Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus C

In this year of Mercy, let us celebrate Eucharist, the great sacrament of mercy. The mercy of the Eucharist is never exhausted in how it changes us, builds us up and heals us.  And I mean literally heal us. You know a communion time when I am bending over the altar and mumbling things you cannot hear?  This is what I am praying.  “May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.”

Have you ever thought of the Eucharist to have physically healing powers?  Do you remember Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Sean Connery is healed by the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper?  Who knew it was such good theology?  Indeed, the remarkable thing of the Eucharist is that whenever you ask it a question, it has an answer – an enlightenment, a soothing, a joy.  The body and blood is merciful toward us in whatever way we need mercy.

It is the sacrament of sacraments, providing the mercy of each sacrament in its own way.  Like Baptism, it includes all of us by making us the body of Christ.  It has been said that the true confirmation of our faith is saying Amen to the Eucharist.  Marriage is the second great sacrament of unity after Eucharist.  As God binds all of us together in the sacrament of the altar, a couple partakes of the same unity to unite themselves to one another for the uplifting of all.  And as a priest, nothing could be closer to my heart than Eucharist.  There is a question asked at the Diaconate ordination that suns up the challenge.  “Are you resolved to shape your way of life always according to the example of Christ, whose body and blood you will give to the people?”  Wow.  Interestingly, after having said, “I am” to the previous questions, to this we say, “I am with the help of God.”

Finally, I have spoken how the Eucharist has physical healing powers as in the Anointing of the Sick, but we hardly pay attention to the wonderful fact that every sin that is not mortal is forgiven at the receiving of communion.  We should feel after Eucharist as we do when we leave the sacrament of Reconciliation- restored and forgiven!

But even that great gathering of merciful facts cannot explain how the Eucharist operates in my life.  It is always at the center of it. When I was discerning whether or not to apply to study for the priesthood, a good friend wrote me a letter and quoted the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke that suggested that if we want to know what to do with our life, think of what you would die for and then live for it.  An image of the Eucharist immediately came to mind.  When we have been in crisis in a parish, I would just pray to get through those sleepless nights so I could get to mass again and feel my strength and courage return.  I was starving for Christ.  I remembered my first Sunday mass after my father passed away and suddenly realizing that the moment of going to communion is as close as I could get to my Dad for I was with the body of Christ at one with the Lord Jesus and so is he.  Now I celebrate each Eucharist with both of my parents. The Eucharist has always filled the greatest holes and celebrated the greatest gifts of my life.

Now let me tell you about last week.  I had missed my annual winter silent retreat and it has really thrown me off my game.  So I carved out some space this past week and came up with a great plan. I mean a perfect plan. I would go out to my friend Fr. Tim’s and stay in his sprawling rectory.  I would effectively go on a retreat there as Tim went about his day, then go to his daily 5pm mass, share dinner with him and go back to praying.  And if God gave us good weather and golf had to happen, than golf had to happen.  Perfect.  But my friend’s mother died and had the honor of leading her funeral on Monday in Poughkeepsie.  Then a beautiful child in our parish died and his funeral was on Wednesday, a great Mom died and her funeral was Thursday and a great older gentleman died and his funeral was Friday.  There went my week.  I had a perfect plan and God had another plan.  I am not above self-pity.  I went to a parishioner’s house for wine and to whine.  But what I discovered this week, was that I was on retreat with these beautiful families.  That we had something to say to another because the Eucharist had made us family and not strangers. That we all belonged to each other as brothers and sisters.  And we were coming back to the table that had made us one and the body and blood of Christ which is the gift of eternity and promises eternal life.  I was indeed on retreat with body of Christ.

The Eucharist is such a profound and penetrating moment in each of our lives, making us one with each other and one with God that we must celebrate its day with great joy.  This is the font of mercy that never runs dry, the ever flowing river of God’s grace.  Let us thank God for the Body and Blood of Christ.