corpus christi 2014Homily for Mass – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) (Year A)

(Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 7:30am, 9:00am, 5:00pm)

22 June 2014

(Readings: Deut 8:2-3, 14-16; Ps 147; 1 Cor 10:16-17; Jn 6:51-58)

I commend to your prayer the Litany of the Most Holy Eucharist, composed by Saint Peter Julian Eymard which you’ll find on the newsletter insert this weekend. Perhaps you might pray it as a thanksgiving following Mass today before you go home. It’s an opportune moment to also commend to you the practice of making a thanksgiving after holy communion. Many saints attest that the easiest time to pray is in those minutes after holy communion when Our Lord is sacramentally with us. And so we should make the most of that opportunity to linger in prayer, both when we get back to our seat after Communion, and also in those few minutes after the end of Mass. (At the 9am Mass: and I must add that it is beautifully startling to see almost the entire congregation at this Mass kneel down after the final hymn to make a thanksgiving!)

Also, on the reverse side of the Litany you’ll find some reminders of our Eucharistic disciplines, which we should all be aware of. But just to add a couple, if you are not kneeling to receive Communion, we remember that we make a bow of reverence to Our Lord as we approach Him just before receiving Communion from the minister. Also, if we are receiving Our Lord in the hand, it is the ancient custom of the Church that we make a throne for Our Lord, with one hand cupped under the other. It’s also good to remember that in the new Mass, the English Mass, the communicant has the choice to decide if they wish to receive Communion standing or kneeling, or on the tongue or in the hand. We also note that if you are at the old Mass, the Extraordinary Form, Communion must be received on the tongue, and Communion is also received whilst kneeling, unless you can’t kneel.

Today is the 750th anniversary of the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi – the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Today’s feast gives us an opportunity to reflect on the awesome mystery inaugurated on the first Holy Thursday, when Christ was at the supper table with his chosen band, and having taken bread and wine, gave to them not bread and wine, but his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and commanded them to renew what he himself had done until the end of time, in memory of his parting hour.

For two thousand years, in obedience to Christ, Christians have gathered to celebrate the eucharist in memory of him. Through his very words – words from heaven – the bread and wine become heavenly gifts … food for our earthly pilgrimage.

The first reading today recalls how God led his people for forty years in the wilderness, feeding them with manna from heaven. In our own wilderness, our sojourn here below, the Lord continues to feed us with bread from heaven … the very Body and Blood of His Son.

In the Psalm we note that the Lord feeds us with “finest wheat” and he also feeds us with his word which he has sent out to the earth, making known to us his laws and decrees. God’s word is nourishment to us. That is why the Liturgy of the Word is such an important part of the Sacrifice of the Mass. God nourishes us with his Word, and he feeds us with the Body and Blood of His Son, who was his Word made flesh for us. The Word and Eucharist are inseparable, for they are one. The Son of God made flesh was the Word of the Father, and so we receive this Word with our eyes and ears in the Scriptures, but also as food in Holy Communion. The Word precedes the Sacrament because Christ gave himself first in words and actions, and then later gave himself as Sacrament, under the form of bread and wine. One of Psalms naturally has us sing, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!”

The collect of today’s Mass prays that we will always experience in our lives the fruits of redemption. One of the fruits of being redeemed is that our participation in the offering of Christ of himself to the Father leads us to live a life of self-emptying love. The prayer over the offerings reminds us that one of the fruits of the eucharist is the gift of unity and peace. As we gather at the one altar, and pray over the one bread and one cup, we are led to be the one body of Christ, united in his love so that we truly become, one body, one spirit in him.

Participation in the Mass is such a blessing to us. It is of inestimable value for us. That is why the Church enjoins on us to participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Further, whilst not being obligatory, we have the possibility of participating in Mass and being nourished by this heavenly food on weekdays. You might consider trying to go to Mass on some weekday in the week ahead and in subsequent weeks. The best thing we can ever do on any day is to participate in Mass, and unless prevented, to receive Our Lord sacramentally in Holy Communion.

Saint Augustine challenged his hearers, when reflecting on their reception of Communion, he said, “Be what you receive.” So let’s ourselves reflect on what effect receiving Jesus in holy communion has on us. With Him coming sacramentally into us, how can we be what we receive?

O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine!
All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine!