YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI)
HOMILY THEME: BROKEN AND GIVEN FOR OTHERS
BY REV FR GERALD MUOKA
HOMILY: Deut.8:2-3,14-16; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; 1Cor.10:16-17; Jn.6:51-58.
An Augustinian nun, Juliana of Liege, in Belgium, from her early youth, had a great veneration for the Blessed Sacrament and always longed for a special feast in its honor. This desire is said to have been increased by a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon. The moon was perfect but having one dark spot which signified the absence of a feast of the Eucharist. In this vision, St Juliana was told to promote a special adoration of the Lord, really present in the Blessed Sacrament. She made known her vision to Robert de Thorete, then Bishop of Liege and others, and finally, Pope Urban IV. This led to the issuance of Papal bull “Transiturus”, which established the celebration of the Solemnity of the Body of Christ, Corpus Christi, which was introduced as a universal solemnity of the church on September 8, 1264.
Beloved in Christ, today is Corpus Christi SUNDAY. The church, invites us to reflect on one of the “ad memoriam” (Do this in memory of me) Last Testaments of Jesus, the Holy Eucharist. The purpose of this special feast are: The remembrance of Jesus who sacrificed Himself for the salvation of humanity, the institution of the Holy Eucharist/the Command to celebrate this and, prominently, the belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist.
The Vatican II, states that “the Eucharist is the centre and culmination of the Christian life.(LUMEN GENTIUM, no. 11). St Thomas Aquinas called it “the greatest miracle Jesus ever worked on earth…My Body….My Blood.
Notwithstanding the above affirmation, the reality of this mystery has been under attack and disputed over years. The disputable nature of this solemnity did not start in our generation. It is as old as its institution, as described in the Gospel reading.
Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’
After hearing it, many of his followers said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’
Mere mention of it, caused Jesus to loose many followers:
“After this, many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more”. (Jn.6:66)
But we believe it, because, Jesus himself preached it, instituted it, lived it out and commissioned us to do it in memory of him.(Lk.22:19). Infact, St Thomas Aquinas, in the Tantum Ergo Sacramentum…, gives us the paradigm to a firm belief in the Eucharist as featured in its lyrics:
“Okwukwe na enye ihe, nke nti n’anya na enweghi ike inye.” That is, faith perceives what mere sight cannot comprehend.
Here, we walk by faith not by sight.(2Cor.5:7). It comprehendable not with the head, but with the heart.
THE REAL PRESENCE OF
JESUS IN THE BLESSED EUCHARIST
The real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist is made manifest at consecration, through a process called “Transubstantiation”
(Latin: trans=across, beyond or change + substantia = Substance). It is the change by which the substance (though not the appearance) of the bread and wine in the Eucharist, after consecration, becomes Christ’s real presence, that is, his body and blood, by the action of the Holy Spirit:
Site na ikukwasi ha Muo
gi, ka ha were ghoro anyi
ahu n’obara nke onye nwe
anyi Jesu Kristi.
(Eucharistic Prayer II)
With the Transubstantiation, the Holy Communion we receive is in fact, a reception of the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, whole and entire, in His glorified state. We do not partake of a symbol. The Eucharist is not a metaphor; it is truly the Lord. Neither is it a “piece” of His flesh. It is Christ, whole and entire.
The scriptures attest to this in many places:
Luke 22:19-20 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
■1 Cor 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a partaking in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a partaking in the body of Christ?
■Luke 24:35 They recognized him in the breaking of the bread.
■1 Cor 11:29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
■John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.
Meanwhile, the First reading, presents us with the model of the Eucharist, that is, God’s care in feeding his people during the forty-year desert trek of the Exodus from Egypt. During this time, the Israelites were fed with manna. Although, as a prefiguration, they called it “bread from heaven”; so that it has become the model for the Eucharistic bread.
In the second reading, St Paul chided the Corinthians to embrace the Eucharist as a share in the real body and blood of Christ, where unity, oneness and equality should lead the way. This life of communion cannot be achieved without sacrifice.
THE EUCHARIST AS A SACRIFICE
At the heart of this solemnity is “kenosis”(self emptying);as captured in the Gospel reading, that Jesus gave himself as bread for us to eat. St Paul captures it in 1Cor.11:26, “Whenever you eat this bread, then, and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes”. As we
The Eucharistic celebration is a re-presencing and reenactment of the sacrifice of Calvary. It reminds us that Jesus offered everything, to the point of expiration for us to live. Just as bread that quenches the physical hunger so did Christ sacrifice himself as the bread of life to eternally quench our spiritual hunger and starvation.
Just as the grain of wheat is ground to make the host (bread), and the grape is crushed to make the wine, so Jesus was ground and crushed in his sacrificial undertakings . Our Lord chose these elements in order to show us how he was condemned, sentenced, crushed and bruised in disgrace and gave up his life as a sacrificial offering, for the remission of sin and salvation of man.
Thus St Peter in 1Pet.2:21 says: “Christ Suffered for you, leaving your an example that you should follow in his steps.”
We can charitably perpetuate this Eucharistic sacrifice of self-giving by allowing ourselves to be broken and given to one another.
BROKEN AND GIVEN FOR OTHERS
In the science of Biology, there is a concept called Food chain. It is a process that guarantees vitality, growth, and development in the ecosystem, through a sequence of transfers of matter and energy in the form of food from organism to organism.
In the human society, we can corroborate the positive model of this food chain that is sacrificial, for the sustainability of life, growth and development in our families, communities, walks of life, the body of Christ, the church and the society at large, in an ULTIMATE chain of the Eucharistic meal.
EUCHARISTIC FOOD CHAIN
This is the chain and web of love and fraternity, sustainable through sacrificial and selfless undertakings.
Just as an organism gives itself up in a sequential transfer of matter and energy in food chain and web for growth of the ecosystem for the good of the other, so are we expected to give ourselves up within the body of Christ in the Eucharistic food chain.
When we eat the inexhaustible bread from above, offered through sacrifice (love), we don’t offer our raw selves to each other as cannibals, rather, we offer ourselves in services: our time, treasure and talent inorder to promote and enhance growth, development, unity and progress among the body of Christ, the church. This is achievable through:
(1) BECOMING MOBILE TABERNACLES
(2) BEING CRUSHED FOR ONE ANOTHER
(3)ABIDING ETERNALLY IN CHRIST
(1) BECOMING MOBILE TERBANACLES
The term Tabernacle is a repository, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the church. Tabernacle is from the
Hebrew: מִשְׁכַּן, (mishkān), meaning “residence” or “dwelling place”. When we receive Jesus in the blessed Eucharist, we become mobile tabernacles, Christ-bearers and -conveyers, because, when received in proper disposition, we are overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (1Cor.6:19). Mary became the first New Testament mobile Tabernacle. Hence the Church calls her the Ark of the New Covenant. The moment she received Jesus at Annunciation, charged herself with the duty of conveying Christ to others. She went straight to Elizabeth and exposed them to the contagious nature of the blessedness of christ bearers. Ordinary greeting: Auntie Eliza, good morning, exposed Elizabeth to the anointing of Christ bearers. She began to prophesy and even the baby in the womb, couldn’t contain the joy that he recognized the presence of a Mobile Tabernacle, leaping for joy in the womb. She brought joy and smiles to the family. She offered her TIME, TREASURE AND TALENT for complete 3 months, till her delivery.
We too, must make ourselves mobile Tabernacles, conveyers and Christ bearers in the church, at home and in the workplace. This is summed up in putting smiles and brightening up the day for those we meet, through love, mercy, forgiveness and selflessness.
(2)BEING CRUSHED FOR ONE ANOTHER
The second reading leads us to understand that the Eucharist makes us one, irrespective of social class, colour, race or tribe.
The song: na oriri di aso, eluigwe na uwa na emekorita….
describes the communal dimension of the Body and Blood of Christ. This community bonding is achieved through mutual offering of ourselves.
St. John Chrysostom buttresses it better: “What is the Bread actually? The Body of Christ. What do communicants become? The Body of Christ. Just as the bread comes from many grains, which remain themselves and are not distinguished from one another because they are united, so we are united with Christ.” Just as numerous grains of wheat are pounded together to make the host, and many grapes are crushed together to make the wine, so we become unified in this sacrifice. Our Lord chose these elements in order to show us that we ought to seek union with one another. This union is achievable only when we allow ourselves to be pounded and crushed, sacrificialy for one another.
Here, we willingly, crush, pound and sacrifice our time, talents, and treasure for one another.
(3) ABIDING ETERNALLY IN CHRIST
Jesus says “cut off from me, you can do nothing”. (Jn.15:5). In the Gospel, Jesus serves us the Eucharist as a precondition for vitality and eternal life.
Conscious of this, we have to abide always in Jesus by identifying with the Body and Blood of Christ, made real in the Blessed Eucharist.
What then, can separate us from this unfathomable love? CAN SIN? If so, we need always to prepare properly to receive Holy Communion. St. Paul warns us: “Whoever, therefore, eats the Bread or drinks the Cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the Body and Blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the Bread and drink of the Cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the Body, eat and drink judgment against themselves” (1 Cor. 11:27-29). The reconciliation wrought by this preparatory acts at Penance is both vertical (towards God) and perfected horizontally (towards neighbour), thereby, promoting love, unity and communion. Hence, let us receive Holy Communion with fervent love and respect, not merely as a matter of routine or applying a mechanistic approach.
St Anthony of Padua is one of the great saints who possessed great zeal and reverence for the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. One day, a man in Rimini, named Bononillo, openly mocked and challenged St Anthony on the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist, demanding a miraculous proof, “If you can make my donkey bow down before what you call the Body of Christ, I will believe”. Anthony didn’t want to put God to the test, but naturally there was no way he could avoid this challenge, and so he agreed, leaving the outcome to God. For three days the heretic kept his donkey starved without food. On the third day, a great crowd gathered in the city square. Anthony celebrated Mass in a little chapel and at the end he came out carrying the Blessed Sacrament. Meanwhile, the hungry donkey had also been brought along, and a suitable fodder was placed in front of the starving animal. Anthony called out, “Donkey! Come here and show reverence to your Creator!” At once the animal came towards Anthony and bowed its head and knees before the Sacrament. The owner of the donkey and many heretics were reconciled to the Church.
Finally, our reverence, disposition before and after reception of Communion, and belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, should portray that of Anthony of Padua and Juliana, in the introductory and concluding stories, whose great reverence, deeper love and ardent faith for the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist are part of the reason for this solemnity; bearing in mind of whom and what we become-mobile terbanacles, Christ-bearers and conveyers.
MAY THE WORTHY RECEPTION OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, BIND US TOGETHER AS ONE, MAKE US A NEW CREATION AND LEAD US TO LIFE ETERNAL.
GOD BLESS YOU
HAPPY CORPUS CHRISTI SUNDAY
FR GERALD MUOKA