Christ: What a great gift! During the pandemic we have not received from the chalice, but we know the Host contains the entire Jesus: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. With the pandemic subsiding, we hope soon to offer the chalice saying, "The Blood of Christ." What we see is that the blood of the Passover lamb has power because it points to the perfect Passover Lamb - Jesus, his Body and Blood. For such a great gift what can we offer back to God? Well, we have the answer in today's Psalm:

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Body & Blood of Christ

These homilies may be copied and adapted for your own use; however, they may not be commercially published without permission of the author.