Fr. Fitz’s homily - Corpus Christi
Some years ago, a poll was taken of Catholic people about their belief in Jesus as really present in the Eucharist. The question posed was: “Do you think the presence of Jesus is real or symbolic?” The answers were very widely “symbolic.” The pollsters were surprised, the professional theologians were appalled. The answers seemed to say that most Catholics do not believe Jesus is really who we receive when we receive Holy Communion. I disagree with that conclusion. The problem is in the question. Professional theologians use the word “symbol” in a different way than ordinary people do.
I believe that if you asked Catholic people, “Do you believe that you receive Jesus Christ when you receive Holy Communion?”, almost all would answer, “Yes.” Most would answer, “I don’t know how, but sacraments are different. We are not cannibals, but the sacramental presence of Jesus is real.” It is not a little scrunched up body of Jesus in each host, but Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood or else you will not have my life in you.” It was only at the Last Supper, some months later, that He took bread, blessed it and broke it and said, “This is my Body. Take it and eat it.” Later in the meal, He took a cup of wine, blessed it and said, “This is the cup of my Blood, take it and drink.” Thus He fulfilled the promise He had made earlier and made it possible for everyone to eat His flesh and drink His blood.
In our first reading today we heard Moses remind the Israelite people how God had done marvelous, even miraculous, things for them during the Exodus. Jesus did things even more marvelous and miraculous when He changed bread and wine into His body and blood.
St. Paul, in his letter to the people of Corinth lays the foundation for the teaching of the Mystical Body of Christ. Just as bread is made up of many grains of wheat and wine is made from the juice of many grapes, so the Body of Christ is made of many people formed into a single body by each taking into themselves the Body and Blood of Jesus. We, all of us, are one in Jesus. We all share the one life, the life that comes from the Father, into Jesus and then spread to all the world through the Holy Spirit.
This life of God is love. This love is what each one of us to show all our brothers and sisters. This love is the antidote for the sins of the world: the sins of racism and the actions that flow from that (which unfortunately, we have witnessed in recent weeks), the sin of anti-Semitism which we read about all too often, the sin of exaggerated nationalism which lead to war and other acts of violence, the sins of our own selfishness, when I think of me first and everyone else later.
To go back to where I began, we believe that we somehow enter into the life and death of Jesus Christ as he offered all He is to the Father. We believe it is this Jesus who becomes present to us under the appearance of bread and wine. And we believe we become united to Christ when we receive Holy Communion because He is really and truly in us.
May this faith animate us, encourage us, and enable us to make our world a better place to live in today and all our tomorrows.