June 11, 2017

Homily: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), June 18, 2017, Year A

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


When we go to a football game, a baseball game, or any other sports event we go to watch it being played. We watch television shows; we watch and listen to concerts. We watch so many events in our lives. But when we come to Mass, we should participate. The Church wants us to fully, actively, and consciously offer the Mass with the priest, not simply watch the priest and ministers offer Mass for us while we remain passive observers.

When we hear the term “Corpus Christi” we may tend to think of its meaning only in terms of Christ’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. That is an unworthy notion. In reality, in the Eucharist we receive not only Christ in His Body and Blood but Christ in His entirety, an entirety that encompasses His activity, His project among us, His mission and purpose in engaging us and in engaging the world in which we live, move, and have our being. God our Father has sent His Son into our world with a mission. In Christ, we too are sent by God into our world, not to condemn it but to save it.

Often we think of the Body of Christ as the Eucharist, as Holy Communion, and as the Blessed Sacrament. Each of those terms has overlapping meanings with the others; all of them are a part of the meaning of Corpus Christi.

What is central is the sacramentality of Christ’s presence among us. Each of the seven great Sacraments of the Church are particular expressions of the One Sacrament, namely Christ incarnate among us. Each of the Seven Sacraments brings us Christ in His active role of saving us; He is among us to encounter us, to join us into Himself and thereby bring us back to our Father in heaven through His birth, life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. He gathers us into Himself to bring us back to our Father, His Father and ours. It is in the Seven Sacraments that He joins Himself to us and we join ourselves into Him.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is something that is encouraged by our Church. Spending holy hours in adoration, spending time with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is wonderful; it is a form of worship; it is sanctifying. At the same time, however, we are there in adoration not simply to receive; we are there to be energized so that we might give.

In Baptism and Confirmation, God’s Holy Spirit consecrates the recipient and makes him or her at the same time a living member of the mystical Body of Christ, a participant in the mission of witnessing to his love and in bringing His light to our surrounding world.

The Body of Christ takes us into Jesus’ entire life, a life given over to God in every way at every moment. His death on the cross was the culmination of His life among us as Jesus of Nazareth. Christ’s resurrection was the beginning of His life as the Spirit-filled Christ risen in glory. This is what we mean when we enter into “the Paschal Mystery”. When we receive the Body of Christ we enter into His life – His life in its fullest extent. We do not enter it simply because we will to do so, we enter into it because we are called and empowered to do so by the Holy Spirit. Mass (the Eucharist) is not something we watch; it is something we do.

God calls us to Himself not in some remote and distant heaven, but here on earth. His call is to us now; His call is present. Our response is not some future response; our response is now, here on earth. The bread and wine we offer at Mass symbolize the sacrifices of ourselves. Our giving thanks in the Eucharistic Prayer is our surrendering ourselves to God in Christ’s surrendering of Himself to His Father.

We should never simply “get” or “receive” Holy Communion. We enter into Holy Communion; we enter into the totality of Christ’s incarnate life among us. There is an intrinsic interconnection between the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (which we call Eucharist), Holy Communion, and the Blessed Sacrament. In this sense, “receiving Holy Communion” is a dynamic reality: we receive Christ and in so doing, Christ receives us, and by the power of the Holy Spirit presents us to the Father.

All of this, however, is not just for our own sake, for our own salvation. All of this is so that we can bring that dynamic purpose of Christ to the world around us, a world into which we are called to bring the saving presence of Christ. To adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is to participate in His activity.

The intended result of our active participation in the whole offering of the Mass will be found in an ethic of life that participates in Christ’s active life in our world, a life that is sent into the world “so that the world might believe” in God’s caring love for us all as His children. We are here at Mass in order to be sent, sent with God’s enterprise, with God’s meaning and purpose for our lives. We come to Mass to join ourselves into Christ in His Mystical Body and into His mission among us.

The purpose of Mass is not to be seen as an action wherein the priest simply consecrates hosts; some people think their participation in the Eucharistic Prayer is all about watching the priest and then receiving Holy Communion. Truly it is much more.

By our Holy Communion we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, but our incorporation is not something that we simply receive. We are taken up rather into the totality of what Jesus Christ is all about.

May you fully, actively, and intentionally participate in that reality, a reality summed up in the dynamism of Corpus Christi.

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