Homily: “On Corpus Christi”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, 2017.

The Church has celebrated and experienced a dramatic turn of events over the last month. We celebrated the Ascension of Our Lord to the Right Hand of the Father. We prayed for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and indeed with the Coming of the Holy Spirit on Whitsunday, the Day of Pentecost, God gave them to us in His abundance. We then celebrated the revelation of God as Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which orders our prayer life and worship. And today, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, Latin for the Body of Christ; indeed, we celebrate, we reflect upon, and we adore the Eucharist.

The Feast of Corpus Christi is the climax of liturgical events that began not only a month ago with the Ascension of Jesus but really back in Advent as we prayed and sang together the words, “O come, O come Emmanuel,” petitioning God that He appear to us, that He come to us, that He make Himself available to us—not as an idea or concept, not as a sentiment that makes us feel good, and not as an illusion, but as a human being, as a man, by which we can taste and see that the Lord is good, by which we truly participate in the Body of Christ: a Body we can eat and drink, and never die. And a Body that by eating and drinking, we feed on Christ in His full glory as He lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the peace and unity of the heavenly City of Jerusalem.

The Eucharist has been rightly called the source and summit of the Christian life. All of the other sacraments, as well as all things which for us become sacramental, and all of our various ministries, are bound up in the Eucharist. Everything of the spiritual life corresponds and finds its true fulfilment in the Eucharist. Indeed our Mission itself to proclaim in our words and deeds Christ crucified and resurrected is shaped by the Eucharist. The Eucharist, the Body of Christ, Corpus Christi, is the summary of our Faith: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.”

There are four actions of the Eucharist that Jesus Himself instituted and which the Church has followed since the Last Supper, following indeed in the very actions and words of Jesus. Jesus takes the bread; He blesses the bread; He breaks the Bread, and He gives the Bread. This is the pattern of the Last Supper, and this is the pattern as well of the feeding miracles recorded in the Gospels, the feeding of the five thousand and the rest. This is the pattern Jesus again used at the first Eucharist with the two disciples who we walking on the road to Emmaus. Those two disciples did not recognize Jesus until He took, blessed, broke and gave the Bread. But when He used those actions and words, they recognized Him and their hearts burned with love. Indeed, they had tasted and seen that the Lord is good.

These four actions summarize the life of Jesus. He took human form, in order that the Father would take His life and use His life for the eternal glory of His Holy Name. Jesus was blessed—most blessed—by God, and He blessed the Father by being the perfect pray-er, the perfect lover of the Father—to bless is to speak well, to speak perfectly so as to make available and real the divine reality; the entire life of Jesus spoke well and spoke perfectly so as to make unity with God available to us. Jesus, in loving His own in the world and loving them to the end, was broken. He was broken for us: His Body nailed to the Cross, His side cut open—yet a breaking that does not reduce Jesus, but increases Him infinitely. To break in the Christian sense is to break open and reveal boundless love. And finally, Jesus gave Himself to us—gave Himself to us broken yet glorified through bread and wine. Taken, blessed, broken, He gave Himself to us for the remembrance of Him, “remembrance” being our English translation of a complex term that means “the making-actually-present-again,” and for the forgiveness of sins, because forgiveness in the Christian sense only happens through the presence of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, we are to be the Eucharist for the rest of the world. The four actions of the Eucharist are the four actions of the Mass and are the four actions God makes upon us. God takes us into Himself through the Entrance Rite, our sins are confessed and so our separation from God is removed; we are taken. God blesses us through the Liturgy of the Word, through Holy Scripture that speaks rightly about God and us. God breaks us open through the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the climax of which is the two-fold action of recognizing Christ in others through the Exchange of Peace so that we can indeed recognize Him on the Altar as He is broken open and held up for us to behold. And finally, God gives us back to the world to continue His ministry of reconciliation as agents of His peace to the hungry, the thirsty, the estranged, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned.

Having tasted the Lord and seen that the Lord is good, having received the Eucharist we can become what we see, we can receive what we are. We are actual members of the Body of God, and just as He gave His Son for the world, God gives us to the world, for the world, as leaven in the lump of the world—that through our being prayerful and loving, the Peace of Christ may burn the hearts of those people around us that we meet, serve, and love. Amen.