Tag Archives: Body of Christ

14TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR, 2017

A man by the undistinguished name of Robert Kent, who had worked for the same company for 33 years, was given several years ago a grand dinner party upon his retirement. At that celebration, several of his co-workers noted that what they loved and admired most about him was his optimism. In an article in a Connecticut newspaper he wrote, “If indeed I am optimistic, I got to wondering where that sense of optimism came from.”

After noting that the firm had gone through some very difficult times, he went on to say, “I finally concluded that whatever sense of optimism I have comes from my Christian faith. Christianity, at least as I understand it, is rooted in optimism. We are optimistic that God is with us and loves us; we are optimistic about life after death; and we are optimistic that God will be with us in good times and in bad. It seems to me that having a life based in faith leads to an optimistic attitude. Without faith, I don’t know how anyone can be optimistic. One of the reasons I like to go to church is that I meet the most wonderful people there. By and large, they are optimistic and caring people, filled with love and concern for their fellow humans. Each Sunday our faith and optimism are renewed through our liturgy…”

It was the enthusiastic exhortation of this Sunday’s first reading, those few lines from the Hebrew prophet Zechariah, that inspired this homiletic approach and the following commentary.

We celebrate Mass every Sunday not to make installments on a spiritual insurance policy, not to beg God to forgive our sins and wrong-doing, and not because we are required by Church law to do so.

No, Sunday Mass is is simply our time-honored way of thanking God for what we are and what we have, of being renewed & strengthened for the next lap of our earthly journey, and, as St. Augustine so well put it, of receiving more of what we already are.

But what are we? We are the body of Christ in the world of our time & place. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so do I send you.”

When we receive Holy Communion, it is not to be understood as reward for good behavior; it is not essentially an act of adoration we are performing. We are receiving into our hearts, minds, and entire lives more of what we already are – nothing less than the body of Christ! We receive his person, his Spirit.

The question arises then: What does my being the presence of Christ demand of me, do for me? It demands of us that we act in all circumstances as he would have us act. It requires us to be open to the direction and empowerment of the same Spirit that directed and empowered Jesus.

Think about that, please. Let it obsess you. Can you imagine how peaceful, how loving, how beautiful our homes and our lives would be if we were increasingly acting according to his example?

Let’s pray that a wave of change pass through our community, transforming every heart and every home precisely as needed!

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CORPUS CHRISTI 2016

We don’t get theological technicalities from Jesus; he speaks plainly, most often in simple stories whose meanings are clear.  From that consistent style of his, we can be sure that he had no obscure theology in mind on the night before his death when with bread and wine he made the simple parting gesture of love, in which he said, “Remember me. And don’t ever forget that I’ll be with you always.”

The essence of that gesture, which has become our Eucharist, is undoubtedly presence: Jesus’ desire and his plan to be with us in a unique way.

Friends and lovers can be present to each other not only when they are face to face, body to body. They can be thousands of miles apart and be really present to each other in many ways.  The sound of a melody, the remembrance of a shared experience, a card or a letter taken from a drawer, a photograph, are but a few examples of how human beings can be present to each other even though they are physically apart.

We Catholics maintain that there is a personal presence of Jesus in Eucharist – not merely in the transformed bread and wine, but in the entire Eucharistic event.

It seems to me that it is no more useful to dissect and analyze this mystery than to analyze any act of genuine love.  Some things are so sacred, so precious, so profoundly personal, that to subject them to microscopic examination is to guarantee that they will not be appreciated.  The words “Body and Blood” are, of course, anatomical in their normal usage.  But in the context of the Eucharist I understand them to mean simply real – real not in the sense of physicality, but real in the sense of sacrament.

When we do this sacred action together week after week, this fluid action called Eucharist, Jesus is uniquely present.  Unseen, yes, but as intentionally and really present to us as he was to his original disciples and apostles, minus the physical, or bodily, elements.

We must content ourselves with that alone and not be distracted by the scrutinizing that goes on in our theological laboratories, which can only do further violence to the uncomplicated plan of Jesus to remain with us, not merely in memory, but in here & now sacramental presence.

I am not aware of Jesus ever asking to be adored, but only to be welcomed and loved in return for his own unconditional love of us.  He invites us to follow him with trust and to accept the gifts he offers.

Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ — the remarkable, nearly unbelievable, fact that God, as St. John so graphically put it, has pitched a tent in our midst and made it the dwelling place of Jesus.  This is not God up and out above the clouds; nor is this a deus ex machina, a divinity that enters the human situation occasionally, whimsically, to fix things.  This is the divine presence in the thicket of humanity, scratched and bruised with us, always present, always giving life and hope and peace in the midst of trouble.

When our Catholic lives are over, and while we still have the presence of mind to reflect on their most precious treasures, I believe that we are going to appreciate as never before what our regular encounter with Jesus through Eucharist has given us.  We will understand more clearly than ever before what a source of strength and guiding wisdom it has been for us all along.  We will understand with unprecedented gratitude what he meant when he said he would be with us always.

Corpus Christi — Body of Christ – himself — us.  How else would he have arranged the journey?

 

HOMILY FOR CORPUS CHRISTI 2015

We don’t get theological discourses from Jesus; he speaks plainly, commonly, most often using simple stories to make his meaning clear.  Judging from that consistent style of his, I think we can be sure that he had no obscure theology in mind on the night before his death when with bread and wine he made a parting gesture of love, a way of saying, “Remember me. Don’t ever forget that I am with you always, because you are my friends.”

The essence of that gesture, which has become our Eucharist, is undoubtedly presence: his being with us in a unique and immediately recognizable way.

Friends and lovers can be present to each other in ways other than physical.  They can be thousands of miles apart and yet be present to one another.  The sound of a melody dear to both, the remembrance of a shared experience, a card or letter taken from a drawer, a photograph, a familiar place: these are examples of how human beings can be present to each other even though they are physically apart.

We Catholics maintain that Jesus is uniquely present to all who seek him in the sacrament of Eucharist. 

It seems to me that it is no more useful to dissect and analyze this mystery than to analyze any act of genuine love.  Some things are so sacred, so profoundly personal, that to subject them to microscopic examination is to guarantee that they will not be appreciated.  The words “Body and Blood” are, of course, anatomical in their primary, conventional usage, and therefore inevitably suggest a kind of cannibalism.  But in the context of the Eucharist I understand them to mean simply real – real not in the sense of physicality but real in the sense of sacrament.

When we do this sacred action together week after week, this fluid action called Eucharist, Jesus is uniquely present.  Unseen, yes, but as intentionally and really present to us as he was to his original disciples and apostles, minus the physical, or bodily, elements.

We are left to content ourselves with that alone and not be distracted by the scrutinizing that goes on in our theological laboratories, which, I maintain, can only do further violence to the uncomplicated plan of Jesus to remain with us, not merely in memory, but in here & now sacramental presence.

Jesus does not ask to be adored, but only to be welcomed and loved in response to his own unconditional love of us.  He invites us to follow him with trust and to accept the gifts he offers.

The popular bumper sticker urges us in another context, “Keep It Simple.”  We would do well to apply that advice here as we contemplate and honor the risen Jesus in Eucharist.

Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ — the remarkable, nearly unbelievable, fact that God, as St. John so graphically put it, has pitched a tent in our midst and made it the dwelling place of Jesus.  This is not God up above the clouds; nor is this a deus ex machina, a divinity that enters the human situation occasionally, whimsically, usually to fix things.  This is the divine presence in the thicket of humanity, scratched and bruised with us, always present, always giving life and hope and peace in the midst of trouble.

When our Catholic lives are over, and while we are still able to reflect on their highlights, I believe that we are going to appreciate as never before what our regular encounter with Jesus through Eucharist has given us.  We will understand more clearly than ever before what a source of strength and guiding wisdom it has been for us all along.  We will understand with deep gratitude what he meant when he said he would be with us always.

Corpus Christi — Body of Christ – himself — us.  How else would he have arranged the journey?