Homily for Corpus Christi

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  The focus of today’s feast is the center of the practice of our Catholic Faith: God unites Himself to us in a most intimate way each and every time we receive Him in Holy Communion.  This is not an easy teaching to wrap our minds around.  Indeed, when Our Lord told His followers that they had to eat His Body and drink His Blood they murmured at Him.

In today’s Gospel, we hear about how Jesus told the crowd that He, Himself, is the bread from Heaven.  The crowds didn’t understand Him and they quarreled among themselves.  Jesus did not back-peddle or soften His teaching; on the contrary, He repeated it: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”  Then He said it again: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”  And He said it again: “My flesh is true food, my blood is true drink.”

The followers of Christ were struggling with His teaching and yet He didn’t change what He was saying; He reinforced His teaching by repeating it again and again.  If you were to continue reading in the Gospel of Saint John from where today’s Gospel reading left off, you would find that many of the followers of Jesus walked with Him no longer because of this teaching.  They were offended that He said that He was going to give them His flesh to eat, yet He did not correct them or help them to understand His words in a different, more figurative way.  He repeated the same teaching several times and finally the crowd could no longer bear it.  Yet Jesus didn’t stop them from walking away from Him; instead, He turned to the Twelve Apostles—the twelve men who had been the closest of Jesus’ followers, those upon whom Jesus would build His Church—and asked them if they would leave too.

Saint Peter, speaking on behalf of the others, said: “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe that you are the Holy One of God.”  The Apostles remained with Jesus, even if they didn’t understand His words about giving them Himself as food.  Then, at the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, broke the bread and gave it to the Apostles and said: “This is my Body.”  And when supper was over, He took the cup; He gave it to the Apostles and said: “This is my Blood.”

Jesus Christ is God.  When God speaks a word, things happen.  In the beginning God created.  How did He create?  He set “Let there be . . .” and it was so.  Often in the Gospel, we hear how Jesus encountered those who needed to be healed, and He spoke a word and they were healed.  He told the paralytic man on the mat to get up and the man got up; Jesus told the man with the shriveled hand to stretch out his hand and the man’s hand was restored to health.  Jesus commanded Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, to come out of his tomb and he came out.

Jesus, Who IS God, Whose words have divine power, spoke over bread and wine and transformed the bread and the wine into His own body and blood.  Then He commanded the Apostles: “Do this in memory of me.”  Jesus gave His Apostles the sacred power to change bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, and the Apostles have handed that sacred power down through the ages through their successors the bishops and the bishops share that sacred power with priests through their ordination.

When a priest is ordained, he is consecrated to God in a very special way: when the priest is ordained he lends his hands and his voice to Jesus Christ.  At Mass, the words that we hear the priest say are not: “This is the body of Jesus,” the words are “This is my body.”  Yet you do not receive the body of the priest, you receive the Body of Christ.  It is Jesus Christ Who acts through the priest at every Mass.  The priest, at the altar, stands in the very Person of Christ so that Jesus can give Himself to you in Holy Communion.

Jesus Christ gives Himself completely to you each and every time you receive Him in Holy Communion.  So much does He love you that He died for you, and feeds you with Himself.  Love desires union.  God wants to be united with you so much that He hides Himself under what looks like ordinary bread; yet what we receive in Holy Communion is no longer bread.  At the words of the priest, the bread and wine are transformed really, truly, completely, substantially transformed.  So much so, that there is no longer bread or wine left after the words of Consecration have been spoken.  What remains upon the altar looks like bread, tastes like bread, smells like wine, but we know otherwise because our God has told us it is true.  Our senses are deceived, yet Jesus Christ has told us and He does not lie.

Jesus Christ gives us Himself in Holy Communion and He calls us to imitate what we receive.  Jesus has poured Himself out for love of us and we are called to pour ourselves out for love of Him and for love of others.  Let us do our best to receive Our Lord with great reverence and love every time we come forward in the Holy Communion line.  May we have hearts that are open to all that He wants to do in our souls, that we might be transformed and come to reflect His love in our lives more and more.

Lord Jesus Christ, truly Present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, as we receive You in Holy Communion today make our hearts ever more fully conformed to Your Most Sacred Heart; fill us with your love, help us to imitate You and pour ourselves out in love for You and for others.  Amen.

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