HOMILY FOR CORPUS CHRISTI SUNDAY YEAR A.
THEME: THE EUCHARIST AS CATHOLIC IDENTITY!
BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr)
*Deut 8: 2 – 16, 1 Cor 10: 16 – 17, Jn 6: 51 – 58.
The easiest way of identifying the true Church of Christ in the midst of present day confusions is to look at its Eucharistic identity both historically and functionally – that is, examine the authenticity of the Church’s sacramental practices from its past to its present, because Christ said: ‘There shall be one Lord, one faith, one baptism (sacrament)’, Eph 4: 5.
The scriptures loudly acclaim the focal position of the Eucharistic celebration both from Old Testament to the New Testament dispensation. In the Old Testament it was made clear that the ordinance for the Passover celebration must be kept as a memorial for the people of God for all generations, and this ritual must be performed only in one house and not mearnt for strangers, Ex 12: 42 – 45. In the New Testament it was made clear by Christ that anyone who does not partake of this ritual of communion will not have spiritual life in Christ, Jn 6: 51 – 58, Lk 22: 19.
The easiest way of identifying the true Christian, therefore, is to look at his /her fidelity to the Eucharistic devotion. For Catholics, whether clergy or laity, the Eucharistic rules and regulations are quite clear. One who receives Christ daily or regularly in a state of grace knows what a blessed assurance of eternal life that awaits him /her. One who refuses to honour this Holy Communion also knows what a threat of damnation awaits him /her. Today’s gospel is unequivocal about it: My flesh is food indeed and my communion is my flesh indeed – ‘He who eats it abides in me and I in him’ (No gender insensitivity here please). He concludes with the promise of immortality: ‘He who eats this bread will live for ever’.
We just want to ask in this homily: ‘Why has this devotion not permeated the lives of our people to the requisite degree even after so many years of Christianity? Can we talk of any better way of knowing a Christian, especially a Catholic than through his /her fidelity to the Eucharist? Can we have a better way of doing funeral clearance than to examine one’s fidelity to the Eucharist while he /she was alife?
*B. WHAT THE EUCHARIST IS..*
The Eucharist is;
(i) The source and summit of the Christian life. It is the greatest gift of Christ to his Church, 1 Cor 10: 16 – 18.
(ii) The regulator from sin and strengthens our spiritual immune system against the virus of sin, 1 Cor 11: 18 – 30.
(iii) The medicine of immortality, according to St Thomas Aquinas, Jn 6: 57.
(iv) The sign of unity of the Church, according to St Ignatius of Antioch, Jn 13: 1 – 18, Jn 17: 1 – 21.
(v) The bread of Angels and Pilgrims (See the Sequence of today’s Liturgy).
(vi) The good and the bad receive it with different consequences (See also the Sequence of today’s Liturgy).
(vii) It was prefigured in Isaac, previewed by the Isrealites at the Passover, experienced at the desert, instituted at the Last Supper and is commemorated at every sacrifice of the Mass, Heb 10: 19f.
*C. WHAT THE EUCHARIST IS NOT…*
The Eucharist is not the following;
(i) It is not merely the presence of the Word of God promised at every Christian fellowship, Matt 18: 20, as some Protestants claim.
*Check Songs like LET US BREAK BREAD TOGETHER (The Eucharistic theology of sacrifice and real presence is subtly omitted. Only the theology of communion is emphasized FOR WHEN WE ARE TOGETHER CHRIST IS WITH US).
The Word of God speaks about special Eucharistic presence. One can have the presence of the Word without the presence of the Eucharist, as in the experience of the 2 disciples on their journey to Emmaus, Lk 24: 13 – 35 (take note that as soon as Christ became present in the Eucharist he disappeared physically to avoid the error of double presence). One can also receive the Eucharist without the acceptance of the Word of God, as in the case of Judas Iscariot, Jn 13: 11 – 30.
(ii) It is not pirated and cannot be hijacked by any fake Church. It must be celebrated in one house, Ex 12: 43.
(iii) It is not confected or made possible except by validly ordained priests /ministers, Heb 5: 1 – 4.
(iv) It is never received by an unworthy soul, whether clergy or laity (See warning by the Sequence of today’s Liturgy), the ‘ex opera operatum’ theology not withstanding.
(v) It is not an intolerable language as many Protestants today still refuse to accept it. According to St Thomas Aquinas in his ‘Tantum Ergo’, ‘Faith gives what our outward senses cannot discern’.
*D. FUNCTIONS OF THE EUCHARIST*
The Catechism of the Catholic doctrine simply teaches us the following four functions of the Holy Communion;
(i) It draws us closer to Jesus, Jn 6: 26, Jn 8: 28.
(ii) It enhances the life of grace, Jn 13: 8. Even from Old Testament times, because the priests ministered the Eucharist they must be holy, Lev 21: 6. ‘The men’s things are holy, women have been kept from us’, 1 Sam 21: 5.
(iii) It reduces concupiscence, Ps 119: 9, 1 Cor 11: 23 – 28.
(iv) It guarantees our salvation, Jn 6: 57 – ‘Anyone who eats of this bread will live for ever ‘. ‘Blessed are those who have washed their robes clean and now have the right to feed on the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city’, Rev 22: 14.
*Story of an elderly woman who proved to a butcher through a miracle that the worth of a single Holy Mass received with Holy Communion surpasses the largest quantity of meat in his store. A slip of paper written ‘I attended Holy Communion for you’ weighed heavier than the whole meat in the butcher’s shop.
We pray that the Eucharist may continue to be a memorial of his passion and not an avenue to gratify our consumerist appetites or manifest our hypocritical tendencies. According to Bishop Francis Okobo, ‘Without the mass, it is difficult to understand why a Catholic priest should not marry’. May Catholic Priests continue to keep themselves chaste if not for any other reason, for the sake of maintaining the Eucharistic integrity.
May the Eucharist lead us gradually from untruth to truth, from darkness to light and from death to immortality. At the Eucharistic prayer II we constantly say: ‘Grant that we who are nourished by the body and blood of Christ may be filled with the Holy Spirit’. We pray against the danger of over habituation with the daily reception of the Eucharist which could make us lose reverence for it.
May the Eucharist continue to remind us of our pledge of allegiance to Christ through the Church leaders. We pray especially for the Church at Ahiara diocese and other churches threatened by the danger of ecclesiastical disunity. May we continue to remember the words of Christ that says: ‘Cut off from me, you can do nothing’, Jn 15: 1 – 5. May we never forget that *our real Catholic identity is the Eucharist*. Happy Sunday dear friends!
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