How Corpus Christi can be a lesson from our parents

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HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI

Readings:  Deut. 8:2-3,14-16/ 1Cor. 10:16-17

Psalm:  147:12-15,19-20

Gospel:  John 6:51-58

The Vatican II document Lumen Gentium deals with how the light of Christ is shown to the world.  In it, they wanted to emphasize the role of the parents to bring that light to their children.  The document says, “…the parents, by word and example, are the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children.  They must foster the vocation which is proper to each child, and this with special care if it be to religion…Hence, by example and by their testimony, they convict the world of sin and give light to those who seek the truth.”[1]  This can be a tall task for any parent to take, but if they are grounded in faith (or at least willing and able to seek the answers to their own questions) they can be those “first teachers of the faith” that will enable the next generation of believers to be their children’s “first teachers.”

In order to be a teacher, one must try to ask questions of the things that they cannot understand, or even accept.  In the Gospel proclaimed today, John brings us to a moment in Christ’s ministry that would be one of the greatest questions his disciples ever faced.  How could someone say that in order to live forever in the Kingdom of God, they must eat his flesh and drink his blood?  Those who heard this were just as puzzled as many of us today, both outside of the Church and within.  How can someone give his body and blood for us to eat and drink? No one can eat another person.  This is not the kind of belief the Jews were looking for in this itinerant preacher from Galilee.  They wanted something more.

Jesus began by calling himself the living bread that has come down from heaven. What were the Jews thinking about?   Was it actual bread, or did they think Jesus was alluding to the Manna that was brought down from Heaven by God to Moses and the Hebrews in the desert.  The First Reading today from Deuteronomy speaks of that. That bread was to satisfy the hunger of those wandering the desert for 40 years with a food they did not know about until it was needed.

Why was it needed?  It was needed as a source for salvation and nourishment for those who stood with Moses and were willing to accept the God of Moses as the one, true God.  “(S)o as to test you by affliction,” Moses says, “and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments.  He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”[2]   Where have we heard that phrase before?  It was spoken by Jesus coming out of the desert and being tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread. [3]  Now, Jesus was looking out at this “wilderness” of those who he feels are lost and gives them hope that he is the bread come down from Heaven.

Jesus saw them as those who were wandering the desert with Moses and seeing their devotion to God.  Yet unlike Manna, Jesus is saying that God sent him down from Heaven to show his father’s devotion to them as much as they had devotion to His Father. “Unlike your ancestors who ate and drank and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”[4]   Most, if not all, Christian Churches have some sort of Communion Ritual.  The act recounted in the Scriptures at the Last Supper when Jesus takes the Bread and says, “This is my Body” and with the cup of wine “This is my Blood.”  Opinions vary as to the meaning of this moment from a symbol of Christian unity to a Memorial Meal to a temporary manifestation of the Holy Spirit while the meal is taking place to the true presence of Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood in the basic forms of Bread and Wine.  How are we as Christians become more united in Christ while we have these issues?

Paul has asked this in the Second Reading Today from his First Letter to the Corinthians.  He asked them if the cup of blessing is not the Blood of Christ. Or if the bread that is broken for all to take and eat is not 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.”[5]  Our connection to Christ and his command to “Take and eat/Take and drink” is the one common thread all Christians share.  We as Catholics take this call as the fullness of Jesus’ resurrection.  For if he did not sacrifice himself for the sins of all the world, we would not be in his presence when he comes down at Mass and transubstantiates the Bread and Wine we offer into his Body and Blood that we share.  That moment is so passionate and so intimate that we place him in a place of reverence in the Tabernacle, so that those who could not take part due to illness or tragedy can have him brought to them so they may partake of him.  We see the fullness of his presence and keep it with us in our churches as much as Jesus is present in ourselves.

This past Thursday, my family had the funeral for my Niece, Jennifer.  I have to admit it was rather a grand affair.  She had 4 priests, two deacons and a Bishop celebrating her Mass.  Each one of us had been touched by her in one way or another, so we were all honored to help her on her way into Heaven.  While we were in our various stages of grief, something occurred to us.  First, that next day would have been her 10th Wedding Anniversary.  Second, that day was also the 5th Anniversary of my Ordination. And as I reflected on those moments, looking upon her in her coffin and seeing her two children with their Dad, I began to have something pop into my head.  And seeing that Sunday is Father’s Day in the United States, it could not have come at a better time.

At the beginning, I mentioned about how parents are the first teachers of the faith.  Well, I realized that my Niece, the mother of her three children, was teaching all of us her last lesson.  And that lesson is:

DO WE TRULY, HONESTLY AND PASSIONATLY BELIEVE WHAT WE SAY AND DO AS CATHOLICS OR NOT?

             Here we all were in that church looking at her casket, missing her and wondering what could have been done so this would not have happened.  And we should have those emotions, I am not saying we shouldn’t.  But what she was teaching us is that in all the times we make the Sign of the Cross, or recite the Creed or even when we come up to the altar and then asked “The Body of Christ” and “The Blood of Christ” do we truly mean it when we say “Amen; I Believe?”

Do we truly believe in One God, the Father the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son?  Do we truly believe that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary? Do we truly believe that he suffered under Pontius Pilate and was crucified, died, buried and descended into Hell?  Do we truly believe that he rose from the dead three days later and ascended into Heaven where he will judge the living and the dead?  Do we truly believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins, the Resurrection of the Body, and life everlasting?  Will we know that, at the moment of our last breath, we will be embraced by Christ into heaven where those who were with us in life are with us in Paradise.

We are all children of a parent, so this lesson is for all of us.  As I go into my 5th year of the Diaconate, I know that I will remember this lesson the rest of my life and remind myself that with each moment of reflection, each time I remember my niece, “my little Jenny-Poo”, that I can truly say, with heart and mind and body and soul, that I can say without any shadow of doubt:  “Amen; I Believe.”  And I know that whenever I will have those moments of doubt, I will hear in my head with that sad little voice she always had for me, “Uncle Sean?!?”   May this Lesson begun in heartache begin in us again toward happiness and joy.

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK

[1] Lumen Gentium, 11, 35.

[2] Deut. 8:2-3.

[3] Lk. 4:1-4.

[4] Jn. 6:58.

[5] 1Cor. 10:16-17.

Questions for Reflection:

1.  How do you see the Bread and Wine offered at Mass?  Is it still Bread and Wine or is it the Body and Blood of Christ?  Why or Why not?

2. If you were one of the crowd that heard Jesus say that the bread that he will give is his flesh, how would you react?

3.  On the Father’s Day, what are some of the lessons you remember from you Dad and/or parents?

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