Body and Blood of Christ C (06 Jun 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. Quiet yourself for a few moments and become alert to what that phrase communicates to you. Not the words but the truth behind and beneath the words, Body and Blood of Christ. | Jesus; sacrament; real Presence; nourishment; food for the journey; gift. Many more meanings than those came to us in those still seconds within our selves. I’d like to reflect briefly with you about gift: Jesus’ self-gift to us.
A gift evokes in us a response and a responsibility. A person’s gift of self evokes a weighty responsibility and a response, which is more than our words: our action. St. Paul did not awake one morning and decide, “I think I will write my friends about what Jesus said and did at the last supper because I feel it will inspire them.” He wrote to them what Jesus said and did because be was angry that they were at the Eucharist but not living it.
In those early days the setting for the Eucharist was part of a dinner. People brought their own food, but not everyone was able to eat well or even at all. People who had plenty did not share with those who had little or no food. Some with food tried to outdo others in what they would bring. Others did not wait to eat with the rest.
St. Paul wrote those facts to the Corinthians in the verses immediately before the words from his letter that we heard as the second reading. He added he was shocked and horrified at their inconsideration, that their mean-spiritedness toward one another disregarded Jesus, who had given himself for them and to them.
The responsibility the Corinthians had ignored was double: not being open to Jesus by not being open to others; and not cultivating their relationships with Jesus and others. Their double responsibility is also ours.
After we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood, each Mass commissions and sends us to go in faith, hope and love to serve Jesus our Lord. Jesus reminded us that his self-gift he never gives us to remain private. He gives us himself to help us nourish, endow and assist others, the very ways we save our souls.
Jesus gives himself to us so wherever we find ourselves, we can be Jesus’ hands, eyes, feet and heart. Our Eucharistic responsibility is to cultivate our relationship with Jesus not merely to receive him. Where is Jesus? In his body the Church and in the world. Jesus is in others, especially those in any need. To cultivate a relationship means both to cherish the other and to open ourselves to the other. This is the truth behind Jesus’ words to his disciples when they were with that large crowd: Give them some food yourselves.
American Catholic novelist, Flannery O’Connor, wrote of our responsibility to cultivate our gift of faith. “If you want your faith,” she wrote, “you have to work for it. It is a gift, but for very few is it given without any demand for equal time devoted to its cultivation” by them.
We can say the same about what nourishes our faith, Jesus’ self-gift of his body and blood. “Equal time” to Jesus’ self-gift means to ask oneself often, “How is Jesus changing me, how is Jesus calling me now to join him on his mission of proclaiming his kingdom by my thoughts, my words and especially my actions?” To cultivate such questions requires time. To cultivate our relationship with Jesus means we take concrete steps to respond to Jesus changing us and inviting us to join him.
Give “equal time” to Jesus in your daily 15 minutes with him this week. Pause and compose yourself in the presence of the Trinity and be aware our Triune God lovingly creates you each moment. Ask the Twelve apostles to help you relax and open yourself to allow Jesus to nourish you, to encourage you, to recreate you by his self-gift to you. Ask Jesus for this grace: to attune your thinking and choosing to his eucharist, for St. Irenaeus said 19 centuries ago, his “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist [Jesus’ self-gift] in turn confirms our way of thinking.” 1 Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. All the gifts we receive from God, God gives us to extend Jesus’ presence and make a difference in our world.
1. St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies. 4, 18, 5, cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1327.