|The Upper Room where the Last Supper is thought to have taken place|
Homily for Corpus Christi Sunday
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
One night, some 2,000 years ago,
a small group of people gathered for dinner,
in an upstairs room in a house in Jerusalem.
It was Passover time and, as good and faithful Jews,
they shared that night an ancient meal, remembering that night
when their ancestors were set free from slavery in Egypt.
As they prayed the customary blessing over the breaking of bread,
the One leading them did something unexpected when he said:
“This bread is my Body,
which will be given up for you.”
And as he blessed and shared the cup of wine,
again, he took his friends by surprise when he said,
“This is the cup of my Blood,
which will be poured out for you.”
And then Jesus added these six telling words,
“Do this in memory of me.”
Do this in memory of me…
It’s important for us to remember
that Jesus’ friends who were with him that night
- didn’t “get it” right away.
Yes, they continued to gather together and to share meals.
Yes, they continued to bless and break and their bread.
Yes, they continued to bless and share a cup of thanksgiving.
But only gradually did they come to understand
what Jesus had done with the bread and wine at that last supper
on the night before he died;
only gradually did they begin to understand
what Jesus had said about the bread and wine
on the night before his body was broken and given up for them
and his blood poured out, and shed for them
on a Cross, on a hill, just outside the city of Jerusalem.
and they came to believe what Jesus told them:
that when we bless and break and share the bread in his memory,
it becomes his Body, broken and given for us;
and when we bless and share the cup of wine in his memory,
it becomes his Blood, poured out and spilled for our sakes.
In remembrance of him and by the power of the Holy Spirit,
we believe our gifts of bread and wine,
offered at this altar in thanksgiving to God,
become Christ’s gift to us, his very Body and Blood
in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
So, for 2,000 years then,
we’ve been "doing this… in memory of him.”
Has any other one single meal had near as much impact on the world
as the supper Jesus gave us on the night before he died?
Have any words been more telling and true
than his words at that table,
just hours before he gave his life for us
on the wood of the Cross?
Every time we gather in this church to celebrate the Lord’s Supper,
as we are doing right now -
every time we do this, we connect with 2,000 years of believers
doing just the same thing in an ancient and unbroken tradition.
Celebrating the Eucharist,
receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion,
is the most sacred thing you and I do in the course of the week.
• And because this is sacred time,
we might want to give a second look in the mirror,
as we dress ourselves to come here to pray.
• Because we are in a sacred gathering, we take care
to avoid idle talk and conversation before and certainly during Mass.
• Because of what we do here, we begin our prayer each week
acknowledging our sins and asking for the Lord’s mercy.
• Because our hunger for God is never fully satisfied,
we break open the bread of the Word in the scripture,
and listen carefully and attentively, to be nourished
by its wisdom, truth and counsel.
• Because we depend on one another for support in our prayer,
we all join in, in all the songs and prayers – together, for each other.
• Because what we receive in Communion
is the very Body and Blood of Christ,
we come forward to receive with reverence,
not greeting or chatting up others in the Communion line,
but rather - focused on the Sacrament we’re about to receive.
• Because it’s the Body and Blood of Christ we receive in the Eucharist,
our very posture should give evidence what we believe:
how we walk, how we hold our hands;
the reverence with which we receive the Host
and place it in our mouths;
the reverence with which we drink from the Cup;
our prayerfulness, our sung or silent prayer,
when we return to our places after receiving Communion.
• And if it’s rude to “eat and run” from our neighbor’s table -
how much more rude - to “eat and run” from the Lord’s table –
not to mention the poor example we give to children when we do that.
I rehearse these “table manners” for church
not because Jesus gave us rules an etiquette book
but because of the gift he does give us in the Eucharist.
Because in what we do here, we are offered and we receive
his life, his love and his presence in Communion.
If we believe what we say and sing,
if we believe what we pray and do,
if we believe what Jesus told us in that upper room
and what Christians have been doing for 2,000 years:
then reverence, respect, devotion, awe and honor
are the least we might offer the Lord
in return for all he has given us.
As we will sing today at Communion time:
Precious Body, Precious Blood, here in bread and wine,
here the Lord prepares the feast divine.
Bread of love is broken now, Cup of life is poured:
come, share the Supper of the Lord…
Here's an audio of the song from which that refrain is taken:
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