Homily for Corpus Christi – June 17-18, 2017 - Salem
after reading: Dt 8:2-16; Ps 147; 1 Cor 10:16-17; John 6:51-58
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
Who is God?
This eternal, spiritual being who is all powerful and good, the Creator of the universe, how can we relate to this God who is so far beyond our understanding?
Out of love for us, God has come to us. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, has bridged that gap that was so far beyond us. He came to teach us, so that we would know something of God’s ways. And He came to do something that only He could do: to invite us into salvation.
You see, this God who is so far beyond us, has been revealing Himself through the centuries. He let Himself be known to Abraham and to Moses. He revealed something of His plan for the world, His plan for our lives, through the Scriptures, through the Jewish law. But, we weren’t able to follow his commandments because of our weakness; because of our sin. Everything we tried to offer to God was tainted, imperfect. And in our sin, we deserved to be condemned.
But “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Jesus offered something to the Father which none of us could. He offered Himself: a pure and spotless victim, giving Himself entirely into the Father’s will, not holding anything back out of selfishness, or fear, going all the way to the cross. And the Father looked on His willingness to give Himself entirely, and said here at last is an offering given by humanity that’s worthy of God. This gift of self is acceptable to cancel out the power of sin. It’s the perfect gift, from the perfect Son, to the perfect Father.
And Jesus tells the Father, this isn’t just from me. All these people are with me. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
Whoever joins themselves with the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, is also acceptable to the Father.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us a way to participate, to be part of His gift. He took ordinary bread, made by the work of human hands, and told His apostles to “eat of it, for this is My Body, which will be given up for you.” And in a similar way, He took the wine, made by the work of human hands, and said, “drink from it, for this is the chalice of My Blood, poured out for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”
Simple bread and wine, made by people who wish to give of themselves, turned into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who alone was able to perfectly give Himself. When we receive this communion, we are invited into communion with Christ, so that He will remain in me, and I in him.
When the gifts are brought forward during Mass, they’re simple human gifts that we want to offer to God. Watch as I take that wine up to the altar. I add a little bit of water to it. That’s a reminder of that little bit of humanity that’s part of the gift we place on the altar. When you see those gifts coming forward, when you see that water being added to the wine, make a little prayer to God, saying I place myself here for you Lord. I place myself at this altar. And Christ takes your desire to give something to God, and blesses it, and allows your desire to be part of that acceptable gift of the Eucharist. What would be just a small prayer from you, becomes the prayer of Jesus Christ, in communion with Jesus Christ.
And when you prepare yourself to receive the Eucharist, when you confess your sins, and fast, and participate in the Mass, then Christ allows His life to be within you, the life of grace, so that He is in you, and you in Him. Communion.
The church gives us this special feast each year to reflect on what it means to have this gift of participating in the Eucharist. But perhaps we should look to the words of St. Thomas Aquinas from the sequence hymn that comes before the gospel today:
“This the truth each Christian learns,
bread into His flesh he turns,
to his precious blood the wine:
sight has fail’d, nor thought conceives,
but a dauntless faith believes,
resting on a power divine.”