Homily for Corpus Christi
June 14, 2020
Welcome back into church! It is so good to see faces instead of empty wooden seats. How fitting it is that we resume our worship on this feast day, Corpus Christi! This is the day that we celebrate the very gift that brings us together every Sunday: the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.
Over these past three months, I have heard from many parishioners who have said, “Oh, Father, we’ve been live-streaming Masses and doing the readings, but something’s missing!” That is a profound intuition – something is missing. The Catechism calls the Eucharist the “source and summit” of our Faith – the Church cannot exist without the Eucharist. When the ancient Romans persecuted Christians, the Faith continued to grow – because they continued to celebrate the Eucharist in secret. By contrast, the Catholic faith had already made good inroads into Japan in the sixteenth century – over 130,000 converts – but when persecution cracked down, the churches shrunk and barely survived. What is the difference? The Japanese persecution deported or killed every single priest in the land, so for three centuries there was no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, the Church could not grow.
But if the Eucharist is so essential, why did God allow it to be taken away from us? Never before in history has there been zero public Masses in a country. 196 dioceses in the USA, over 17,000 parishes…and not a single public Mass. Why? Why did God do this? I can identify three reasons.
First, to teach us the value of the Eucharist. One of the best movies ever is The Sandlot (“you’re killing me, Smalls!”). If you’ve never seen it, it’s about a kid named Scotty Smalls who moves into a new town and is trying to make friends, but all the boys are playing baseball. Problem is – he knows nothing about baseball. So he tries to fit in and play with them, and when they happen to lose the ball by knocking it into the yard with the vicious dog, Scott tries to be helpful by grabbing a ball from his dad’s trophy case. They end up playing with that ball for a while until it, too, is knocked over the fence…and only then do they realize it was a ball signed by Babe Ruth! The boy had never heard of the great Yankee, so he thought it was just a regular ball.
When you don’t know what something is, it doesn’t have much meaning. If someone did not know what the Eucharist was, it would seem to be ordinary bread. But once we realize that it is the true Flesh and Blood of God, it suddenly becomes the most valuable thing in the universe. These past three months made us realize how much we missed the Eucharist. We felt like something was missing – and now we come back with greater appreciation for how truly awesome is this gift.
When we realize the value of the Eucharist, our lives change. I was reading about a man named Paul Comtois, who was the lieutenant governor of Quebec in the ‘60s. He was also a devout Catholic who had obtained the very rare permission to keep the Blessed Sacrament in his house, so he could pray before Him daily. One day, his house caught on fire at midnight. Paul made sure his entire family was out safely, but then went back into the burning building to rescue the Eucharist. He ended up being trapped in the burning building, dying from the flames, but he died clutching the Eucharist to his chest and was able to save the Lord. There is a man who recognizes the true value of the Blessed Sacrament! This time of quarantine has hopefully instilled in us the realization that the Eucharist is truly the most valuable thing in the universe.
A second reason why we lost the Eucharist is so that we would be filled with a Eucharistic hunger. Have you felt a hunger for Jesus’ Eucharistic presence? May we always burn with such a hunger and never take Him for granted. Common things tend to become mundane – recently I visited a friend who lives in upstate New York, in this breathtaking valley in the Catskills, with huge mountains towering around her farm. I couldn’t help exclaiming how amazing it was – I just wanted to marinate in the beauty! But she responded, somewhat bored, “Oh, yeah, I guess it is pretty nice.” She sees it every day, so it has lost its magnificence! Perhaps receiving the Eucharist every Sunday has lost its savor for you? Perhaps we think, “Oh, yeah, I guess we’ve got to go to Mass again. Ho-hum. I hope that homily is pretty short.” Wait –we have the awe-inspiring privilege to worship the True Flesh and Blood of the God of the Universe. Not even angels can receive the Body of Christ! I pray that this time of Eucharistic hunger has increased our desire for His Flesh and Blood, and that we never take it for granted again.
A final reason why God may have taken away the Eucharist is because across our nation every Sunday, the Eucharist is being blasphemed and insulted – by sacrilegious Communions. What does that mean? It means receiving the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin. Listen to the words of St. Paul from 1 Cor 11: “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. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.” Paul says that if we eat the Body of the Lord with mortal sin on our soul, we are guilty of sinning, profaning, spitting upon the Body of Christ! If we don’t recognize the King of Kings in the Eucharist, we eat and drink judgment upon ourselves! Those are strong words – but they are truth, and are rarely spoken of in today’s Church.
Consider the case of Judas. When he betrayed Our Lord, he did so in a surprising way. He didn’t point to Him, or punch Him…he kissed Him. This action which should have been an action of love was actually a profound act of hatred. In the same way, receiving Our Lord is the greatest act of love we could perform, but if done with mortal sin on our soul, the action becomes one that leads to our condemnation. We would never put the Eucharist into the mud, right? Then why would Our Lord want to wallow in the filth of a soul in mortal sin? We need to make sure we have no mortal sin on our soul – mortal sin includes intentionally missing Mass on Sunday (when it’s an obligation – the obligation is currently suspended at the moment), getting drunk or using drugs, or any sexual activity outside of marriage, including looking at impure pictures. Every Sunday across the country, the Eucharist is received unworthily by people who do not know or do not care, and for this reason the Lord has deprived us of His Body and Blood for the last three months. Let us make sure only to receive His Body in the state of grace!
As much as we have missed receiving Jesus, Jesus has missed giving Himself to us infinitely more. It is the burning desire of His Sacred Heart to provide His Flesh and Blood to holy souls for their nourishment. Let us always be well-prepared and hungry to receive Him!