The Body and Blood of Christ + June 18, 2017
Deuteronomy 8, 2-3, 14-16 + Psalm 147 + 1 Corinthians 10, 16-17 + John 6, 51-58
St Peter the Apostle and St William Parishes in Naples, Fl
To celebrate this feast, we used to call “Corpus Christi,” we have to confront a cultural barrier. Moreover, to enter into the mystery of what is being revealed in John’s sixth chapter requires more than just reading the words. What John is addressing here is human hunger, not necessarily food. Yet, we live in a world of fast food and junk food in a culture that too often eats in the car or at best, on the run; and when the wrappers are thrown away, there is still hunger. Curiously, and for me disturbingly, even in restaurants, people hardly relax to savor food and conversation. What we often find is iPads and cell phones in one hand with a fork in the other. What we are also beginning to admit is that the junk food is exactly that. It is not real food because it supplies no nourishment and is often harmful to eat. In the meantime, hunger remains.
It isn’t just junk food that we consume either. We feed our minds with trivia, news that is mostly opinion rather than fact. Instead of consuming great literature, most people seem content to devour trivial, shallow trash picked up at the check-out stand attracted by sensational headlines and photos of superstars. In the meantime, hunger remains.
Some people are awakening to this reality, and they make changes. They train themselves to walk past the processed food aisle. They turn off the TV, giving up the prepackaged opinions of hate radio and the shouting of left or right extremists. They look for and hunger for people who are engaged in real living, people whose lives are about more than work, eating, entertainment and sleeping. Some folks are looking for real food, because they are hungry for what matters, for what give life.
There is in every human life a hunger for God, and to desperate, starving people wandering in a desert, God gave food, manna every day. They had to take the “manna risk” of doing things God’s way, and not returning to Egypt. Then again in God’s own time, Jesus Christ came to feed the hungry. The Gospels are filled with accounts of this. To people who followed him into the desert, he offered ordinary bread. To the leper hungry for companionship, he offered the bread of healing. To a lonely woman at Jacob’s well, he offered the bread of human kindness and satisfied her hunger for acceptance. To sinners he offered the bread of forgiveness, and satisfied their hunger for salvation. To the rejects and outcasts, by mixing with them and sharing their bread, he offered companionship and so satisfied their hunger for self-worth. To a widow burying her only son, and to Martha and Mary who had just buried their brother, he offered the bread of compassion, and showed them that even in death we are not beyond the reach of God’s help. To Zacchaeus, a rich tax collector who robbed bread from the tables of the poor, Jesus invited himself to his table. Then, awakening within him a hunger for a better life, he got him to share his money with the poor.
This Eucharist we gather to celebrate here week after week is real food for us that can satisfy every hunger. “Flesh and Blood” is a way of referring to a human being, not just tissue and fluid, and that is what this Feast is about: being human. Way more than processions and walking behind a monstrance, this feast is about the mystery into which we drawn here, the Body and Blood of Christ. This is what gives us the strength to walk in the power of Christ’s presence day after day aware of our dignity, our communion, and our responsibility for one another.
When we hold out our hands and accept the broken bread, we are daring to take hold of a body that was broken in death and rose in freedom. When we drink the cup, we pledge ourselves to solidarity. That is the meaning of drinking from the same cup. We become one with the losers, the powerless, the have-nots, the “dregs” of society, the sinners for whom Jesus drained the cup of suffering. So today we focus on what we easily forget: that every Eucharist must create in us a great sense of unease about disunity, discrimination, and hypocrisy in the body of Christ. It must make us bold in assuming the work of Jesus with the gifts of his Spirit. This then, is the gathering place, a stopping place, a resting place for us who are on the way to Kingdom of Justice and Peace.