Corpus Christi - June 6, 2021
My friends in Christ…when a man gets married, probably the last thing on his mind on his wedding day is a little, two-word phrase that he will utter probably every single day – and most likely several times a day – for the rest of his life…two simple words that, probably, he never would have expected to mutter so frequently…. And those two words are, of course: “Yes, dear.”
(And if you guessed that those two words were “I’m sorry,” then you also are correct, ha!)
Now, why I mention that is because the same is true for me – indeed, for every man who gets ordained to the priesthood. There is a phrase that, prior to my ordination, I never really gave much thought to…but it is something that I have found myself saying at least a thousand times a week so far in my priesthood: “the Body of Christ.” With every single Host that I distribute at Mass or for visits to the sick or homebound for Holy Communion: “the Body of Christ.” As priest, I definitely say these words several hundred times each weekend – more than any other phrase spoken during the entire Mass…more than any other phrase that I might say during the entire week…other than what else I seem to say a lot: “Krista, here I am; where am I supposed to be?” Ha!
My friends in Christ, today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ…Corpus Christi: “the Body of Christ” in Latin. Of course, every Mass is a special celebration of the Body of Christ, because every Mass is centered on the Eucharist. But today, the Church, in a particular way, invites us to be especially mindful of this mystery of faith, to embrace more fully this sublime magnificence of that which is the centerpiece of our religion, the very heart of Catholicism.
When we come forward to receive Holy Communion, we bow our heads in reverence to the gift that we are about to receive. Some people genuflect before receiving. Some people even fall to their knees in order to receive in the holy posture of kneeling. And if we receive Holy Communion on the tongue, then we open our mouths like helpless infants seeking to be fed; if we receive on the hand, then we hold our hands up like helpless beggars hoping for some charity, presenting the open hands like holy thrones upon which Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will be seated when we receive Him. “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof…but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” These words we say together – and they are the final words we speak before coming forward to receive the Lord. Because indeed, we are not worthy to receive Him. But He permits Himself nonetheless to be received by us because it is only by His grace that we are made worthy.
And this is pure gift, pure grace. And we can do nothing to earn this, nothing to merit this, nothing to make ourselves worthy – only that we receive this precious Gift worthily and well…in a state of grace, and with proper disposition of heart and soul…humbly, worthily, and well.
Behold, the pierced One. Behold, the Lamb Who was slain. Behold, the Suffering Servant, and the risen and glorified, majestic and triumphant Lord…. Behold, the Body of Christ.
Now…there is another phrase…a single word…that you, the congregation who receives from the altar the Sacred Body of Christ, will say probably as frequently as you will say anything for the rest of your life: “Amen.” With every prayer that you pray: “Amen.” With each prayer that is said by the priest at Mass, your holy response: “Amen.” And every time that you are given “the Body of Christ,” you answer boldly, faithfully, and with great joy: yes, I believe…so be it…. “Amen.”
But do you believe, really, that this tiny, tasteless Host truly is the Body of Christ? Because it is just so hard to believe this! Our faith tells us that this is so. And our minds try to tell us that this is so. And we make it a sheer act of the will to place our belief and trust in God’s solemn promise that this is so…. But our senses tell us something else again: this looks and smells and tastes like bread!
And so…it is hard enough really to mean it when we say it, Amen, as we come forward so as to receive the Body of Christ…and…it gets even harder! Because that Amen that we utter (with our every prayer, our every response to a liturgical action, our every reception of the Body of Christ at Holy Communion)…every single time when we say “Amen,” we are saying “Yes, I believe” to every single thing that Christ and His Church infallibly profess and teach to be the truth. Every aspect of our faith (no matter how complex or convoluted we might suppose it is)…every detail of morality, and in every instance of our earthly lives – yes, even the awkward, personal, private, and no-big-deal things in life. If Christ and His Church profess it and teach it to be true, and if we say “Amen” as we come forward to receive the Body of Christ from His Church at Holy Communion, then what we are saying is this: “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” No ifs, ands, or buts. No finagling our way out of it if there is something that sticks in our craw and we will merely say the word but not actually believe it or put it into action in the lived reality of our daily lives. Because if we falsely say “Amen,” then yes, I guess we can fool the bishops, priests, and deacons, and we can fool the catechists and teachers, and we can even fool ourselves into some ill-begotten notion of a false belief…but we cannot fool God.
“The Body of Christ.” Such a powerful phrase! Because it speaks a powerful truth…and it is the truth. This is the Body of Christ! Body and Blood…Soul and Divinity. The God Who created the heavens and the earth and all their wondrous array…the God Who made everything out of sheer nothing…the God Who deigned to make each of us in the image and likeness of Himself – the Imago Dei…this is the same God into Whom mere tasteless bread wafers are transformed…the same God, Whom neither Heaven nor Earth can contain, but Who wills to be contained, in His utter fullness, in humble bread…the same God Who gave Himself to us on the Cross for our redemption…Who gave Himself to the grave for our salvation…and then, Who rose again and ascended into Heaven for our justification…the same God, Jesus Christ, Who, again and again and again, gives Himself to us at Holy Communion…that He may be one in us…and we one in Him; “one body, one spirit, in Christ.”
Yes, Lord, I believe – help my unbelief…. And if, O Lord, this is so, and if this is true, then so be it. “Amen.”
May it be, then, that the Body of Christ will strengthen us in our belief and understanding of our Catholic faith, our Catholic morals, and our bold and joyful witness to God’s glorious majesty, for the salvation of souls. And may it be that our “Amen” would be a resounding affirmation of all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God, now and forever.
on Tuesday, June 8 at 10:47AM