Corpus Christi (June 22, 2014)
1 Cor 10:16-17
There have been a few moments in my life when I have had my “breath taken away.” When I stood in front of the altar at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in 1999 and first saw my bride in her white wedding dress walking down the aisle towards me; When I looked into the eyes of my newborn sons for the first time; On September 11, 2001 when I saw a plane crash into the World Trade Center in New York on the morning news; When I saw white smoke come out of the small chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel indicating the election of who we all have come to know and love as Pope Francis. These are just some of the bigger moments that I can recall.
Well, it happened again last week while driving to Lexington in my car. I was listening to a CD by Vinny Flynn titled, “7 Secrets of the Eucharist.” He was talking about St. Mary Faustina.
For those that don’t know, St. Faustina reportedly had a number of apparitions, conversations and visions with Jesus Christ and wrote them down in her diary, which later was published as a book. Before I read you the quote that “took my breath away,” I want to give you a little background as to why it was so powerful for me to hear…plus this way I can build suspense and you won’t fall asleep during my homily!
Today on the Church calendar we celebrate the solemnity of “The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ” or more commonly known as “Corpus Christi.”
Next to Easter and Christmas, this is probably my next favorite feast day on the calendar. I love it because today we celebrate a uniquely Catholic teaching that comes straight from the mouth of Christ in the 6th chapter from the Gospel of John. “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven.” “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”
Today we celebrate the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist (Holy Communion). Today we are reminded that when we approach this altar, we receive a LIVING God into our very bodies. Nine times in today’s Gospel, Jesus uses a derivative of the word “living” to describe Himself. This is not just some ordinary bread or cheap wine. I fully realize the Catholic belief that ordinary looking bread and wine are actually the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of a living God is hard to grasp and accept.
Even the Jews who heard Jesus speak the actual words from John 6 “quarreled among themselves” asking how this could be possible. But notice what Jesus did NOT say after the Jews questioned Him in the Gospel. He did NOT say, “Hold on people, I didn’t mean that literally. You don’t have to eat my flesh and drink my blood. It was just a figure of speech.” No, Jesus intensifies his speech by saying, “Amen, amen” (which is code word for “listen up people, this is important”) and then He goes on for seven more sentences reaffirming that He really meant what He said. This should be mind-blowing stuff for us…especially if you’ve never contemplated what you are TRULY receiving when you come up for communion. This is what we are celebrating on the feast of Corpus Christi today. The Living God comes down from Heaven and gives us Himself every time we receive Holy Communion at Mass.
Ok…so are you ready to hear the quote from St. Faustina that took my breath away last week? In her diary, she wrote that Jesus appeared to her and said, “When I come to a human heart in Holy Communion my hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul, but souls don’t even pay attention to me. They leave me to myself and busy themselves with other things. They treat me as a dead object.”
When I first heard it I got a little defensive actually. I’m an ordained Catholic Deacon for crying out loud! I know Church teaching! I understand the Eucharist and the true presence! I never miss a Sunday Mass, I go to Eucharistic adoration every week and I pray daily! But I kept wrestling with these words and finally I remained quiet enough to let them really sink in. I then asked myself, if I really did believe that Jesus Christ is alive and present in the consecrated bread and wine at Mass, why don’t I show Him more reverence? Why do I become so easily distracted sometimes when I am up here next to the priest assisting at the altar? I realized that I was getting defensive because I knew, deep down, these words were true. That’s when it hit me. Jesus wasn’t talking to “that Catholic over there,” He was talking to me. And if you humble yourself enough to let those words He spoke to St. Faustina really sink in, I think you’ll find He’s talking to each and every one of us. I don’t doubt one bit that everyone here loves God. I just have a feeling that we can all do better, myself included.
Ever hear the phrase, “You are what you eat?” If we claim to believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, we should be acting more like Him in our actions. He is the real food and the real drink that nourishes and strengthens our very souls. Spend some time in prayer asking God to show you how you can better love Him. If you are patient and quiet enough, He will show you the answer.
But until that happens, I think it’s time we acknowledge that we are eating from the heavenly banquet. I think it’s time we eat the best of wheat, the bread of angels, food for the pilgrim journey. I think it’s time we start being more Christ-like as we “become what we eat.” I think it’s time to reclaim the sacredness of the Eucharist and our reverence for Him. I think it’s time we allow Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist to “take our breath away” every time we approach His altar.