18 June 2017Corpus Christi

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Corpus Christi
Body and Blood of Christ - A Cycle - John 6:51-58

Two soldier friends served together in Iraq. One was a dull fellow. The other was sharp. Yet, there was a chemistry that made them inseparable. The slow one was wounded. His friend gave his blood. When the wounded fellow learned whose blood had saved his life, he said to his companion, "I feel like a new man."

Something similar should take place each time we receive the Eucharist. We drag ourselves into the Liturgy looking for a spiritual transfusion, a pick-me-up, a refueling. We need an adrenaline rocket that will jump start us and get us through the next six days.

Does any mother's child here still wonder why the Church urges us to receive the Eucharist daily? It tells us, "Meet Jesus in the AM Eucharist and walk with Him throughout the day." Like the soldier who began this homily, we should feel like a new person. Receive the Eucharist well and the chances are good that you take on yourself characteristics of Jesus. That is going first class.

A clever 3rd century Egyptian, Clement of Alexandria, compares the union of ourselves with Jesus in the Eucharist to two pieces of wax being fused together. If we were not blood relations with Him before Communion, we should be after it.

He and we should become family. If we really give the process a second effort, we can just about put Him down in our wallet IDs as next of kin. "In case of accident, call Jesus. He is immediate family." Talk about thoroughbred bloodlines!

The Eucharist is the Gospel made Sacrament; Christ is both baker and bread. Not by any accident does He use the oldest known and most nourishing food to give us Himself. (Unknown)

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ goes back to 1261 which was a good year for us. Why? Thomas Aquinas was a professor at the University of Paris. Pope Urban IV had a sharp eye for superstars. He asked the master Dominican theologian to write a Mass for the feast. Some good things happily do not disappear into dusty library shelves. We are still using that Mass formula 700 years after its birth. This was one professor of theology who was able to pen lyrical prose.

Fra Thomas of Aquin saluted the Eucharist as "tantum sacramentum," which translates comfortably into "so awesome a sacrament." This professor addresses Jesus with these lush words, "In this sacrament, you are both shepherd and pasture."

Another man, who knew Paris well, was the 20th century Nobel prize laureate Francois Mauriac. He wrote, "The Eucharist is what is most real in the world."

Just think of it God in a bit of bread comes to bring morning into the darkness of our bellies. (Hilda Prescott)

Do notice how clever the Church is. It situates today's feast immediately after the celebration of last Sunday's Feast of the Trinity and the Pentecost the week before that. No matter how you approach these feasts, the Pentecost and the Trinity both honor an invisible God. Not so the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ! The Nazarene is eminently seeable and embraceable. He is warmth personified.

To paraphrase Ignatius of Antioch, in the Eucharist we not only put our arms around Jesus but more importantly He squeezes us. He takes our breath away. You cannot get any closer than that.

A boy was critically ill. Only his nine year old brother had his blood type. He volunteered. As he watched the blood leaving his body, he asked the doctor, "How soon before I die?" He was reassured he would live. No one gave that assurance to Christ when He gave His rare blood type to us. Yet, He gave it willingly.

The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it. (William James)

A woman showed her biography to friends. It had only three pages. The first page was black. That she said represented her sins. The second page was red and it signified the blood Christ shed for her sins. The third was white. This last page was herself after being cleansed by the Eucharist. (William Barclay)

Each of us has the first two pages of that biography. The third only is added when we receive Jesus as our personal Saviour. Today at this Liturgy is as good a time as any to add that third page. Think about it.

Introduce others to the Eucharist. The world thirsts for grace in ways it does not recognize. (Philip Yancey)

Little wonder that in a recent year, 150,000 Americans were baptized as Catholics or received into the full communion of the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil alone. Increase that number.
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Corpus Christi
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ: The Holy Presence

Next week some of our high school Teens will attend the first of many deep spiritual experiences available for them during the summer. Eleven will be going to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas for the Life Teen Leadership Conference. A few weeks after that forty or fifty Teens will attend the Steubenville-Atlanta Youth Conference. After that about twenty of our Middle Schoolers will attend the EDGE summer camp and about the same number of high school people will attend the Life Teen summer camp. Every December our parish holds a youth retreat for about 100 Teens. Every Spring there are additional retreats available. Now all these events take a tremendous amount of preparation. We have to transport, feed and house the Teens. We have to provide speakers the Teens can relate to. We have to devise interesting activities, etc. etc. But if after the Teens return you were to ask them what their favorite part of the experience was, the vast majority of them will say the same thing: Eucharistic Adoration. They are moved by the Holy Presence.

Our world is full of many beautiful buildings. From the seventeenth century Taj Mahal in India to the New One World Trade Center in New York City, there is a wealth of architectural beauty all over the globe. There are many beautiful buildings dedicated to the glory of God. Some of these buildings contain a beauty that surpasses their architecture and interior design. These are Catholic Churches. Whether we are in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome or St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Tarpon Springs, or in a tiny Catholic Church in a remote village in a mission land, when we walk into a Catholic Church we are overwhelmed by something infinitely greater than interior design, we are overwhelmed by something, Someone, present in the church. We are moved by the HolyPresence. We come before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Our Churches are far more than fellowship halls. They are not just places of prayer. Our Churches are tabernacles of the Living God in the Eucharist. When I was preparing this homily I had a flashback to something my Dad always did: every time my father passed a Catholic Church, he bowed his head. With this simple action, he reminded his family that Jesus is present there in the tabernacle.

During the Paschal Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, the Eucharist is removed from the tabernacle as we recall the Lord's Passion, Death and Resurrection. Perhaps you attended these liturgies, walked into the church, saw the opened tabernacle and felt the emptiness of a world that rejected its Savior. Perhaps you felt a longing for the Eucharistic Presence. When at the conclusion of the Easter Vigil, the priests and deacons placed the consecrated hosts back in the tabernacle, genuflect and then close the tabernacle door, you may have felt a relief that the Lord is once more present in our Church in the unique way of Sacramental Presence.

Whether its during Eucharistic Adoration on a retreat, or simply recognizing the presence of the Lord in the tabernacle when we enter Church, the Holy Presence washes over us. "Overflow in me, O Lord," Matt Maher sings before the Blessed Sacrament. "Overflow in me," we pray when we enter Church, genuflect and then kneel before the Presence.

Perhaps our efforts to facilitate the distribution of communion as well as our efforts to be sure that those who cannot attend our liturgies are able to receive communion, have diminished some people's reverence for the Sacred Presence. The large number of Eucharistic Ministers we have at each Mass is necessary so we can provide the Eucharist under both species to all our people, and this is wonderful, but I fear that some people may see the distribution of communion as an act of fellowship, something they receive from a neighbor, rather than an encounter with the Living Presence. Similarly, it is now common place for Eucharistic Ministers to bring communion to the homebound or those in hospitals or assisted living facilities. Thank God for their generous ministry that allows the sick and infirm of our community to be united with us every week in the Mystery of the Body of Christ. However, we have to take care that the Eucharist is transported with the reverence. In times past, the Eucharist would be carried to the sick in a solemn procession, with the priest preceded by a server ringing a bell and flanked by acolytes holding candles. I am not suggesting that these practices be restored, or even could be restored, but the meaning they conveyed remains: the Holy Presence is there in that car, being brought from the Church to the sick.

This celebration of Corpus Christi is given to us to remind us that the great gift of the Eucharist is a holy mystery. This is Jesus, present in a way beyond our understanding. We take Him into ourselves when we receive communion. We are united to Him sacrificing Himself on the Cross for each of us and all of us when we pray the Mass in its fullness and eat the Sacred Meal. We come before His Presence whenever we are in a sanctuary where the Eucharist is reposed in a tabernacle. He was present with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the universe. He is present with the angels and saints in heaven. He is present here in the Blessed Sacrament.

And we take the Holy Presence into ourselves. Today, we thank God for the gift of the Eucharist, and we ask Him to help us grow in reverence for this great sacrament.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Corpus Christi
Life in Christ Week 10: High Point
(June 18, 2017)
Message: Life in Christ reaches its high point in the Eucharist, the Mass.

Happy Father's Day!

This year Father's Day falls on Corpus Christi Sunday - the Body and Blood of Jesus: also the tenth and final homily in our series Life in Christ. We began on Easter Sunday with the theme of obedience which in its deepest sense means listening. Life in Christ means listening to Jesus. As we saw with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we listen to Jesus in the Scriptures and the sacraments, above all, the Eucharist, the Mass.

In today's Gospel we see two dimensions of the Eucharist. First, Jesus is the "living bread" come down from heaven. He alone response to our hunger. We can fill our lives with lots of things but it's like eating candy bars and potato chips. They leave a person nauseated and malnourished. Only Jesus gives real nourishment.

He does it in a surprising way - and this is the second dimension of the Eucharist: "My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink." From the earliest days Christians have seen the Eucharist not only as a symbol of how Jesus satisfies our spiritual hunger, but as real food.

It's interesting that in times of doubt God has confirmed this realism by Eucharistic miracles. Some of these miracles happened years ago when human flesh broke through the host. Some apparent miracles have happened more recently, for example in Buenos Aires, where blood appeared on the host. Scientists have examined the hosts and determined that the flesh is heart muscle and the blood is likewise human - actually type AB - the same blood type found on the Shroud of Turin. I'll leave it to scientists to analyze Eucharist miracles. For me Jesus' words are enough: "My flesh is real food. My blood is real drink."

Jesus fills us and feeds us. I invite you to join me in lifting up Jesus. When I lift up the Host, the Body of Jesus, and the chalice, his Precious Blood, I do it not only for me but for you. Likewise we lift up Jesus on Sunday morning with benediction at the conclusion of 14 hours of Eucharistic Adoration. And this Sunday we have the annual Corpus Christi procession.

At the conclusion of today's Mass you will receive an invitation to participate in Eucharistic Adoration. We ask you to consider giving one hour for prayer before Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. If you can't give an hour, give 30 minutes or even a brief visit. You can use your visit to put into practice what we are learning in the Take the Plunge Bible Study: How to use the Bible - daily Mass readings - for personal prayer.

You will not regret the time you spend in prayer. Perhaps you remember the story I told on Easter Sunday about the two men chopping trees. One man chops for eight hours straight. The other chops for fifty minutes, then rests for ten and starts again. The second man chops down more trees. How does he do it? He is not stronger than the first man. When they ask him his secret, he says, "During my breaks, I sharpened the ax." Take time to pray. Everything will go better.

This summer I want to help you deepen your relationship with Jesus. This week I will get a little help because we have our annual Priest Days. The theme is "Preaching and the Joy of Priesthood." I hope to learn something that will help as I begin a summer series. They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks - but I may prove that wrong! That will be for next week.

For today we see that our Life in Christ reaches its high point in the Eucharist, the Mass: "I am the living bread come down from heaven...whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Corpus Christi
Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Classic
John 6: 51-68

Gospel Summary

When John records the words of Jesus that "the bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh," he is giving us his account of the institution of the Eucharist, which is noticeably absent from its normal location at the Last Supper. John's radical decision to move this account from the Last Supper (chapter thirteen) to chapter six can best be explained by his desire to provide no less than fifty verses of introduction to this central sacrament. In this introduction, he spells out in great detail the absolute necessity of faith for a fruitful reception of the Eucharist. And when John speaks of faith, he always means a personal decision to replicate in one's own life the unselfishness of Jesus, which is also the primary meaning of the Eucharist.

John then goes beyond the other gospels in spelling out the amazing consequences of both receiving and living the Eucharist. For Jesus goes on to say, "Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me". This daring statement implies that 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. Such a life laughs at death and makes our earthly life seem to be little more than sleepwalking.

Life Implications

The gospel of John was written some sixty years after the resurrection of Jesus and deals with problems that inevitably occur when a fresh, new religion begins to settle into a routine of doctrine and ritual. In this way, the fourth gospel anticipates the perennial problems of a sacramental religion like Catholicism. And, of course, at the very center of this religion is the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.

The problem is easily recognized. Jesus calls his followers to a radical conversion from the natural but disastrous tendency to be self-centered to a new kind of life where the concerns and needs of others become a major factor in all one's decisions. Jesus himself modeled this ideal by giving his life for us. Small wonder then that the central sacrament of the Eucharist, representing his Body broken and his Blood poured out for others, should be the very heart and soul of Christian teaching and ritual.

Accordingly, the Christian church has surrounded this sacrament with elaborate ceremony and has made it the subject of fine art and music and poetry. The great danger is, of course, that we focus on these externals and fail to live the message of the Eucharist about behaving unselfishly. Unfortunately, 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. Today's splendid liturgy should not be allowed to obscure the real meaning of the Eucharist, which John sums up elsewhere with the words of Jesus, "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you" (15:12).

Finally, 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 that promises to drive all fear and anxiety out of our lives. It is infinitely consoling to realize that this is what God wishes for us and that only our cooperation is required. Unselfish love is difficult but the rewards are beyond imagining.

Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Modern

Lectionary 167, Gospel: John 6:51-58

Moses opens the scripture readings on this feast of Corpus Christi, commanding the Israelites: "Remember…do not forget" the providence of the Lord God during the many years of the desert wanderings of the people. The act of remembering is essential to our faith and to the liturgy that marks the place of faith in our lives and draws us further into it.

The gospel sequence (an ancient hymn which precedes the gospel on this and other festive occasions) urges us to remember as well, with lyrics that play on the theme of old and new, promise and fulfillment, as the Eucharist is beautifully described: "Truth the ancient types fulfilling…". In fact, in the midst of every celebration of the mass we consciously pause to remember the truth of what God has done for us in Christ as together we proclaim the memorial acclamation. This is our way of obeying Moses' precept and recalling God's providence today just as the Israelites did centuries ago.

By contrast with all of this, we often try to forget things that we do not want to confront; this is understandable and very human, yet it can be dangerous for us. It is better to remember honestly the difficulties and demons that face us than to let them slip into oblivion, where they keep working on us while we are blissfully unaware. Such forgetfulness pulls us away from genuine recognition of our problems and keeps us from finding healing and redemption.

So powerful was God's desire that we not forget what he has done for us in Christ, and that we partake of the goodness of Christ's salvation continually, that we have been given the Eucharist as an everlasting memorial. We celebrate the Eucharistic presence of our Lord in a special way on today's feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, commonly called Corpus Christi. Historically many parishes held Corpus Christi processions on this day, carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a procession with great solemnity around the interior of the parish church or even through the streets near the church.

Such ritual actions help us to remember the immense value of the Eucharist and its place at the center of our faith. Just as the Israelites were tempted to forget how God had so graciously provided manna for them in the desert, so too we are tempted at times through simple neglect or distraction to forget what God has done for us. The powerful actions that commemorate the Eucharist sacramentally on Corpus Christi and at each mass are supported by the equally powerful words of our Lord in today's Gospel reading. There he causes division among his disciples by telling them: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me" (John 6:56-57).

Every time we partake of the Eucharist we not only remember what God has done for us in Christ, we also enter into the very reality of which our Lord speaks. By sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ—Corpus Christi—we affirm our desire to share in Jesus' life and resurrection as surely as we share in his passion and death. Though this belief and commitment cause division in our time as in Jesus' own day, by remembering his abiding presence with us in the Eucharist may we find the courage to stand firm in our faith, rejoicing in the goodness the Lord has worked for us and treasuring the Eucharist as the sign and seal of his life within us.

Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Corpus Christi
Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

Today we mark the feast of Corpus Christi, or to give it its full title the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It is an important feast in the Liturgical Calendar and it gives us the opportunity to reflect in more detail on the marvellous mystery of the Eucharist that is celebrated each day in Catholic Churches throughout the world.

Of course, you would be right to think that the most appropriate day to celebrate the Blessed Eucharist is Maundy Thursday. And on that day earlier in the year we thought quite a lot about the theology of the Eucharist. However, the Church gives us this additional feast in the course of the year to reflect once again on the Eucharist so as to give us the opportunity to deepen our thinking on this most vital sacrament.

And perhaps that is exactly where we should start by realising that Eucharist is a sacrament and considering briefly just what a sacrament actually is. When we were children in our catechism classes we were taught that a sacrament is 'an outward sign of inward grace’ and this indeed remains an excellent definition of just what a sacrament is.

The Catholic Church and our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Church believe that the sacraments are one of the most important ways that God communicates his divine grace to us, the people of his flock. We believe that each of the sacraments was instituted by Jesus Christ and while God certainly transmits his grace to us by many different and various means we can be absolutely certain that whenever a proper sacrament is celebrated it becomes a real and effective channel of divine grace.

We are bodily creatures, we exist within our human bodies and we perceive the world through our five senses. That definition, that a sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace, is important because it tells us that the sacraments are signs which are perceivable by our senses.

Each sacrament has a particular sign such as flowing water for baptism, the outstretched hand of the priest for reconciliation, anointing for confirmation, ordination and the sacrament of the sick, the exchange of vows for marriage and the bread and wine for the Eucharist.

We can recognise these signs and know that when they are accompanied by the correct words spoken by the proper minister they each constitute a sacrament.

Some Churches do not believe over much in sacraments. It was a point of great debate at the Reformation and commonly Protestant Churches recognise only two, namely Baptism and Eucharist. But in the Catholic Church we definitely recognise the importance of the sacraments and indeed we could be called a sacramental Church. We understand in a profound way the value of these concrete signs as ways of connecting ourselves to the sacred.

Lesser signs are also important and we call them sacramentals; these include actions such as blessing oneself with Holy Water, receiving other blessings, the conferral of ministries, the making of sacred vows and indeed also exorcisms. Religious customs such as saying the Grace Before Meals as a family can also be regarded as sacramentals.

There are many other pious actions that help us to connect with the sacred such as the wearing of medals or scapulars or the occasions when we bless ourselves as we pass a Church. These sacramentals and other signs do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the same way as full-blown sacraments do, but nevertheless they are always able to bring us into closer relationship with God.

The Eucharist is perhaps the sacrament that we come into contact with most often and through it we become the recipients of divine grace. Our attendance at the Eucharist is the principal means by which we stay close to God in our lives, it is the best way we know to give him true worship. By reverently receiving our Lord in the Eucharist we feed the life of the Spirit that is within us.

At mass we are once again connected to the Last Supper and we share in that wonderful meal in which Christ made present in a unique way what he was to achieve by his death and resurrection. When we go to mass it is as if we were sitting around the table of the Last Supper with Christ and his Apostles. This is why it is such a holy and important occasion.

While we are talking about the Eucharist, it might be good for us to stress the proper etiquette for attending mass and receiving Holy Communion. When we go to mass it is important to participate by singing the hymns and saying the responses, listening attentively to the sermon as well as using the time for private prayer as well as we can.

We should also show great respect when it comes to the Eucharistic Prayer. This is not the time to suddenly realise that you need to go to the toilet or decide to root around in your handbag for something. No, the Eucharistic Prayer is the time to show deep and prayerful reverence and to acknowledge the miracle that is taking place on the altar.

It might be good to say a word here about receiving Holy Communion. There are two ways of doing so. The first is by joining our hands and reverently putting out our tongue so that the priest can place the host on it.

The second is by resting the left hand on top of the right hand and holding it out so that the priest can place the host reverently on your hand. Please do not grab the host or stand with one hand in your pocket while casually holding the other out to receive the host. This is the Lord Jesus who is coming into your life at that moment and so it is appropriate to show deep respect.

When the priest or minister says, 'The body of Christ' the proper response is 'Amen'. Also before stepping up to receive Holy Communion it is appropriate to make a sign of reverence. A few people genuflect but most simply bow reverently and then step forward to receive the Eucharist.

These things might seem very simple and unimportant but, if you remember, I started out by saying that we are bodily creatures and this means that the things we do affect the way we think and similarly the way we think is often betrayed by our physical actions.

If a person, for example, waltzes up to receive Holy Communion with their hands in their pockets and chewing gum then it will be obvious to everyone that this person does not recognise the fact that they are receiving the Lord Jesus into their lives. This would not be appropriate.

Receiving the Eucharist is the most important thing that we do all week. Going to mass is coming to an encounter with the Living Lord. Our attendance at mass therefore ought to be a profound spiritual experience and we shouldn't jeopardise this marvellous opportunity by being inattentive or irreverent.

It is obvious to me that the parishioners here at St Joseph do have a good understanding of the proper way to worship God and indeed it is true that the level of reverence and respect for the Eucharist is high in this Church. But it doesn’t do any harm to remind ourselves of the proper etiquette so that we get the most that we can from the liturgy, which is after all one of God’s most wonderful gifts to us.
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