Homily – June 14, 2020

Solemnity of Corpus Christi
Year A

During my time studying for the priesthood in Rome, I had the opportunity to attend many Masses at St. Peter’s celebrated by the Holy Father – who then was Pope Benedict XVI – including serving the Chrism Mass for him as a deacon in my final year. Something that always struck me was the moment it was time for Holy Communion. A priest or deacon would be led from the sanctuary by one of the altar servers carrying a yellow and white umbrella – thus to indicate to the faithful where to go to receive Communion. Scores of people would then descend upon the unsuspecting cleric in the most disorganized fashion … they would just flock to him. And when they arrived at the Communion station – without any sort of order – hands would just reach out … young, old, clean, dirty … all reaching for the Bread of Angels. It seemed in those moments like you were seeing a people simply starving. The faithful in St. Peter’s embodied a truth that is deeply rooted in our Catholic tradition but not fully understood and infrequently stated – the Eucharist is not a luxury but a necessity. What struck me personally in these moments were 2 things – the sheer disorganization of Italians! And 2 – the reach … the hands that were reaching for God …

Reach is defined like this: to stretch out one’s hand or arm in a specified direction … When a person reaches for something, there is always a goal in mind, there is something for which to reach. In the case of the distribution of Holy Communion at St. Peter’s, that reach among the faithful was for God. To borrow a line from the Second Vatican Council – often quoted but seldom understood – the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (LG, no. 11). It is the fountain of grace from which Christ gives Himself to us, to the Church and it is the goal for which we must reach, literally – to stretch out in a specific direction…

So often in homilies or in articles in the bulletin we stress how the Eucharist is the REAL presence of Christ in our midst … the gospel today gives further evidence for that in Jesus’ own words – the Greek term for ‘eat’, means literally to gnaw or to chew … it is not like Jesus was using symbolic language – He was being very literal. Veiled under the form of bread and wine IS our God present in our midst … He makes Himself present, He is here among us … we can see Him, adore Him … where is our reach for Him? Not just with our hands stretched out for Holy Communion but with our lives and our hearts – in the direction of our God … to reach for Him as He is within reach … In his book on the Eucharist Bishop Robert Barron makes this comment:

“It is never enough simply to eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus; one must become a bearer of the power that one has received” (Eucharist p. 48).

That becoming is evidenced in our reach for God … in how we live our lives, how we treat one another … in how we become more and more transformed into that which we receive … Like Him, like God … who under the form of bread and wine is present in our midst.

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