Tag Archives: Corpus Christi

Feast of Corpus Christi

For today’s homily, please play the video below:

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Corpus Christi

 

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio below:


I missed my train last week because I wasn’t paying attention to signs in the subway announcing delays due to track repairs. Keep your eye on signs.

Today’s Feast of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ calls our attention to the signs of bread and wine; They’re sacred signs Jesus gave us; we can take them for granted. They point to a great mystery.

Our first reading today from the Book of Exodus points to the altar where Moses called the people to remember through signs the life they received from God. It’s a covenant moment, Moses says. God graciously gives himself to us and we are called to give ourselves to God. That’s what we do here at our altar as we bring the signs of bread and wine.

The prayers we say help us to understand these sacred signs. In our prayer over the bread at Mass we say: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we received the bread we offer you, fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.”

The bread we offer, the wine we offer are signs of creation and the human efforts that are part of creation. They’re signs of everything that the “God of all creation” gives us, of everything that comes from our hands. “The word bread stands for everything,” Augustine said in one of his commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer. (Epistle to Proba)

The bread and wine stand for everything. Let’s think of what that means. Scientists say that our universe came into existence about 15 billion years ago. The bread and wine stand for the 15 billion years our universe has been in existence. About 3.5 billion years ago life began on our planet. The bread and wine represent that 3.5 billion years of life on our planet. When they’re brought to the altar the whole universe is brought here.

About 200,000 years ago human life emerged on our planet. 200,000 years of human life are represented in the bread and wine. Our lives are part of the human story represented in the bread and wine .

We believe that when Jesus sat down with his disciples at the Last Supper and took bread and wine into his hands he took all creation, all life, all human life, he took us into his hands.

“This is my body.” “This is my blood,” he said. He is God in human flesh giving himself to us and to everything that God made. In a love poured out, he renews the covenant God makes with us and with creation.

Of course, we can miss the signs.

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Corpus Christi

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“I Love a Mystery” was a radio program I listened to as a young boy, long ago. It started, as all mysteries do, with something concealed. Someone, something was lost, someone was killed or was being hunted down and for the next half hour you would follow the various clues until the mystery was solved.

The Mass is a mystery too. A “mystery of faith,” we say, and it hides the treasures of our faith.

One of the earliest terms describing the Mass is “the Lord’s Supper,” referring of course to the supper that Jesus shared with his disciples the night before he died.  He spoke to them that night of his love and then gave himself to them under the signs of bread and wine. Then he said “Do this in memory of me.”

In every Catholic church we try to keep his command. Whether it’s St. Peter’s Basilica or a parish church or a small chapel off a busy city street, there’s an altar, a table, at the center of the place and the Lord’s Supper is celebrated here in memory of him.

Readings from the Old and New Testaments will be read here, because Jesus spoke from the scriptures to his disciples. Then the priest who represents Jesus takes bread and wine, gives thanks to God for the gifts of creation and life itself, then repeats the words of Jesus, “This is my body” “This is my Blood.” Then we all receive these gifts.

We gather around Jesus as his disciples did, not perfect disciples to be sure, but we’re among those “whom he loved till the end.” And he feeds us with his wisdom and life.

Our celebration of the Mass can be flawed by cold routine or lifeless participation. We who take part in the Mass–priest and people – may not bring the lively faith or spirit of thanksgiving that’s  “right and just” for this great act of worship. But still,  as a church we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We have been celebrating it from the time of Jesus till now, and we will continue till its signs are replaced by the reality of the Kingdom they signify.

Ordinary time is when the Holy Spirit acts. It’s also the time when we know Jesus Christ through the signs he has left us, particularly through the Holy Eucharist.

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Sacred Heart

Today, the Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi, is the Feast of the Sacred Heart. The feast was deliberately placed on this date because of its associations with the death of Jesus and the mystery of the Eucharist. Statues and symbols of this feast can still be found in so many of our churches and shrines and even our homes. Devotion to the Sacred Heart was a favorite devotion of the generation of Catholics before ours. It was promoted especially by the Jesuits, but the whole church took it up.

I think today of Sacred Heart Church in Springfield, Mass where Theodore Foley grew up. The devotion expressed in that church must of had a profound influence on him.

The devotion was strong in the pre-Vatican II church, but not so strong now. How do I know? I was listening to a little segment on church music from Vatican Radio, which featured popular hymns to the Sacred Heart. Most of them you don’t hear today.

By the way, the Vatican Radio site is a lively place to get little gems of information, like “Was St. Paul a Mysoginist?” Some wonderful stuff on the art and architecture of Rome too.

The devotion, however, points to a mystery that transcends its present expression. Here’s St. Bonaventure, from today’s Office of Readings:

“Take thought now, you who are redeemed, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder.

“By divine decree, one of the soldiers opened his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’. The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting. “

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Corpus Christi

“I Love a Mystery” was a radio program I listened to as a young boy, long ago. It started, as all mysteries do, with something concealed. Someone, something was lost, someone was killed or was being hunted down and for the next half hour those who would solve the mystery followed various clues until the mystery was solved.

The Mass is a mystery we Christians love. A “mystery of faith,” we say, that reveals the great blessings of God’s love.  It’s a sacrament, a holy sign Jesus has given to his Church, and there are a number of ways to describe it.

One of the earliest terms describing the Mass is “the Lord’s Supper,” which refers to the supper when Jesus sat down with his disciples the night before he died and shared his life with them.  He spoke at the table that night of his love for them and then gave himself to them under the signs of bread and wine.

Whenever I go into a Catholic church or chapel I see how faithfully the church has kept Jesus’ command “Do this in memory of me.” Whether it’s St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican or a small chapel off a busy city street, there will be an altar, a table, at the center of the place. The Lord’s Supper is celebrated here in memory of him.

Readings from the Old and New Testaments will be read here, because Jesus spoke from the scriptures to his disciples. Then the priest who represents Jesus takes bread and wine, gives thanks to God for the gifts of creation and life itself, then repeats the words of Jesus, “This is my body” “This is my Blood.” Then we all receive these gifts.

We don’t just look at a picture from the past when we remember the Lord’s Supper or imagine it in our mind. It’s not enough to read about it in the bible. As Catholics we celebrate it again, by gathering together as Jesus’ own, “whom he loved till the end.” We are his people whom he calls to a table and feeds with his wisdom and life.

You may have seen one of the large Christian “mega-churches”  springing up in our country today. They’re usually large buildings to hold a big congregation gathered around a preaching platform where there’s also room for a choir and musical groups. The mega-churches stress preaching-usually by a well-known preacher- and stirring spiritual music.

But there is no altar in the mega-church, no celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Yes, the Catholic celebration of the Mass can be flawed by cold routine or lifeless participation. Those who take part in the Mass–priest and people – may not bring the lively faith or spirit of thanksgiving  that’s  “right and just” for this great act of worship. We certainly need better preaching and better efforts at celebration.

But still,  as a church we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We have been celebrating it from the time of Jesus till now, and we will continue till its signs are replaced by the reality of the Kingdom they signify.

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