Homily for June 3

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


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.
Keyboardists and cantors and choirs
rehearse what they’re going to play and sing.
Lectors spend time rehearsing their readings.
I spend time preparing my homily.
The sacristans are here before Mass, setting up
and getting everything ready for the liturgy.
Much time and effort goes into preparing a worship service
that is as beautiful and uplifting and well done as possible.

And yet…  at the heart of our celebration,
-  every single week -
something gets broken and something is spilled.

At the heart of our prayer every Sunday
is the broken Body of a Victim                                
whose blood has been spilled, shed, for us…

At the heart of our Sunday prayer is Jesus…

Am I referring the image of the Crucified on the Cross
that hovers over our prayer every week?
Well, that, too - but my primary reference is to
the broken Body of Christ whose Blood is spilled for us
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.
I’m reminded here of Michelangelo’s great sculpture, the Pieta.
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 intimacy of that image...

Better yet, after Mass this morning walk across the street
to our parish Pieta on the green next to the rectory.
See how Mary holds Jesus in her arms.
That’s what you and I do here, each week: 
we hold Christ in our hands, not carved in marble,
but in the Bread and Cup,
in the flesh and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist.
With tenderness, we hold the broken Body of Christ close to our hearts.

But more than hold him, we receive him,
we receive the gift of the Lord’s brokenness
into our own brokenness:
we receive Christ into the brokenness of our sins,
of our broken hearts, our broken memories, our broken promises,
our broken spirits, our broken relationships,
our broken bodies, our broken hopes and dreams.

Is there anyone among us this morning
who doesn’t 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 the 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
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.

Isn’t this why, when we enter this holy place, this church,
where the Sacrament is already reserved in the tabernacle,
isn’t this why we keep a reverent quiet in such a presence,
and genuflect or bow before taking our own seats?

Isn’t this why we 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?

Isn’t this why at Communion time we approach the altar
with deep reverence in our attitude and posture,
reverence for the Sacrament we’re about to receive?

Isn’t this why we don’t "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?
Isn’t that why we pause, and pray, and sing
in communion with his Body, the people of the church,
the Body of Christ gathered all around us?

Isn’t this why, when our prayer is done and it is time to leave,
we must remember that, nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ,
we are called to break ourselves open and pour ourselves out
in service of one another, near and far.
spending ourselves for others just as he asked us to do
in memory of  him?

Isn’t this why we’re called to remember
that we are to become what we eat and drink?

Hundreds of years ago, in the 4th century, 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…

You are the Body of Christ and his members.
If, therefore, you are the Body of Christ
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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