A Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi
“We will do everything that the Lord has told us…All that the Lord has said we will do.”
These are the words of the Israelites in today’s First Reading as Moses related to them “all the ordinances of the Lord” and as he read to them from the book of the covenant at the foot of Mt Sanai. All the people, “with one voice,” promised to keep every word of the covenant. These promises were off course not kept as soon as they entered the Promised Land. Their unqualified and collective “Yes” to God at Sanai changed into national rebellion in the Promised Land where they worshipped the pagan gods of their neighbors and became exiles in Babylon.
Aren’t we just like the Israelites? Don’t we make grand promises to God that we fail to keep for several reasons? How faithful are we to the promises that we made to God on the day our baptism when we promised to reject Satan and all his works and to give ourselves to God in the community of the Church, faithfully obeying Him and giving Him due worship and service? How many of us today keep the promises that we made to God to be married to our spouses for life in a faithful, exclusive, life-giving union? How many of us priests and religious break our vows and promises and abandon our vocations?
We need more than good intentions or fervor in our promises to God. We also need to connect with the divine presence and participate in His own faithful self-giving. This is why we need the Eucharist more than ever in times like ours. In the Eucharist God gives us an opportunity to connect with His presence and enter into His own faithful and self-giving love.
Our Catholic faith teaches us of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity under the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine at Mass and in the tabernacle of our Churches. But Jesus is never idle but ever active in each of the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, He is both present and making present His own complete self-offering to the Father. Our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ must include the belief that He is present in this sacrament to draw us into participating in His own continuous self-sacrifice to the Father. Once we connect with the hidden divine presence, we share in His own attitude of self-offering to the Father for the good of others.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews teaches us that Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary once and for all “not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” Our contact with this blood in each Eucharist cannot leave us indifferent but will lead us to make a continuous offering of ourselves to God, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” It is through our contact with the body and blood of Christ in each Eucharist that we allow the Holy Spirit to “make the lives of the faithful a living sacrifice to God.”(CCC 1109)
St. Mark reminds us that Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist ended with Jesus and His disciples’ journey into Gethsemane, “Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” This ending to the Eucharist is significant because the Mount of Olives was the place of Agony for Jesus when His resolve to die for us on the cross was put to the test and He proved Himself faithful. Even as He sweat blood during His agony, He cried out the words of complete self-offering to the Father, “Father, take this cup away from me, but not my will but yours be done.” Jesus Christ is the only one who is faithful to His promises to the Father and our communion with His body and blood in the Eucharist allows us to make a complete self-offering to God and be faithful to our promises to God.
The Eucharist always end with us being led into our own “Mount of Olives,” where our promises to God will be put to the test. Our “Amen” when we received Jesus in word and sacrament during the Mass will be tested in several ways. We can be faithful in these tests if we connect with Jesus with a strong faith in His Real Presence rooted in His words to us, with an ardent love that moves us to repentance and loving obedience of God’s will, and with a firm and certain hope that looks beyond earthly things for our strength and satisfaction. This living contact with Jesus Christ in turn leads us into Christ’s own self-offering so that we make a complete gift of self to God for the good of others.
The shocking and disappointing legalization of abortion in Ireland a few weeks ago demands some reflection. Ireland was no doubt a country that said “Yes” to the Catholic faith and was instrumental in the spread of the faith all around the world. I cannot forget the many zealous Irish priests and religious who endured so much suffering and pain, and even death, just to bring this Catholic faith to my native country of Nigeria many years ago. We are more than grateful for these priests and religious for the passionate witness to the Catholic faith that we inherited from them. This makes it more painful to see Ireland go from a Catholic country that gave legal protection to both mother and infant in the womb by approving the Eight Amendment to the constitution 67%-33% in 1983 to a country that said “No” to God and legalized abortion by repealing the same amendment by 66% to 34% on May 2018. More troubling is that Ireland has become the first nation in the world to choose abortion by popular vote and not by the usual acts of the parliament or judiciary.
One possible reason for this drastic shift in attitude to the sanctity and dignity of human life is the apparent loss of Eucharistic faith in Ireland. A poll showed that the percentage of Irish Catholics who attend Mass on Sunday dropped from 91% in 1971-1972 to less than 25% in 2016. With such a poor attitude to the Real Presence in the Eucharist, how can they be expected to be faithful to their baptismal promises, and give themselves to God in faithful witness to the sanctity of every human life in the face of a hedonistic secularized society? How can they have light and strength to reject the lie that abortion will somehow lead to that joy and peace of heart that we all desire if the Eucharist makes no difference to the majority of the faithful? Without fervent Eucharistic lives, the majority became deaf to the silent cries of the unborn and the pains of their mothers. At the end, they chose to sacrifice the unborn so that they could live as they wished, an attitude in total contrast to that of Jesus Christ.
Let this be a painful warning to us when we are tempted to ignore our Eucharistic faith and the unique participation in Christ’s self-offering that is offered to us therein through communion with His body and blood. Our Protestant brethren have long ago abandoned faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist for a legion of reasons. We Catholics often approach the Eucharist out of routine or duty but without that faith, hope, and love that can bring us into the power of Christ’s self-giving love for the salvation of souls. The result is that we lose that strength that comes from our common unity with the abiding presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, we abandon our promises to God so easily, and are swept away by the culture of death and its warped values that are spreading wide and far today.
We need the Eucharist today more than ever in our age of infidelity, when our collective and individual “Yes” to God quickly becomes “No.” We need Eucharistic adoration and fervent attendance at Mass today if we are going to maintain our “Yes” to God and bring divine graces and hope to others.
We turn with confidence to Mary, the woman whose “Yes” to God in faith gave us the divine presence in human form. In the eternal divine plan, Mary freely gave Jesus the blood and body that won our salvation and made the Eucharist possible. “No Mary, no Jesus and no Eucharist!” She alone by the grace of God kept her promise from the moment of the Annunciation, through the Crucifixion and death of Jesus, to her glorious Assumption. She kept her promises to God because she shared as fully as any human person could share in Christ’s own self-offering to the end.
May Mary help us to connect with the divine presence of her Son in today’s Eucharist so that, no matter the tests that we face in our “Mount of Olives,” we can face them by participating in Christ’s attitude of continuous self-offering to the Father for the spiritual and temporal good of others. This is the only way that we can ever hope to keep our promises to Jesus Christ who is ever fully present and active in the Eucharist – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!