Homily for June 18

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

Audio for homily

“You are what you eat.”   
At least that’s what people say.

In fact, they’ve been saying that since 1826 when a Frenchman,

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, wrote,
"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are."
Dis-moi ce que tu manges et je te dirai ce que tu es.
 (Everything always sounds better in French!)

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

celebrates the sacramental reality of Christ’s presence
in the gifts of bread and wine we offer every time we celebrate Mass.

While this feast lifts up what the Sacrament is for us,

it also tells us something about our identity, who we are,
as those who celebrate and consume the Eucharist.
It tells us that we are what we eat.

Christ is truly present at Mass in three ways..

• He’s present in our very gathering, our coming together to pray.
As we were coming into church this morning, taking our places,
he was already present among us- in our very gathering together,
He himself told  us:
 “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”     (Matthew 18:20)

• Christ is also present in his Word, in the readings,
since it is the Lord himself who speaks
when the scriptures are read in the Church.”
   (CSL no. 7)

Chris, Cara and I read the scriptures,
you all heard our voices,
but it was the Lord himself speaking to us.

• And most important of all
Christ is present in the sacramental supper of this table
where we are nourished by the sacrifice he offered
on the altar of the Cross:
Christ is truly present in the bread and cup of the Eucharist…

But what do we mean when we say that?
What do we mean when we say the bread and wine
become the Body and Blood of Christ?

Back in the 4th century, people were asking the same question
and St. Augustine gave them this answer.  He wrote:

“What you see 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 that which is in the chalice - how is it his Blood?
Those 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 (bread and wine)

but what is understood is the spiritual fruit
(Christ’s Body and Blood).
You yourselves are the Body of Christ and his members.
If you are the Body of Christ and his members,
it is your own mystery that 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!"
You hear: "The Blood of Christ!" and you answer: "Amen!"
Be a member of Christ's Body, then,
            so that your "Amen" may be the truth.

That’s Augustine’s way of saying,
 “Indeed, we are what we eat and drink…”
We are the Body of Christ.
We. Are. The mystery.

In St. Augustine’s effort  
to help us understand the comfort that’s ours
in believing that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist,
there comes a challenge to believe
not only that the bread and wine become
the body and blood of Christ,
but also to believe that, indeed,
we are to become what we eat and drink:
we are to become the true presence of Christ:
breaking ourselves open like bread
to nourish our neighbor;
pouring ourselves out like wine,
to slake the thirst of those in need.

Like a coin, a host as two sides:
we receive a mystery that we already are
and we are challenged to become that mystery more deeply.

• In receiving the mystery of Christ in Communion
we are challenged to  grow in that mystery ourselves.

• And like a glass, a chalice may be half empty or half full:

and so we are called to empty ourselves out for one another
so that we might know the fullness of God’s grace within us.

We are what we eat and drink...

And all of this in a morsel of bread, in a sip from a cup:

but this bread is the Bread of Life,
and this cup is the Cup of Salvation.

And that’s why  we approach the altar with reverence

at Communion time,
attentive reverence for what, for whom we are about to receive.

• That’s why we hold our hands prayerfully

as we come forward at Communion time
and why we don’t greet others along the way
while coming to the altar.

• That’s why we return to our places after having received,
singing the Communion song,
praising and thanking God for such a gift.

• That’s why we’d never think of receiving Communion
and then walking right out of church to beat the crowd.
It’s never polite to eat and run,
and that’s especially true at the Lord’s Table.

On this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ we remember that
 “we are what we eat - and drink”
and that our Supper here is but a taste
of the feast promised and prepared for us in heaven.

Pray with me that with every celebration of the Eucharist

we will more deeply reverence the real presence of Christ
in the sacrament we receive
and become, more and more,
the mystery we receive,
the mystery we are,
the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ.


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