Thursday, June 6, 2013
MY HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI)
Introduction: In many places throughout the world, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is an occasion to have elaborate Eucharistic processions during which the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is carried through the streets and pathways of our cities and villages. In Rome on Corpus Christi which is observed on its traditional date of the Thursday following Trinity Sunday (Thursday also being the day the Most Holy Eucharist was instituted by Christ), Popes take the Holy Eucharist in procession on the streets of Rome. Pope Benedict said a few years ago at one of his Corpus Christi Masses, “We take Christ present in the figure of bread through the streets of our city. We entrust these streets, these homes, and our daily life to his goodness. May our streets be Jesus’ streets! May our homes be homes for Him and with Him! May His presence penetrate our daily life. With this gesture we place before His eyes the sufferings of the sick, the loneliness of young people and the elderly, temptations, fears, our whole life.” In receiving these gifts, we are inspired and nourished by the very life of Jesus Christ. However, there is another aspect of this feast. When we live in the realization of whom we are as the Body of Christ, as Catholics, our very lives become a “procession” that brings the Real Presence of Jesus into every aspect of our human experience."
Topic Statement: In the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ our Divine Savior, we receive the pure love of God who nourishes us to have a strong Catholic identity and life in the world, the secular world that so needs God’s love.
1. Our experience of the Holy Eucharist is meant to transform the parishioners of Saint Joseph Church into the visible Body of Christ in this Macon community.
A. During a retreat, a group of young people told their bishop that they were having a difficult time understanding what it means to be a Catholic. The Bishop suggested that to really grasp what our baptism means they should do two things: first, that they should participate in the Holy Eucharist with the same parish community every Sunday and second, they work in a soup kitchen for the poor. If you do these two things together, the bishop said, you will come to understand what it means to be a Catholic.
Of course what the good Bishop was saying is that Mass and good works must walk hand-in-hand. Those of you with young children already work in a soup kitchen as you feed the poorest of the poor in your own family, your young children and also provide them shelter, clothing and education but especially love. Your home is the Church in miniature.
B. Saint Augustine of Hippo said, “God is all to you: if you are hungry, God is bread; if thirsty, God is water; if darkness, God is light; if naked, God is a robe of immortality.” When St. Augustine made that discovery midway through his life, he lived the remainder of his years passionately hungering for deeper awareness of God. It is said that St. Augustine coined the phrase that eventually was turned into a secular love song: "Sweet Mystery of life, I finally found You."
2. Our Catholic identity and spirituality finds its greatest meaning and purpose in the true nature of the Holy Eucharist celebrated at every Mass.
A. Recently there was a poll taken of Catholics which showed that only 24% of Catholics actually attend Mass every Sunday. 30% of those who were polled actually believed that the Holy Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. I fear that these statistics may be very accurate. If we do not appreciate or understand what we do each and every Sunday as Catholics when we gather for Mass, and do not gain an identity from this, how in the world are we to be the Body of Christ in the world if we do not have a strong Catholic identity and if we are apathetic about our Catholic morality, what it means to be a Catholic?
Many Catholics believe the Bread and Wine is a symbol of Christ, which it is, but let's be clear, even an atheist would have to agree that the Bread and Wine consecrated at a Catholic Mass is a symbol of Christ, it takes no faith to believe this. But it does take gift of Catholic faith to believe that the Bread and Wine ceases to be bread and wine once consecrated and its "Substance" what it is, become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ's glorified Body, crucified and risen. The "accidents" remain, of what the bread and wine look like, taste like and feel to the senses as this makes receiving our Glorified Lord Jesus Christ palatable and pleasant compared to a more literal or physical experience of the same. In fact through transubstantiation not only is there a miracle of the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ but the other miracle is that its "accidents" remain and for our benefit!
B. In addition to worthily receiving our Divine Savior’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion, we as Catholics should make visits to our open Church during the week to pray before our Divine Savior in the Most Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. At St. Joseph we also have our adoration chapel that can be accessed 24 hours a day for prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament in Solemn Exposition in the monstrance. Many people do this every day here. Some are not Catholic and do not realize the Gift of God present sacramentally in the tabernacle. Others of you come for a short time, a Holy Hour, pour out your troubles to God and find strength and solace.
Several years ago a young father of 30 told me that he made his Holy Hour at the perpetual adoration chapel in his town at 2 AM each Tuesday. He said that doing this helped him to center his life as a husband, father and co-worker and helped him to deepen his Catholic faith. He found that it calmed his nerves and gave him strength to face the problems of life. That one hour a week at 2 AM made him a better Catholic and a more humble Catholic. Please consider making a weekly commitment to pray one hour before the most Blessed Sacrament, our Divine Savior, in our adoration chapel. Please choose a time and remain committed to that time. Please fill out the form we passed out to you committing to an weekly holy hour and place it in the collection basket.
C. I’d like to conclude with some practical Catholic devotional practices as it regards our Divine Savior’s Real Presence in the Mass and in the tabernacle:
1. Observe the one hour fast before receiving Holy Communion; this includes chewing gum but not water and medicine. In fact all of you know my neurosis concerning people who chew gum in our church and that I have to be restrained from being ugly about it. If you have broken the fast either intentionally or unintentionally there is no sin but you should not receive Holy Communion.
2. Receive Holy Communion worthily. If we have committed a mortal sin a Catholic must be absolved from their mortal sin by a priest in Confession, the Sacrament of Penance, before receiving Holy Communion. Catholics who are not free to receive Holy Communion are still obligated to attend Mass as there are graces in abundance simply by coming to Mass to pray, praise and thank God and allow His Word and Divine Presence to move our hearts and strengthen our Catholic identity. If you can't receive Holy Communion for whatever reason, that is your business and no one else's. If someone asks, just simply tell them you "broke the fast!"
3. Let us maintain silence in the Church since our Divine Savior is presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle precisely for prayer and contemplation. In the Church let us focus our conversation individually or together to Christ, not to one another. So I’m asking that we maintain sacred silence before and after Mass so people can pray. This is a new expectation here at St. Joseph and really a recovery of our more ancient practice. Please help us to respect those who wish to remain in prayer before or after Mass by avoiding conversations with each other. Please meet and greet outside or in the social hall.
4. Let us be aware of the need to recognize our Lord by our bodily reverence, genuflecting each time we pass directly in front of the tabernacle or when we enter or leave the pew. I have practical information in my bulletin letter this morning.
Conclusion: In conclusion, let us take Pope Francis words to heed. Let us not fence off our Catholic Faith and Morals from the rest of our lives at home, work and play. And certainly do let anyone tell you to fence off your Catholicism from the rest of your lives! Let us witness to our Catholic faith in Jesus Christ crucified and risen by developing a true Catholic identity based upon the truths of the Church in all its purity and let us avoid embracing mere opinions about the faith (either our own opinions or that of others) as though these are always true. Let us be pristine in our Catholic faith, our Catholic identity and Catholic morality. Let us draw strength from Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar to accomplish all this here, at home, work, play, politics and everything we do. Let our Catholic identity, spirituality, and morality shine forth.