Homily for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)
Audio for homily
No small amount of effort goes into making our Sunday worship,
a reverent, gracious, prayerful moment of beauty,
worthy of our God whom we’ve gathered to thank and praise.
And yet, at the heart of this weekly celebration
there is something broken, something spilled:
the broken body of a victim
whose blood has been spilled, shed for us…
I’m referring not only to the large crucifix
that hovers over our prayer every week,
but more to the broken Body of Christ
and his Blood poured out for us
in the bread and cup of the Eucharist.
Think of Michelangelo's great sculpture, the Pieta.
Think of the Mary, the mother of Jesus,
holding the body of her crucified son in her lap and her arms.
Picture the pathos, the tenderness, the intimacy of that image...
That is what we do here, each week, not in marble,
but in bread and wine, in flesh and blood.
With tenderness, we hold the broken Body of Christ close to our hearts
consuming his presence, in thanksgiving for his great love for us.
As individuals and as the whole church
we receive the gift of the Lord’s brokenness into our own:
into the brokenness of our sins,
into our broken hearts, broken memories, broken promises,
broken spirits, broken relationships, broken bodies,
into our broken hopes and dreams.
Is there anyone among us who does not bring some brokenness today
to the Body of Christ broken for us?
We who are broken come to the One who was broken for our sakes,
to share in this simple bread, broken in his memory,
that our brokenness might be healed.
We come to drink from a cup so that his Blood, shed for us,
might transfuse our weakness and hopelessness
and spill like a river of life coursing through the veins of our souls
with grace and healing.
The Eucharist invites us with our broken hearts
into the heart of Jesus, broken for us.
The Eucharist invites us, in our thirst, to drink in,
to be bathed in the Blood of the heart of the Lamb of God,
spilled for us.
In Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ and with one another
we find ourselves drawn into the heart of Jesus
and into his mercy and peace.
Is it any wonder then that when we enter this holy place, this church,
where the Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle,
that we keep a reverent quiet in such a presence,
that we genuflect or bow before taking our own seats?
Could we do any less than listen attentively to the scripture readings
in which the One who will feed us with the Supper of the Eucharist
first nourishes us with the wisdom of his Word?
At Communion time would we approach the altar
with anything but deep reverence in our attitude and posture,
reverence for the Sacrament we’re about to receive?
Would any of us dare to "eat and run" at the Lord’s Table,
exiting the church with the true food and drink
of Christ’s own Body and Blood still fresh on our lips?
Would we not pause, and pray, and sing
in communion with his Body, the people of the church,
gathered all around us?
And when our prayer is done,
when it's time to take our leave, do we remember that
then nourished by the broken Body of Christ
and by his Blood poured out in mercy for us,
then we are called to break ourselves open and pour ourselves out
in service of one another, near and far:
doing for others what he did for us,
what he asked us to do in memory of him?
Do we remember that we are to become what we eat and drink?
Hundreds of years ago St. Augustine said it oh-so-well
when he wrote these words:
"What you see (on the altar) is the bread and the chalice;
that is what your own eyes report to you.
But what your faith obliges you to accept
is that the bread is the Body of Christ
and the chalice the Blood of Christ…
How is the bread his Body?
And the chalice, or what is in the chalice, how is it his Blood?
These elements, brothers and sisters, are called sacraments,
because in them one thing is seen, but another is understood.
What is seen is the corporeal species,
but what is understood is the spiritual fruit…
St. Paul wrote:
'You are the Body of Christ and his members.'
(1 Cor. 12:27)
If, therefore, you are the Body of Christ and his members,
then your own mystery is presented at the table of the Lord,
you receive your mystery.
To that which you are, you answer: `Amen...'
For you hear: `The Body of Christ!' and you answer: `Amen!'
Be, then, a member of Christ's Body,
so that your `Amen' may be the truth."
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