FEAST OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST: Homily by Fr. Matthias Lusembo
THEME: LET US BE BREAD FOR OTHERS
INTENTION: That we may offer ourselves to save others as Christ did.
In the Gospel according to John chapter 6, the word BREAD is used, at least 20 times. In many of these times, Jesus applies the word to himself saying:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If you eat this bread you will live forever. The bread that I will give you is my flesh, which I give so that the world may live.” (v 51). When people grumble against this, Jesus continues:
“I am telling you the truth: If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life…” (vs 53-54).
Many of his followers deserted him because they thought that he was going to turn them into cannibals by giving them just his human flesh. There are still many people who share this misunderstanding of the sacramental Body and Blood of Christ.
When Jesus declares: “I am the bread of life”, he is not only referring to his flesh. He is referring to himself, body, soul and divinity; the whole person. Mere human flesh cannot give eternal life; not even human life. By giving us his body and blood, the God who gave us human life by breathing into us, is giving us eternal life by sharing with us his eternal divine DNA, without which we cannot have eternal life.
That is why any person who wants to have eternal life makes all the necessary efforts to receive the body and blood of Christ. And Jesus does not discriminate against anyone of any race or rank. He wants communion with everyone to form one family of God.
The body and blood that Christ gives us is his glorified body that cannot be exhausted and cannot be limited by space and time. It is the risen Lord that we receive in Holy Communion and this communion turns us into members of his mystical body. So it is quite wrong to refer to us as cannibals, because we do not eat mere human flesh but the glorified Lord.
My dear brothers and sisters, the one who declares to us: “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you do not have life (meaning eternal life) within you” is God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Savior of the World. So, whoever wants to have eternal life, should take him seriously.
In the year 1263, Peter of Prague, a German priest, while saying Mass at Bolsena, north of Rome, doubting that bread and wine could become the body and blood of Christ, as soon as he said the words of consecration, the host began to bleed. Blood fell onto his hands and onto the corporal on the altar. He was awestruck and began to cry.
After all of the facts had been ascertained, Pope Urban IV declared a miracle had occurred. In1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of Corpus Christi (feast of the Body and Blood of Christ), a special feast day to recognize and to promote the great gift of the Blessed Sacrament. The relics are in the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy.
I Actual fact, the feast of the body and blood of Christ commemorates the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, prefigured during the last supper. According to Mk 14: 22-26, Jesus took bread and said: “take it, this IS my body.” Taking the cup of wine, he said: “This IS my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
By that Christ declared himself to be the sacrificial lamb that takes away the sins of the world; replacing the Old Testament lambs, whose blood could not suffice to take away the sins of the world (Exodus 12:13; 24:3-8). Much as we strive to destroy our enemies, Jesus offers his body and blood to save his enemies!
Because Christ’s blood is sufficiently redemptive, the veil in the temple was torn at his death to indicate that his death took away the barrier between God and people. (Cf. Hebrews 9:12).
We relive this sacrifice of Jesus in the Eucharist, particularly at consecration, when a validly ordained priest lifts bread and Christ, through the priest, repeats his words “THIS IS MY BODY” and on the wine “THIS IS MY BLOOD”. The bread is transubstantiated into the BODY and the wine into the BLOOD of Christ, NOT SYMBOLS! SYMBOLS MAY BE FOUND IN CHURCHES THAT DO NOT HAVE VALIDLY ORDAINED PRIESTS!
By this Christ offers his body and blood for our salvation. That is why the Mass is the holiest thing we have here on earth. The most solemn moment of the Holy Mass is the consecration. From this moment on, Christ is present at the altar with his divinity, sacramentally.
When we receive his body and blood, we become peripatetic tabernacles carrying the Lord and we are expected to pay uttermost reverence to him and to the other tabernacles where he is found. That is why, even without Mass, the tabernacle (where the remaining body of Christ is kept) remains the point of focus in Catholic Churches.
Holy Communion is the holiest and best gift we can have here on earth. “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment.” So , teaches St. Paul in (1Cor 11:23-29).
We sinned and Christ, an innocent co-creator and King gave up His body and blood to repair for our sins and to feed us as a mother feeds her child with her own blood. Saint Thomas Aquinas adds: “No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.” (Opus. 57, lect, 1-4).
What should we do in response? We need to love the Eucharist which is “thanksgiving”. We need to value the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
If we want to follow Christ we have to follow his example of self-giving in service. We have to say with Christ, about our own selves: “This is my body, this is my blood, which is given up for you.”
The pragmatic purpose of today’s liturgy is to enable us to make this self-giving the real motivation for our lives. All of us, disciples of Jesus are supposed to become bread for others; others have to feed on us in order to survive. That is to say, we are supposed to sustain others’ lives, using our time, talent and treasure. This is a kind of eco-system in creation.
Many beings sacrifice their lives for the survival of others. We human beings are at the mercy of very many beings for our survival: our parents, especially our mothers on whom we fed for 9 months, our teachers; animals, birds, greens, serials. As we take animals for slaughter we are indirectly praying them to accept to die so that we may survive.
As we eat Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, as we eat food, people’s energy, knowledge and time, we should know that we also are supposed to be eaten.
If you lose weight or feel exhausted because of serving others, be happy, because that means that they are eating you; you are their bread, you are fulfilling the reason of your being. If you do not want to be eaten do not eat.
Certainly, one who is not ready to become bread for others, one who is not ready to offer his/her time, energy and knowledge to serve others, like in community service, is not yet a true Christian, because a true Christian is ipso facto supposed to be bread for others. God distributed his resources differently so that we may need each other and show love to one another. So, LET US BE BREAD FOR OTHERS.