Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ A




It was over 25 years ago and I had told my friends that I was thinking of entering the seminary when my friend Alissa gave me a book by the German write Ranier Marie Rilke.  I was startled by the challenge to think of what you would die for, and then live for it.  It is the kind of answer that you cannot think about.  It needs to come to you in a flash and my answer surprised me.  The Eucharist.  Until that moment I had never known just how deeply I have been penetrated by the Eucharist.  How Christ’s body and blood had formed me and moved me.


I have been extra reflective this weekend because John Cronin was ordained a priest in our diocese and every ordination encourages you to recall the heady days of your own ordination.  I was not worried about my first mass because there were all these great priests behind me and I figured one of them would make this bread and wine the body and blood of Christ.  It was a couple of days later with hosts borrowed from the local church and with only my family around that I felt the pressure.  As it came time for the invocation of the Holy Spirit, I spread my arms wide, lowered over the bread and wine and thought, “Let’s see what happens.”   I think you know that I am not one to declare every little thing a miracle, but that mass I felt something go forth from my hands, something I am sure was the Holy Spirit.   And it has happened every time since.


I love all the symbolism that surrounds the Eucharist.  It speaks more eloquently of its nature than words might ever.  I love that the very gifts are bread and wine; one the staple of life, the other the celebratory gift of joy.  I love that wheat gathered from hillsides becomes, by the work of human hands the bread we bless.  I love that grapes grown, gathered and mixed becomes the precious gift of wine.  I love that nature combines with humanity so that divinity might further transform these gifts.  But what makes these symbols radiate is the realness of the Eucharist.  I know that if the Eucharist were anything less than the true body and blood of Christ, it would not have such a central role in my life.  It would not be enough for any of us. 


What evidence do I have for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist?  The most compelling is the least admissible I imagine.  It is the utter conviction of seven year olds as they are about to receive their first communion.  It is those who stand in front of the altar as they are about to bring communion to their homebound loved ones as if they are about to receive a life saving remedy, for they are about to receive a life saving remedy.  It is the rare times when I have the great privilege of giving communion to those who are dying.  We call it viaticum which means food for the journey and the distance between life and death is bridged just as I feel the closest I can be to my deceased parents is when I receive Eucharist. 


Such is the power of Eucharist is that I have argued that if Jesus could make it real, could actually give himself through the sacrament, he certainly would.  And since God knows no limits, I do not doubt that he truly gave himself.  In a simple formula, if he could, he would.  He could, so he did.  Jesus certainly insists that “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”  Even when they wanted him to back off, his listeners begged him to say he did not really mean true food and drink, only doubled down.  “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”


Jesus Christ, the same Christ who became human, who befriended and was betrayed, who walked this earth and stumbled with the cross, who knew grew great victory and agony, is within us.  We can never say we are alone, for we have been chosen to receive him.  We can never be diminished for he grows within us.  We can never forget our dignity because God has come into our lives.


Yes, on this Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we assert that Christ is real in the Eucharist.  We proclaim he has placed his life within us.  How could he love us less by denying his own self since he could only love perfectly?  How could we as a community be transformed into a family of care, compassion and true concern unless the actual body of Christ really made us the true Body of Christ?  Let us rejoice, marvel and thank Go d that we have received from God the true body and blood of Jesus Christ.