Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Corpus Christi Homily

At the Last Supper, Jesus faced three dilemmas and offered one solution.  The dilemmas were the result of his love.

The greatest act of love for another is to die for that person.  At the Last Supper Jesus told his apostles, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15: 13). Yet Jesus laid down his life not only for his friends but for his enemies. As St. Paul put it: "For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5: 6-8).

Jesus wanted to prove his love for all people of all time and he wanted everyone to experience that love.  But he could only die once. How could he make that act of sacrificial love present everywhere and always?

He said: "This is my body, which will be given up for you; do this in memory of me" (Luke 22: 19).

He created a New Passover to go with the New Covenant.  This Memorial Meal makes present the very event it commemorates.  Now people of all time, and not just those who stood under the cross at Good Friday, can be present as Jesus offers himself up for their salvation.  He does not die again but he makes his life-giving death and resurrection present through the the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The second dilemma of love is this: when you love someone you want to be always near that person.  But Jesus had to go. He said: "I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16: 7). Jesus must leave this world in order to send the Holy Spirit.  But he wants to stay close to his followers and he even promised that he would not leave them orphans, that he would return (see John 14: 18). He promised "I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Matthew 28: 20). How can he go and also stay?

"This is my body."  He remains close to us in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament.

Thirdly, love desires not only to be close but to be one with the beloved. Love desires union.  How can Jesus unite himself to the apostles and then to Christians of all time?

"This is my body. Take and eat."  Jesus comes to us in a form in which we can receive him. He unites himself to us in Holy Communion where the two become one.

That is the gift which we celebrate today.

This has two very practical implications.

First, we who receive the Eucharist are one with Christ and are transformed by our union. In his homily at the closing Mass for World Youth Day 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said: "The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own Flesh and Blood."  Through a Holy Communion we are parts of the Body of Christ, "his own Flesh and Blood" in the world today.  This confirms Jesus' teaching in a parable about the Last Judgment in Matthew 25. Whatever we do to or for one of his least brothers or sisters, we do to or for Jesus.  Whatever we fail to do for one of his and our least brothers and sisters, we fail to do for Jesus.

Second, the sacrificial offering of Jesus replaced all the animal and grain offerings that preceded him. His was the one perfect sacrifice that took away the sins of the world and reconciled humanity with God and one another.  Now we, as members of his Body, join him in making that perfect offering as we celebrate Mass.  Then we go forth from Mass to live the offering we have made with Christ.  In the words of St. Paul, we offer our bodies "as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Romans 12: 1).

We thank God for the gift of the Body and Blood of his Son Jesus. We adore Jesus present in the Eucharist. We open ourselves to the grace of the loving union in which the two become one flesh. And we return love for love by offering ourselves every day as we pray the Daily Offering.

The Daily Offering, prayed and lived, is the best response to Jesus' gift of himself to and for us.

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