Dear One and All,
This feast, originally known as Corpus Christi, arose in thirteenth century Belgium, in response to debates about the real presence, and as a result of an upsurge in Eucharistic piety. Its extension to the entire Western Church was first decreed by Pope Urban IV in 1264. The feast celebrates the mystery of the nourishing and enduring presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
As we look at this Feast in the light of our Readings today, we will discover that the Biblical understanding of ‘Bread’ and of ‘Wine’ will enhance our perception today. So, make yourself at home, grab a Coffee/Tea/Wine or other beverage, and let’s go deep sea diving into God’s Word. Now, as I said last week, I am not intending to write this Homily in the greatest of English prose…..I would hope that you will hear me speaking, so that changes how I will write it. Just before we get our aqualungs on, I would like to suggest that you subscribe to this Blog…there is Subscription tag at the side of this page, and then your realhomilie.com will arrive when I post it…Howszat? 🙂
Don’t forget that there is always a special link between the First Reading and the Gospel, but today, being a Solemnity, we also have a link to the Second Reading. So where does the Responsorial Psalm fit in? Strictly speaking, and in the new format for the celebration of Mass, which will slowly come into effect this year; the guidelines in the Liturgy of the Word, strongly suggest that after the first Reading there should be a significant PAUSE. During the PAUSE, we need to reflect upon God’s Word on individually, so that we can give THE WORD time in us for a personal response. So, a general rule of thumb that I would propose is that while God’s Word is being proclaimed, let us have in our minds these questions…” Lord, what are you saying to me through your Word? Lord, how is my life to be changed?” You see, we really need to know what to do during the time of PAUSE, otherwise, like me, I might be thinking,”did I feed my Galah this morning?” Our minds often wonder; we need to use SILENCE profitably.
After the PAUSE, we then have the Responsorial Psalm….now, this Psalm has been chosen as our COMMUNITY RESPONSE to God’s Word. It’s a bit like a community TWITTER statement, which musters together the overall response from the gathered Community. Ideally, the response to the Psalm should be sung, especially on Sundays, and the Verses chanted by a Cantor. Music has a tremendous value in ministering to us, and the movement of the entire Community, in prayerful response.
The Second Reading is then proclaimed, and then there is another PAUSE, at the conclusion, followed by the Gospel Acclamation, which should be sung. In fact, in Liturgy, the Gospel Acclamation should always be sung….weekdays as well. Why you might ask? It is very much like Singing Happy Birthday to someone….no matter what the voices are like….it is always sung, never spoken! The same should go for the Alleluia!
We stand for the Gospel, and Christ speaks to us through His Word. The Homily should break open God’s Word for us to ingest! To eat! To be absorbed! This is where we get onto today’s Feast.
In order for us to deepen our understanding of Corpus Christi, we need to travel back in time to the first Passover. To that time when the deliverance of the Hebrews was imminent, and the time of enslavement in Egypt was to end. Remember that God’s people were asked to prepare a special meal ‘in haste’, called a Passover?…the Angel of the Lord passed over, and spared the families who had the blood of the Lamb painted on the doorpost. In this case the symbolism of the ‘blood’ was a sign of ‘new life’ for them. For our ancestors in faith, when a person was speared in battle, and suffered from a terrible wound…..the blood of the person was poured out……the person’s ‘life’ was coming out. Blood then, was a rich symbol for Life! Now let’s keep that in mind for later on in this homily, if it ever ends!
Our ancestors in faith, passed through the waters of the Red sea, dry shod en route to the Promised Land…the long way, may I say. Hence, water also became a rich symbol for ‘new life’. We can understand that years further down the track, when our ancestors in faith celebrated in a Liturgical way their Passover…no wonder the Canticle of Miriam was sung with great gusto, and then in Christian times that Baptism with water was an external sign of God’s life and the new life in the Community.
Linked with the new life, given to our ancestors in faith, was the Theophaney on Mt Sinai, which we heard about in last week’s First Reading. The Sinai event was the initiation of the Marriage contract between the Lord God, and his people. “I will be your God, and you will be my people”. The Ten Commandments, or Decalogue, or 10 Words from God, were the guidelines to ensure that the relationship initiated by the Lord God, could be kept. At the same time we see in parallel, the lived outcomes of that Covenant Love, as manifested in our relationships with each other. Now, let’s park that information as we move on in this homily. Time for a Coffee, in this chair
As the chosen people wandered in the Desert for a considerable long time, they complained about the consequences of their light hearted response to the Lord God’s covenant. Hence, they literally went around in circles in the desert….lost. ( A definition for sin could well be…’turning away from God’) But in their lostness, the Lord God, fed them with Manna (Bread from Heaven) and water from the rock at Meribah. Bread was their daily food. Hence, God’s ‘loving kindness’ manifested in this free gift of ‘bread,’ and then ingested through the action of eating together, has ramifications for the profundity of Christ’s action at the Last Supper! It was, and still is, an Arabic custom to always share bread, food, water, and wine with others. The community activity of ‘eating and sharing’ is an important family and hospitality event. The Take-away mentality in our age would not make sense to these people. They would share what they have, so that ‘communion’ takes place. (Remember our thoughts about communion last week, while talking about the Trinity?) See how it all fits together? Furthermore, when travelling in the desert, people would always go in groups. They would select who they would want with them, they would want people with them who could be trusted, as they went off on a shopping spree perhaps to the coastal town of, say Jaffa. When meal-time would draw closer at dusk, they would share their bread with each other, and their wine. Hence we get the English word companion, which from its Latin roots means; basically, com=with….panis=bread…so a companion is someone trusted, whom you would share ‘bread’ with. Remember that popular song that we used to hear years back in Primary Schools, and in Church…. ‘We are Companions on the journey, sharing bread and sharing life’ By Carey Landry. North American Liturgy Resource. Phoenix Arizona
Finally, we must take note of God’s Word as food…..as bread! If we look up Ezekiel 3:2-3….here it is for you, so let’s stay comfortable. ‘He said, ‘Son of man, eat what is given to you; eat this scroll, then go and speak to the House of Israel’. I opened my mouth; he gave me the scroll to eat and said, ‘Son of man, feed and be satisfied by the scroll I am giving you’. I ate it, and it tasted sweet as honey.’
Now it is all coming together…the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, speaks The Word to us, and we are called to ingest it. At the last Supper, the washing of the feet of His Disciples (His trusted Companions) is the prelude to the Blessing, the Breaking, and the handing out of the Bread….this is my Body! This is the Cup of my Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant…….this is my Life which will be poured out for you in being pierced by the lance on the Cross……yes, blood as life…water as new life. The Cross of Jesus is His Triumph, the Resurrection of Christ is the triumph of the Father…..at that moment when new life was re breathed into His Son, the Father was then sharing all that was, all that is, and all that will happen in the future….with us….His trusted Companions!
As we look at all of this in the light of the Eucharistic Assembly; every Mass is a Solemnity of Corpus Christi…….As St.Theresa once said, “Christ has no body now but yours……….”
May God Bless you and your families, and may we never forget each other in prayer.
PS: I have written four short Essays on the Eucharist, with the help of Biblical and Ecclesial Researcher, Ms Annette Hartman from Parramatta. For her painstaking research, and for putting up with my impatience to have it done, I am truly grateful. Her reward in Heaven will be great! The first Essay will be attached to the Readings TAG, it will appear after the Scripture Readings, and I will attach them over the next four weeks.