Homily: Corpus Christi, Year A

Today, the universal Church is celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi. Although Ordinary Time began last week, we set aside today for this special celebration. On this special day, the Scripture reading and prayers are devoted to the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith, and where we receive Jesus in his body, blood, soul, and divinity.

Today also marks the end of a four-week collective message from the readings. Four weeks ago, at the Ascension, we were sent on a mission by Christ to be him in the world. As we heard, the ascended Christ was no longer limited by temporal trappings – he was now eternal. Two weeks ago, we learned better how to fulfill our mission by confidently knowing that we had the Holy Spirit as our guide. And, last week we were reminded of the efficacy of having a triune God that is not a distant power, but a person in our lives. Today, we celebrate Christ as he will always be with us in our earthly life – in the form of the Eucharist.

In the reading from Deuteronomy, we see into the way that God makes history and its events into lessons of wisdom for his people. At this early stage in the formation of the Israelites people, God brings them out of bondage from Egypt; yet, he allows them to suffer in order to form their obedience to and reliance on him. Manna is also mentioned which, although it is a gift from God, is an imperfect foreshadowing of the true food and true drink by which God gives us eternal life.

In the second reading, Paul says that the “cup of blessing”—likely a reference to the third cup of the Jewish Passover Seder that Jesus offered at the Last Supper—is a “participation in the blood of Christ,” and then that the “bread that we break”—likely an echo of the many New Testament references to the “breaking of bread” as a common facet of the early Church— is also a participation in his body. This word in the Greek is koinonia, which is sometimes translated as “communion” or “fellowship,” as well as “participation.” It comes from the root koina, meaning “common.” In the many uses of the term in the New Testament, it implies a deep form of shared life. Paul goes on to say that this sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ makes for both a mysterious sharing of his life and a mysterious sharing of oneness in his Body, the Church.

Today’s Gospel asks us to examine Jesus’s statement in a new way, because when we really look at them, his words are as shocking now as they were two thousand years ago. Jesus is telling us to eat his flesh and drink his blood! Little wonder people thought he was suggesting cannibalism when they first heard this teaching.

As Catholics we receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ each time we receive the Eucharist. But do we really believe that? It’s a question worth examining because in the Mass, Jesus is truly made present under the appearance of bread and wine.

Each time we attend Mass, we celebrate the fact our God loves us so much that he nourishes us with himself so that we can become saints. It is both the greatest gift—and greatest mystery—of our faith. Ultimately, it is also the principal reason to be a Catholic—in order to receive the Lord in Holy Communion, just as he commanded the Jews of his day…and invites us to do today.

In the Eucharist, we receive Jesus just as he promised. If we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we remain in him and he remains in us.

I would like to close with the words of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “If we truly understand the Eucharist; if we make the Eucharist the central focus of our lives; if we feed our lives with the Eucharist, we will not find it difficult to discover Christ, to love him, and to serve him in the poor.”

Advertisements

Homily: Most Holy Trinity, Year A

Today, the universal Church has devoted the Scripture readings and prayers of the day to one of the greatest mysteries of our faith, the Most Holy Trinity. This is the day when we focus on what some theologians call the “economic Trinity,” or the idea that God is revealed in his activity in history through the sending of his Son and the outpouring of his Spirit. Two weeks ago, the Scripture passages of the day detailed the events of the Ascension, the culmination of God’s saving act of sending his son. Last week, we heard about Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured onto the earth. It is certainly fitting that, as we move into the Ordinary Time of the Church year, we pause to reflect on these most-significant moments in our Salvation history.

When I was in graduate school, I spent many years researching and studying the various religious traditions in the world. Many of my peers and colleagues wondered how I could stay Catholic after I had learned the “truth.” My counter was always that it was precisely because I knew the truth that I stayed Catholic, because there was no question in my mind that what I was doing was correct. Of the many unique features of Catholicism, there was one that was very significant to me: the God of Catholicism was very personal and cared deeply for me.

We first see this desire for a close and intimate relationship in the first Scripture reading from today. In the reading, God speaks to Moses, saying his own name, Yahweh, and Moses speaks back to him. We do not meet an abstract God. We meet a person, not a power.

In our Second Scripture reading, we get a very similar message to the passage from Exodus in our First Reading. St. Paul, in effect, exhorts the Corinthians not to be “stiff-necked.” If they will mend their ways and live in love and peace with one another, then “the God of love and peace” will be with them. In order to have God remain “in our company,” we must remain true to the great commandment of the new covenant to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. From its foundations, one of the primary characteristics of the Church has been the love that its members show for one another.

We also see this in the Gospel, when we are reminded that God’s son was given to us because of his great love for us. His son is a gift to us, not because we merited it our qualified in some way, but because of his absolute love. Here, we see that love is an action, not a feeling, and that love is expressed in giving.

How are we to do show this love to others? We certainly cannot be expected to do exactly as God has done. Nor do I believe he expects us to. What we can do is use the gifts God has given to us.

For twelve years, I served as the music director for various Catholic parishes in our Diocese. During my tenure, I also served as the Director of Choral Studies for Hackett Catholic Prep. One of the pieces I made sure was always performed was a piece by John Stainer, from his work The Crucifixion. The piece was based on the text from today’s Gospel reading from John 3:16. In my mind, it is one of those pieces that every musician should study in college and possibly even have a chance to perform. As a composer, Stainer did a remarkable of setting these words to music.

To me, John Stainer is an example of someone who used the gifts from God to share Christ with the world. This is what God asks of each of us.

Perhaps we are good at caring for the sick. Perhaps we are good at educating others. Maybe our strengths lie in managing or motivating people. Or perhaps, as with John Stainer, our gifts are with the arts. We have each been given different gifts and have each been called to use them in God’s name.

In my homily for the Ascension, I reflected on the words of Saint Teresa of Avila, who said that Christ has no body now but ours. By using the gifts we have been given, we can share him with the world, and, as the Gospel tells us, to bring Christ into the world to save it. We can make disciples of all nations and confidently know, as St. Paul tells us, that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be with all of us.

 

 

Reflection: Colossians 1:3a-6

For those who have stayed awake during my homilies over the years, you may recall that I often like to focus on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. And, although Scripture tells us that the greatest is love, I personally focus on hope.

To me, I see clear references in this Scripture passage to all of these virtues, but that is not what I am going to reflect on. Instead, I am going to “get real” for a moment.

Paul’s and Timothy’s correspondences with the cities they have passed through are often written as reminders of their teachings. Sometimes, we even see warnings being given to try and stop certain behaviors that are not in line with the truth given to the Church by God Himself. At the end of this passage, we see one such warning. The case of the Colossians is of particular interest because knowledge of their actions came to Paul through a report from his friend, Epaphras. Epaphras’ “report” tells Paul that the Colossians are doing good work and serving faithfully. Their faith community is part of a larger participation in the work of God on the earth. Based on the information he was given, Paul reminds those in Colassae that everything that they need to live a full and happy life has already been given to them through the Gospel. From that, we can deduce that anything that is not from the Gospel is not good for us.

At this point in the Scripture passage, Paul does not name any particular thing, but he uses the faith-driven positives they already know to paint a bad light on the seductions that may cause them to fall away. He later says that the faithful should “see to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (Col 2:8).

We do not need to pause and reflect for very long before we begin to see ways that these pseudo-spiritualities and false teachings are present in our world today. As we know, Scripture is relevant both for the time it was written as it is in our current day. Just as it has always been if false teachings are given too much of our attention, they can lead to sin. But, this is not because we are bad people – it is because we are human. It is okay if we find difficulty in taking up the cross as Jesus did, but, as long as we continue to try, and ever hope for the best, our effort is not wasted. I like to think of a phrase Matthew Kelly uses in his program, Decision Point. He says that we need to work to be the best version of ourselves. The self God has willed us to be.

Despite what I said at the beginning, there is no way I can share a homily with you without talking about hope. Paul reminds us that our hope should not be in the trappings of the world, but in Heaven. For me, that is enough of a reason to try and be the best version of myself.