Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 22, 2014: Corpus Christi

Click: Audio Homily
There are moments in our lives when a single word uttered brings so much joy. Take for instance the first time that a baby utters an intelligible word. Parents usually anticipate with great eagerness the moment their new baby says “Momma” or “Dada.” One mother shared that she was teaching her 14-month-old daughter for weeks to say “Momma.” The mother was doing this because her daughter was babbling what sounded to be “Dada”; I guess she wanted her baby daughter’s first word to be “Momma” instead of “Dada.” However, both the husband and the wife were unprepared for the day their baby uttered her first word. The word was, “Bob.” When that word was uttered, their golden retriever named “Bob” came running to the baby.

There are also a few simple words that can bring so much pain and suffering to parents. One young mom
share this experience. During one summer vacation, her four year old son asked for a toy at a store and she declined to buy it. Promptly, her son yelled, “I hate you.” She said that small phrase packed quite the emotional punch, especially because it was the very first time she heard it from her son. When children feel disappointed, frustrated, angry or a host of other difficult emotions, they may lash out and shout “I HATE YOU!” Have you had such an experience? How did you handle the situation? Were you hurt or angry by your child’s remark? Some moms suggest that you reply to your child with something like, "You will hate me many times as you grow up, and I'm prepared for it and I will always love you."

In today’s Gospel account, Jesus also experienced a profound hurt. He told the people gathered around him, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” This invitation to partake of his flesh and blood aroused in the crowd angry arguments and disagreements. Promptly, the crowd lashed out at Jesus and left him in disgust. I wonder what emotions Jesus felt in his heart as droves of men and women deserted him. The crowd forgot the words of Moses from Today’s First Reading.

"Do not forget the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery; who guided you through the vast and terrible desert with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock
and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers."

Even to this day, there are times that forgetfulness prevents us from loving and following Our Lord. The same angry response to the new Manna from Heaven, the Eucharist, also happens today, even from Catholics. I was one of them. I was baptized and confirmed Catholic but by the time I graduated from high school, I was more interested in New Age philosophy than what Jesus had to say. I still went to mass during that time and went up to receive communion. I wonder what Jesus felt when I uttered my empty “Amen” when the priest said, “the Body of Christ.” Jesus knew that I didn’t believe him; Jesus knew that I didn’t believe that God could be present in that flour wafer. He knew that I was angry and perhaps even hateful of Him for some reason. I wonder what Jesus felt when I avoided him and detested him after I was so-called “saved” at a non-denominational prayer meeting while in college. After reading a short comic tract about how Catholics commit the alleged abomination of idolatry by worshipping a wafer, I was determined to ‘save’ my parents from such horrible and sinful abomination. I even preached to my parents about idolatry. I wonder how Jesus felt as I denied Him just as the crowd did in the Gospel saying, “How could this man give his flesh to eat?” Looking back, I can only say that Jesus was so patient with me. He did not diminish His love for me no matter how many times I persecuted Him through my words and actions. Jesus humbled himself before this sinner. He was willing to be humiliated, rebuked, and forgotten by me, in order to be near me.

On the feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Francis said, “Besides physical hunger, people have another hunger, one that cannot be satisfied with ordinary food. It is the hunger for life, hunger for love (and) hunger for eternity. The body and blood of Christ can give people eternal life because the substance of this bread is love. Living the Catholic faith means allowing yourself to be nourished by the Lord and building your life not on material goods, but on the reality that does not perish--his word and his body.” While some people find satisfaction in money, success, vanity, power, and pride,” the Pope said, “the people tempted by them forget those are meals eaten at slaves’ table.” Pope asks each of us: “Where do I want nourishment? At the Lord’s table or tasty food in slavery?”

Throughout our lives, countless times we will say, “Amen” before receiving the Eucharist. The word, “Amen” is not an English word but Aramaic which means, “So be it,” or “Yes, it is true!” So before receiving the Eucharist and when words “the Body of Christ” is pronounced, our “Amen” means:  "I truly believe that when I receive, it is You, Jesus.” How Jesus must be joyful by that single word uttered by us with faith! Just as a new mom or dad is joyful in hearing “Momma” or “Dadda,” Our Lord rejoices when we recognize Him and love Him in the Eucharist.