HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI) YEAR A
HOMILY THEME: BREAD OF LIFE
By: Fr Gerald Musa
Some ancient stories and myths describe how some sacrifices are offered for good causes. For example, among the Hindus there is a story of Purusha, a primeval giant who was broken into pieces by the gods for creation and stability of the world. The story says the body of Purusha was used to create different parts of the universe and so his head became sky, his eye turned into sun, his mind became the moon, and the wind takes the place of his breath, etc. Jesus broke his own body for everyone. The second Sunday after Pentecost is specially dedicated for the celebration of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ), which St. Thomas Aquinas proclaims in his famous song as Panis Angelicus (Bread of Angels). Aquinas describes the body of Christ in Latin as gloriosi Corporis mysterium,Sanguinisque pretiosi,quem in mundi pretium fructus ventris generosi Rex effudit Gentium (The mystery of the glorious Body, and of the precious Blood, shed to save the world, by the King of the nations, the fruit of a noble womb).
The story of Jesus is not just a traditional story or popular belief to explain a mystery of life but the story of a real person in human history, who came into the world, lived, taught and worked among his people. In short, Scripture describes him as the one who is, who was and who is to come (Revelation 1:8). Jesus discloses his mission and identity this way: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”(John 6:51).
Just before he left the world Jesus performed a memorable ritual in the presence of his disciples: “He took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Consequently, breaking bread is a memorial of the broken body of Christ and is a calling toward a life of sacrifice by breaking ourselves for others. He says greater love has no one than to lay down his life for others.
Jesus’ early disciples continued with the ritual of breaking of bread. Various passages of the Acts of Apostles show continuity is the act of breaking and sharing bread within the Christian community. The early disciples continued steadfastly in fellowship, breaking of bread and in prayers (Acts 2:42). On the first day of the week, they came together to offer bread (Acts 20:7). Breaking of bread became a constant ritual whenever the community came together (Acts 20:11).
The Mass (Holy Eucharist), as we know it, consists of two major parts, namely, breaking word and breaking bread. During Mass the word is presented from scriptures and then broken and explained through the homily (sermon). Likewise, the bread is presented during consecration and afterwards broken and shared to all who believe. Breaking of bread can be interpreted in different ways and here I will provide five interpretations:
1. COMPLETE SELF-GIVING IN LOVE:
After breaking the bread Jesus said: “Take this all of us and eat of it, this is my body.” These words indicate total self-giving. Jesus presents himself here as the priest offering a sacrifice and as the victim, which is offered in sacrifice. Jesus’ mission is to offer himself as bread for the life of the world. He invites his followers to perform both the ritual and the actions, which the ritual signifies. We see this kind of complete self- giving in parents who are very devoted to their children, in workers who are dedicated in serving others, in married people who are totally committed to love of their partners
2. BREAKING OF BREAD IS SHARING WITH THE HUNGRY:
The Indian Sage Mahatma Ghandi says: “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” There is no way bread can be shared if it is not broken, just as no one can make omelettes without breaking eggs. What is the essence of life? “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:7). St. Jerome comments on breaking bread as sharing. He says, “By the breaking of the bread, he makes it into a seedbed of food–for if the bread had been left intact and not pulled apart and broken into pieces, they would have been unable to feed the great crowds of men, women, and children…Myst eries are made manifest, so that what did not feed the multitude of people in its original whole and unbroken state now feeds them in its divided state.”
3. A SOLIDARITY OF THE BROKEN PEOPLE:
The Mass is fellowship with fellow Christians and solidarity of all broken people who seek healing: Jude 12 refers to this gathering as Agape or Love feast. Some people rightly say broken people have the most interesting story. The people of Israel experienced brokenness during their forty years journey to the Promised Land. They were shattered by hunger and thirst, tested by afflictions, and passed through a terrible desert surrounded by scorpions and snakes. When the hard situations of life surround us and at critical moments of life when physical, emotional and psychological stress set in, we feel we are at breaking point. The breaking of bread at the Eucharist provides a platform to present our broken lives, fractured marriages, broken promises, broken dreams, broken hearts in exchange for divine healing.
4. BREAKING OF BREAD BREAKS WALLS AND BARRIERS THAT SEPARATE PEOPLE:
St. Paul says: “I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. Thus the Eucharist is called Holy Communion because it is a source of communion with God and with other believers. This life of participation points to what the Greeks call Koinonia, which is sharing, participation, fellowship and communion. This koinonia (participation) is what the Apostle Paul emphatically expresses when he says: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. (Corinthians 10:16-17).
5. BROKEN BREAD AS SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE:
The eyes of Adam and Eve opened after they ate the forbidden fruit. They suddenly became ashamed of their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). The disciples travelling to Emmaus had an ‘eye opening experience’ in a different sense after Jesus broke the bread and gave them. Their eyes opened as they recognized him. Therefore, it goes without saying it that the broken bread is source of knowledge and personal encounter with the Divine. The eye opening experience of these disciples was to turn them from darkness to light (Acts of the Apostles 26:18) and to save them from perishing from lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). The broken bread presented to the disciples by Jesus revived the spirit of these disciples. They were full of disappointment at the beginning of their conversation with Jesus, but after their encounter they were glad and even craved to spend more time with him. The broken bread enabled them to see more clearly. In conclusion, we can summarise the relevance of celebrating Corpus Christi: first, that the body of Christ reminds us of the importance of total self-giving in love; second, we learn from the breaking of break there is joy in sharing our bread; third, during the breaking of bread we present our brokenness and our broken lives; fourth, the sharing of the body of Christ breaks barriers separating people and leads to communion; fifth, the body of Christ is source of knowledge.
Ultimately, the bread that Jesus offers is not an ordinary bread, but spiritual bread. He offers himself saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). _____________________________________
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Year A,
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17;