• Genesis 14:18-20 • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 • Luke 9:11b-17 • Body & Blood C ‘13 •
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 06.02.2013
Scripture Readings: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
I presume most of you remember Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. It was a major part of our Catholic piety prior to the Second Vatican Council. The gold monstrance with the small window contained a large white host. This was placed on the altar. At one point the minister lifted it up in blessing over the people.
Prior to the council we considered the Blessed Sacrament a “holy object.” Any of the Sacrament remaining unconsumed was reserved in the Tabernacle to be taken to those absent because of illness. Customs gradually developed affecting our piety.
We genuflected in front of the Tabernacle, knelt before it for long periods in prayer and made “visits to the Blessed Sacrament.” We received Communion in the form of little white hosts on extended tongue. The Sacrament was to be touched only by the ordained. Even if the Sacrament accidentally was dropped to the floor, we laity were never to touch it. The ordained were scrupulous about any fragments. Chalice and paten were “purified” — only by the ordained. Nuns were allowed to wash “the sacred linens.” There was a special sink for the disposal of any water used in these tasks.
My final year of theology was 1960. By then Catholic piety had developed an amazing mystic around the Sacrament as a “holy object.” Today’s feast of “The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ” was a development and expression of that mystic.
In that final year of my studies before ordination as priest, one event remains freshest in my memory. Our weekly routine included Benediction on Sunday afternoon. I was a deacon and it was my first time to be the minister for Benediction. I clearly remember that Sunday. I was very familiar with the rubrics, yet quite apprehensive. At the proper time I ascended the steps to the tabernacle. I genuflected properly, opened the door, and then for the first time reached into the Tabernacle and took the Sacrament in my hand. I experienced a surge of conflicting emotions.
Early in the 1960’s Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council called us to spiritual renewal. They asked us to return to our earliest sources from the apostolic church and reexamine our piety, customs and practices. We did so and rediscovered the meaning of Eucharist. We realized Eucharist is not something we watch. It is something we do. Eucharist is not a sacred object we receive. We realized Eucharist is what we are!
The apostolic tradition as expressed by St. Paul is clear. “The blessing cup, which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ; and the loaf of bread which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? And as there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf.”
Four hundred years after Paul, St. Augustine’s clearly stated his understanding of Paul’s letter.
“We who eat and drink the sacrament of Christ’s life become that which we eat and drink. We eat and drink the body and blood of Christ. That is what we become.”
That which we share at this Table is sacrament. It is not physical presence. Eucharist is not “a sacred object” to be worshipped. Jesus asks us to “take this and eat,” “take this and drink.” It is food to eat and drink, nourishment to be consumed. In doing so we are kept mindful of the mystery we live. We are the Living Body of Christ! That is the point. Eucharist is about us. The nonviolent Christ directs our creative energy to the transformation of God’s creation — “the reign/ the kingdom of God.” His life is now our life. His work is now our work. The Risen One dwells in, with and among us here and now.
Remember that when you come to the Table of Eucharist and speak your “amen.” Speak it with conviction that, “Yes we are! The Living Body of Christ.”