Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year A 2014

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year A  2014

As I have been suggesting over the past two weeks, there are three ways that Jesus did not leave us orphaned when he went back to the Father. Two weeks ago we celebrated the first of these on the Feast of Pentecost, when the Spirit descended and came into the world, into each one of us. The presence of the Spirit is all-encompassing, and was sent to be our Advocate and Counsellor. Today we celebrate the second of these ways that God’s presence remains among us. His presence is made real in the Eucharist, and allows each one of us to participate in the life and death of Jesus. The feast today, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a yearly reminder that Christ is still with us, that we are part of the Body of Christ, and that we have access to his physical presence at each and every Eucharistic service – a fact that I think we sometimes take for granted.

The first reading today from Deuteronomy – again, read backwards – ties in the manna in the dessert, God’s way of feeding his flock during their forty year journey, with God continually feeding us in the Eucharist. And it is not bread alone that feeds us, but Christ also speaks to us in his Word, which is the third way Jesus is present to us. Deuteronomy says that God provides his food to “do [us] good”.  We know from psychology and sociology today that we must take care of our basic needs – hunger and thirst – before we can even think about spiritual things.  Just as God provided for the wilderness travelers, God provides spiritual food for us so that we can have the ability to understand that there is more to life than food.

These images of food and God as provider run throughout the Jewish Testament. In today’s psalm, for example we hear our God fills us with the finest wheat. Again, when we read backwards, how apt a description for the bread of the Christian Testament – the finest God has to offer – his Son.

The reading from St. Paul, again one of the earliest descriptions of Eucharist, reminds us that we all share in the Body and Blood of Christ. In one sense, through consuming the Bread we allow Jesus to use our bodies to become physically present. God is in us, and we are in God. The Bread allows us to be unified as well. We become, in a special way, joined together through partaking of the Eucharist. The cup of blessing is the third cup of wine used in a Passover celebration. Again, Paul is comparing the Eucharist to a Passover Meal, one which has been transformed through the death of Jesus.  At weddings we often toast to the bride and groom. We lift our glasses, clink them with each other to show our solidarity and common wishes to the bride and groom. Similarly, the cup of blessing, shared by all, shows our solidarity, or common wish to be a member of the Body of Christ.

The section of John that we read today has been made very familiar to us through quoting and through many songs, so i think we tend to lose the surprise, the shock of it. Certainly non-believers who read this misinterpreted it widely, even as cannibalism. To talk about eating flesh and blood – even more anathema to a Jew! – smacked of strange ritual and ceremonies of the worst of the pagan cults.

But, those who know Jesus know that what Jesus is referring to is something different, and something quite beautiful. Jesus says that he himself is the manna that was sent down to heaven to feed those on the journey of life. It is different from the manna in the desert, however, because that bread was not any more than bread, and was there only to feed the body. It sustained life, but did not extend it. Jesus is the living bread that falls from heaven. Through the Eucharist he gives us this living bread – his flesh to eat. And it does more than sustain. It gives life, yes, but also extends life to life eternal, so that on the last day we will be raised up and live forever. These are revolutionary thoughts. I can barely imagine what those who first heard them must have thought. Remember John makes a point of it to say that Jesus said all this in the Jewish synagogue! No wonder many thought he was a crazy man!

It is only through reading backwards that the Apostles and we become able to see the relevance of what Jesus was saying. These passages are given meaning by the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

It is so easy for us to normalize and not really think about the meaning of these passages. We hear people today who say they are spiritual but not religious, and by that, they seem to mean that they pray and maybe even have a relationship with Jesus, but they are not churched – they have no community to be attached to. This is so not Christian. Jesus constantly spoke of community, of being one with each other, to the point of giving us this gift of the Eucharist to make it all real. I feel sorry for those who say they are spiritual yet do not partake of the food that Jesus sends us each week. It reminds me of the parable of Jesus where the man was giving a banquet and nobody came. How sad.

For those of us that do come, this yearly feast is a reminder to us not to take the Eucharist for granted. Jesus tells us : Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink [his] blood, you don’t really have life in you.

My wish for you today is that you think about what the Eucharist means and can mean to you this week, that you have the ‘life’ that Jesus promises you, and that we have the strength and means to let others know that they are missing an incredible gift and an incredible opportunity.

Let the Good News of living forever ring out as we celebrate this wonderful feast of Christ’s Body and Blood!

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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