Friday, June 12, 2020

HOMILY – Corpus Christi 2020 – Real Presence of Jesus

This weekend we are celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi ( also referred to as the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ). This feast began in the 13th century and was created to reverence the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

As we know, the Catholic Church teaches “the Eucharist is the ‘source and summit of the Christian life’.”   
But how many Catholics today still believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?  A Pew research study showed no more than 3 out of 10 actually believe. 7 out of 10 Catholics in America today do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
“(These people) personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion ‘are (ONLY) symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.’ Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that ‘during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus." (Read full Pew Study here)
Perhaps motivated by this finding, our Archbishop Paul Etienne is declaring the Year of the Eucharist beginning this weekend. He announced this news in a Pastoral Letter found in this month’s Northwest Catholic. (Read full Pastoral Letter here)
There’s a lot there to soak in. And, yes, he’s asking us to change some of the ways in which we worship.
The real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is found in the documents of Vatican II, in “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” the Council’s Document on Divine Liturgy.
The document teaches the five ways of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist:
“To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, ... but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a (priest or deacon) baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20)’.”
In today’s reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus is using specific words that have guided the Church’s teachings for nearly two-thousand years.
The word used to refer to Eucharist is soma or “body.” However, in this passage, Jesus is using the word sarx, which means “flesh.”  “Terms like ‘body’ can have symbolic meanings, but the term ‘flesh’ had no other meaning than the corporeal reality of one’s physical being.”
Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg in his reflection on this passage said this:   “Jesus wants us to make no mistake about it — He Himself is really and truly present (flesh and blood) in the food and drink He gives us in the Eucharist.”

The second word in this passage needing close inspection is “eat.” There were many different words in Greek to describe the action of eating.
The word Jesus intentionally chooses in this passage is used four times for emphasis: trogein Trogein means to munch or gnaw when eating. He could have chosen a dignified word like phragein.    
But he chose the word trogein. “This is important because it has no other meaning than the physical experience of ‘munching’ on a piece of food whereas phragein could have a more figurative meaning of digesting something intellectually or assimilating something culturally. Thus, in this passage, Jesus is going out of His way to make His point very clear: He is giving us a real gift of His physical body and blood, and to receive that gift we must actually eat it.”
In the prologue to John’s Gospel we hear,
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”   
“And the Word was made flesh (sarx) and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
As we continue our Eucharistic fast, and navigate the challenging rules around staying healthy in a time of COVID-19, you may ask, why is the Archbishop doing this now? Aren’t their more important issues to talk about than the Eucharist?
We are sheltered in our homes due to a pandemic. We have an economy in ruins. We have riots in the streets and civil unrest not seen since the late 1960s.
It’s a fair question.
As we heard in today’s first reading from Deuteronomy, the Israelites were grumbling and testing Moses. And what did he remind them?
“(God) therefore let you be afflicted with hunger,
and then fed you with manna,
a food unknown to you and your fathers,
in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.”
Jesus is our manna. Jesus is the Word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD. Jesus is who we are all called to become by conforming our lives to his.  
Archbishop Etienne reminds us, “The Eucharist is an inexhaustible source of grace, the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s dying and rising daily renewed for our salvation and for the salvation of the whole world. The Eucharist is the living presence of Christ in our midst. That presence does not, must not leave us unchanged: Receiving the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ. The Eucharist unites us to Christ, and, in Christ, to each other. And the Eucharist commits us to the poor, sending us forth in service and love.

I can't think of a more important topic for us all to reflect on in these tumultuous, challenging and difficult times.