03 June 2018Body & 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
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi:

The Gift of the New Covenant It seemed that the gloom was finally being lifted. Three times Jesus had told them that He would suffer and die and then be raised from the dead. The disciples didn't know what "being raised from the dead" meant, but they knew what suffering and dying were. There were powerful people who wanted Jesus dead. The Sanhedrin, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, assorted Scribes, people who routinely fought with each other were united in their hatred for Jesus. Jesus went to Jerusalem, and walked right into their death trap! He was there, teaching in the Temple, right before their eyes. The shadow of the cross hung over them all even before they were certain that Jesus would be killed. Three times he had predicted His passion and death. But here in Jerusalem, his death was all but a matter of time. There was gloom among the disciples. And, then, Jesus told them to prepare the Passover dinner. This was a welcome change. The Passover dinner with its traditional prayers was a celebration that every Jew looked forward to. It was a wonderful meal. It celebrated God's choice of the Hebrews to be His people. It was a meal full of love. Perhaps we can best compare it to our Christmas dinners, full of warmth and love. It was tangible, this overwhelming love of God.

The room was prepared. The table was set. The lamb was roasting. When the disciples entered with Jesus, they could smell their dinner. Their mouths watered. The gloom was gone. Before the meal Jesus washed their feet and then told them that what He did for them they should do for others. He was always doing some prophetic action that they hoped they would understand someday. Now, onto the meal. It was wonderful, the food, the joy, just being together with Jesus. This would be a great Passover. Then Jesus performed another prophetic action. He took bread and said, "Take it, this is my body." He took wine and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that will be shed for many." The disciples knew about the blood of the covenant initiated by Moses. They had learned as children that Moses had sprinkled the people with blood from sacrificed animals. This was a sign that they would be committed to a binding relationship with the God who had delivered them from Egypt. Jesus did something that was at the same time similar and different. Blood was involved in the covenant He made, but it was not the blood of sacrificed animals. It was His blood. The disciples were not sprinkled with this blood. They drank it. But like the people of Moses' day, they would be bound to a covenant with God.

This would be the New Covenant of the Kingdom that Jesus had come to establish. And just as God had delivered the people of Moses' day from the slavery of Egypt, Jesus would deliver them from the slavery of sin. The Blood. His blood would do that. It was the sign of the conquest of evil. More than that, it was the covenant of redemption. The disciples ate the Body and drank the Blood and gave thanks to God for His preferential love. Then they heard Jesus say, "Do this in memory of me." For just an instant, the gloom returned. "In memory of me?" He was going to die. But they would still celebrate His Presence in the Body and Blood of the New Covenant. The celebration of that Passover continues through the ages. Every Mass renews the celebration of the New Covenant. During every Mass the Body and Blood are offered to the Father. God's love is abiding. His love dwells among us, with us, and within us. And so we receive communion.

We take the sign of the New Covenant within us. We are united to Jesus Christ sacrificing Himself to redeem mankind. We receive Jesus dying physically so we can live eternally. We receive communion. We are united to the New Covenant. We are united to Jesus Christ. The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of the Lord, reminds us of what we are doing when we receive communion. It reminds us of Whom we are receiving when we eat the host and drink the wine. It celebrates our union with the Eternal Word of God become man so that we, human beings, can be united to the Divine. Come and eat the Body. Come and drink the Blood. Enter into the mystery, the deep mystery of God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to become one of us, to die for us, and to fill us with the very life of God. Come and celebrate the Eucharist. Give thanks for the Gift of the New Covenant.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Body & Blood of Christ
It's Good to Have a Body (June 3, 2018)

Bottom line: Even though our bodies decline and finally fail, it's good to have a body because they enable us to receive Jesus physically. Some of you remember a few years ago when Sister Barbara and I, together with a small group of parishioners, made a pilgrimage to Hawaii. It was wonderful to visit the school where Sister Barbara taught and of course Molokai where St. Damien gave his life to serve the lepers. On the final day I took a swim. The water of Honolulu was warm and wonderful, but when I got back to shore I realized I had the whitest body on Waikiki Beach. And probably the scrawniest. Most of us have mixed feelings about our bodies but this Sunday we want to recognize that God gave us our bodies for a purpose. No only our souls have value. So do our material bodies. We saw last week that the material world began as act of creation. It came from the dynamism - the fire, the love - of the Father and Son. The fire is a third person - the Holy Spirit. God the Trinity is pure spirit, yet he love matter. He invented it. The Bible tells us God created the cosmos with this purpose in mind: to form a composite creature - part matter, part spirit.

In Genesis we see that God formed man from clay, the dust of earth. Then he breathed into the man. So we have not only material bodies. We have the breath of God, the divine spark in us. Our bodies are good. Now, we are not 100% good. We are fallen creatures. We misused our freedom; we have become corrupt. Still the image of God remains - even in the most despicable person the image remains. Because of our fall God did something beyond imagining. He joined himself to his material creation. He became incarnate - taking flesh from a Jewish maiden - Mary of Nazareth. In her womb grew a body like yours and mine. Jesus suffered physically: hunger, thirst, jabbing pain. He suffered emotionally and psychologically in ways only a creature with a physical body can hurt. He also experienced pleasure - a wedding feast with roast lamb, fresh bread and wonderful wine. When death separated his body and soul, he did not discard his human flesh. He rose bodily. Because Jesus has a physical glorified body he can become present in the bread and wine which the Spirit transforms into his body and blood. I know you believe that - at least the great majority.

 When we did the Disciple Makers Survey three years ago 82% of St. Mary of the Valley parishioners said they "strongly believed" that the "Eucharist really is the Body and Blood of Jesus." I've been working on that other 18% who either agree or are unsure. I want us all to believe strongly that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. Remember that Vatican II calls the Eucharist the "Source and Summit of Christian life." This brings us back to our original point. It's good to have a body - no matter how you feel about what you see in the mirror. It's good to have a body because then we can receive Jesus' Body - right up to our last day. My mom and I were with my dad on his last day. The doctor told us he was in his final hours. I asked him if he wanted to receive Communion and then gave him the Host which he consumed. His breathing slowed. My mom, my nephew and I knelt at his bed for about 30 minutes. Then he breathed his last. He had received Communion as Viaticum - food for the journey. Even though our bodies decline and finally fail, it's good to have a body because they enable us to receive Jesus physically. And to see him with our eyes, worship him and walk with him as we will do in our Corpus Christi Procession. Next Sunday we begin Ordinary Time readings. I'll be something a little different this summer - taking advantage of one of the preaching options not often used. I think you will enjoy it. That starts next Sunday. Today the message is: Even though our bodies decline and finally fail, it's good to have a body because they enable us to receive Jesus physically. Our Psalm asks, How can I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The answer: 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
The Body and Blood of Christ,
Classic Mark 14: 12–16 and 22–26

Gospel Summary
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. Life Implications 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.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ,
Modern Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Two weeks ago we ended the Easter Season with the Solemnity of Pentecost, followed by the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, and today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. These three Solemnities provide us with the lens through which we gaze at Jesus as both human and Divine, the Second person of the Trinity, and as being truly present body and blood, soul and divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Gospel for this weekend takes us back to the Upper Room and the Last Supper. It begins with the disciples asking Jesus where to celebrate the Passover. His response tells us quite a bit. First he sends two disciples into the city and tells them that they will meet a man who is carrying a water jar. He goes on to tell us that had a plan and made arrangements. They are to follow the man carrying the water jar and he will take them to the pre-arranged place.

A man carrying a water jar was not a normal sight, fetching water was women's work and a man doing it would no doubt stand out. Jesus' plan was well thought out so the two disciples would be able to find the man and make the final preparations. Jesus has a well thought out plan for each of us to attain eternal life that involves following his instructions. Finally the man will lead them to a house that has a "large Upper Room furnished and ready." It is in this room that Jesus has the Last Supper with his Apostles, and during this Supper he institutes the Eucharist by taking bread and wine and making it his Body and Blood.

The Catechism describes the Eucharist as "the source and summit of the Christian Life.” CCC 1324 This is what we celebrate in a special way on this Solemnity. It is the sacrifice of Jesus that is also a wonderful gift to us that nourishes us on our journey from life here to eternal life. Just as Jesus prepared the upper room for His Last Supper, we would do well to prepare ourselves for receiving the Eucharist. Taking the description from this Gospel our souls should be "large, furnished and ready.” Cleaning the clutter of sin and distraction makes room for the presence of Christ to work within us. We need a regular "house cleaning” to make sure that things in our life are in order and that we haven't pushed the Lord to some corner of our lives. Give the Lord a lot of room to work within us. We furnish the room with prayers, good works, being part of a Catholic Community, and study. These four elements help us to grow in holiness and are the right furnishings into which we receive the Eucharist. Finally, we should be ready. This involves being mindful of who it is we receive in the Eucharist and of preparing ourselves to welcome him. We are ready when we are attentive to his presence and humbly approach him in order to receive him. The Body and Blood of Christ is a gift we can receive almost every day, and because of this we can take the beauty and grandeur for granted. May we grow in mindfulness of the real presence of Christ in this most Blessed Sacrament. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Body & Blood of Christ
Corpus Christi

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 to 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. It is good for us to witness to our beliefs in this way, to proclaim to the world what we believe in. It is an opportunity for us to profess our faith in the true presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and give witness to the people of the area. Please do make an effort to join us. During these last few weeks we have also been celebrating the First Communion of our young children; marking the moment when they 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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