Homily – June 18, 2017

In John’s gospel we read, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ Such was God’s desire to be close to us, one with us. But today’s feast of the Body and Blood of Christ goes even deeper in Christ’s desire of closeness.

Jesus shocked his hearers, he turned many of them off when told them, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you cannot have life in you… whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in them.’ How close can we get?

We read that many of his followers found this to be a hard saying and walked with him no more. Who ever heard of eating another’s flesh, drinking another person’s blood? The very idea is revolting. Yet this is the reality when we receive Holy Communion. Bread is more that bread and wine is more than wine. They are the body and blood of Jesus.

Every Jewish person knew the story of the manna, the mysterious bread from heaven that helped them survive their sojourn in the desert. Jesus tells the men and women listening to him that he is the new manna, the new bread from heaven. He adds the promise, ‘whoever eats this bread will live forever.’

This is the reality we celebrate on the day – the day of the Body and Blood of Jesus our Christ.

Receiving Holy Communion is not a private devotion. When we receive Communion we answer Amen, meaning I believe I am receiving Christ’s body. But there is more. We are affirming ourselves to be members of the Body of Christ the Church. St. Paul asks us,’ do you not know that you are the body of Christ? Paul teaches that when we receive Holy Communion we are bonded to Jesus and also to our neighbours, to everyone here with us. As members of the Church we support and sustain it by our good works; works entrusted to us by Christ; feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, welcome the stranger. Holy Communion has a horizontal as well as a vertical direction.

Before we receive the Body of Christ we repeat the words of the centurion, ‘Lord I’m not worthy that you should enter under my roof, say only the word and my soul shall be healed.’ Worthiness has nothing to do with all this. Who of us is worthy of such a gift? Need is our reality at this moment, our need for the grace of Christ, the strength of Christ, the love of Christ, the compassion of Christ, the forgiveness of Christ that we lack in our own lives at this time. The words of Pope Francis are so encouraging when tells us that the Eucharist, Holy Communion is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak – which we all are. Receiving Holy Communion we hold out an empty hand, showing our need for the strength and help we need to be faithful to the teaching of Jesus. Holy Communion is the bread, the nourishment we need to follow in the footsteps of the One who said, ‘love one another as I have loved you, forgive one another as I have forgiven you.

As we continue to celebrate this Mass may we always be thankful for this great gift, the Body and Blood of Christ.