Corpus Christi 2017

     I don’t know about you, but I take Jesus at His word and in today’s gospel, Jesus is very clear. He tells us that if we want eternal life we must literally eat His body and drink His blood. The people who heard this teaching knew that He was speaking literally and the Gospel recounts that many of them left Him and returned to their former way of life. If Jesus were just speaking figuratively don’t you think He would have called them back to clarify that He wasn’t speaking literally? Well, Jesus says what He means and means what He says.

     If our God is truly a loving Father do you think He would tell us that we need to do something, but then not provide it for us? Of course not! So if we fast forward to the Last Supper we see that Jesus does, in fact, offer us His Body and Blood. For “on the night he was betrayed he himself took bread … and gave it to His disciples saying take, this all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you. In a similar way when supper was ended, he took the chalice … and gave the chalice to his disciples saying: take this all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood.”[1] In just a moment we will gather around the altar and hear those same words and we will be confronted with the truth that the bread and wine, which was brought forward and becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. Then we will come forward to receive Holy Communion and the minister will say the body of Christ, and you will respond Amen, literally saying I believe. But do you believe? Do your actions proclaim that you accept Jesus’ teaching or do your actions call Jesus a liar? Are you going to run away with the others in today’s Gospel or will you take Jesus at His word and let Him transform your life?

     Friends, it is only here at the Mass that Jesus offers us, the one thing He says we need for eternal life, the Eucharist. While at times we can be tempted to stop coming to Mass because we find it boring, we don’t feel like we are getting anything out of it, or we think the preaching is better at the church down the street, there simply is no excuse to walk away from the Mass. After all the Catholic Church is the only church that even dares to claim that we have the one thing Jesus says is necessary for eternal life: Jesus’ own body and blood. Since the Eucharist is truly His body, blood, soul, and divinity, we have a chance to interact with God every single day. If you had a chance to eat with a president, even if you knew the conversation was going to be boring, wouldn’t you? Why then would we miss the chance to come face to face with God?

     I’ve told this story many times before, but I think it’s worth repeating because it taught me the importance of looking past the simple pleasures to find what truly fulfilled me. In 8th grade, while playing keeper in a soccer game, I dove for a ball as the attacker was on a breakaway. As the striker unleashed a shot I grabbed the ball and his foot hit the corner of my jaw. Standing up and pulling dirt out of my mouth, because I couldn’t spit, I knew something was wrong, but the dentist father of one of my teammates assured my mom that I could not have broken my jaw.

     After two days my mom noticed that I was not eating and decided to take me to see a doctor. I remember sitting in the oral surgeon’s office listening to him tell me there was no way I broke my jaw, only to be vindicated when he came back after reading the x-ray to humbly admit he was wrong, that my jaw was in fact broken. Sadly the joy of vindication was short lived because I was put on a strictly liquid diet for 6 weeks. At the time, an all liquid diet didn’t seem too bad, after all what 8th grader wouldn’t love to have milkshakes all the time for 6 weeks. Yet after a couple of days, I knew I needed something else. No matter how many milkshakes I slurped down, I never felt full and no matter how many milkshakes I drank the hunger pains and headaches didn’t go away. Needing to switch to something more nutritious I found myself reluctantly drinking meal supplement shakes. Now I don’t know if you have ever had those Ensure or Boost supplement shakes, but if you have, I think you would agree with me that while it comes in different flavors, in reality, it only comes in one flavor; nasty. At first, I couldn’t stand the supplement shakes but in time I began to warm up to them, not because they began to taste better, but because of what they did for my body. Regardless of how bad those shakes tasted, they took away my hunger cravings and headaches allowing me to live my life to the fullest.

     Friends, it is really quite simple, do we believe Jesus or do we call Him a liar? For if we truly take Him at His word then we know that every time we come to Mass we have the opportunity to eat His flesh and drink His blood. As Christians we profess to follow Christ, so will we approach the Holy Communion in faith and receive Him who is our spiritual nourishment or will we run away like many of the disciples in today’s Gospel?

[1] Institution Narrative of Eucharistic Prayer III

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