Homily for Corpus Christi Sunday

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Homily for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Back in 2001, on Easter Sunday at Our Lady’s in West Concord,
a young family was seated in the front pew.
Among their children was their youngest, Ben, then just three years old.
Just after the Kiss of Peace and before the Lamb of God,
Ben began to fuss a little bit and his mother tried to hush him
and get him to pay attention to what was happening at the altar.

Just as I held up the large Host for all to see,
Ben turned to his mother and, in a voice loud enough for all to hear,
told her, "He's just gonna break it!"

A soft chuckle spread through the congregation
and we began to sing, "Lamb of God..."

In the Easter crowds I didn't get to see Ben's family after Mass
so when I got home I called them
and when Ben's mom realized who was on the phone
she began to apologize profusely.
I interrupted her and told her how absolutely thrilled I was
by what Ben had done and said.
"Imagine," I told her, "he's only 3 years old and he already understands
that we come to Mass to break something!"

Over the centuries,
and certainly with the introduction of small pre-cut circular hosts,
we have lost a sense of the action that’s at heart
of our celebration of the Eucharist.
We’ve forgotten that Christians used to refer to Mass as
"the breaking of the bread."

Ben knew what he was talking about!

Most of you are familiar with Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story.
and maybe some of you know another of his compositions, titled:
MASS: a theater piece for singers, players, and dancers.

Here the composer took the outline of the Catholic Mass
and staged it musically and creatively.
At a pivotal moment in the production, the singer who plays the priest
takes the sacred vessels from the altar on the stage
and hurls them down to the floor, where they crash and break.
The audience is hushed by this action and in the silence,
in a cracking voice, he begins to sing,

"How easily things get broken..."  *

Ben and Bernstein understood that what we do in the Eucharist
is all about brokenness:
about breaking and mending… breaking and healing...
breaking and reconciling…

• We gather at this table
in the shadow of the One who was broken for us.
• We gather at the table of the One who, on the night before he died,
took the bread, broke it, and said, "This is my body..."
• And we come to this table with our own brokenness:
our physical, emotional, spiritual, individual and communal brokenness.

We often get this backwards.
We think we have to have ourselves all put together,
even perfectly put together, to come to the Eucharist.
But the reverse is true.
We come here, week after week, in all our sorry brokenness,
hoping, praying and trusting that sharing in the brokenness of Jesus
will bring us the healing and wholeness, the reconciling
we so much need and desire.

The bread consecrated at this table is broken for our healing.
The wine consecrated at this altar is poured out for our healing.
What Christ offered for us in his body and blood on the Cross,
he offers us again in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

We receive the gift of the Lord’s broken Body into our bodies:
into our broken hearts, memories and promises,
into our broken spirits and relationships,
into our broken hopes and dreams.

Is there anyone here this morning
who has not brought some brokenness to the Lord’s table?

And we come to drink from the cup of his Blood, shed for us,
that he might transfuse our weakness with his strength
and spill like a river of life,
coursing through the veins of our bodies and souls
with grace and healing.

Just a few years after that Easter Sunday
and Ben’s individual Eucharistic acclamation,
he received his First Communion.
And that wasn’t his last. I see him here often with his family
and I trust he has a lifetime of receiving Communion ahead of him.

Whatever brokenness might come into Ben’s life,
or into your life or mine mine,
and wherever we might be,
the Lord’s mercy and healing
will always be there for us in the Eucharist
where we are invited to share in the Body and Blood of Christ.

More on breaking bread here.

* This widget includes the scene, referenced above in my homily, from Bernstein's Mass.
Bernstein: Mass - Fraction: "Things Get Broken" by Alan Titus; Leonard Bernstein: Norman Scribner Choir, Berkshire Boys' Choir on Grooveshark


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