Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Theme: “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, Jesus looked up to heaven, blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled.” (Luke 9:16-17)
By: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Homily for Sunday, June 23 2019
“Oh dear,” she said. “I think this is more than I want to wrestle with.” Then, putting aside her instruments, turning off the overhead examination lamp and pulling her surgical mask down from her face, Dr. Adams, my dentist, consigned me to further dread. “You still have all four of your wisdom teeth, but the upper two seem in bad shape. I think that’s what’s bothering you. I’d recommend they be extracted.”
Sweat beginning to form on my brow, my voice squeaked, “Is that something you can do right here?” She replied, “I do simple extractions, but wisdom teeth are rarely simple. I want you to go to an oral surgeon, and it’ll be easier for you, too, because they can give you intravenous sedation. Other patients I’ve referred to Dr. Fischer have all returned to tell me that he was wonderful with them.”
And so my fate seemed sealed. What appeared to be a simple cavity easily handled by the dentist turned out to be so much more. How could such a small thing have turned into something so big?
And that’s the very theme of the gospel passage we hear today, something so small turning into something so big. We find a hungry crowd, very little food, twelve stressed disciples and a placid Jesus. The disciples suggesting Jesus send the crowd into the nearby villages to find food and lodging, the twelve are challenged to provide for the throng from the meager provisions at their disposal. Even as they may have been shaking their heads in exasperation at this ridiculous suggestion, the disciples followed Jesus’ instructions and got the crowd seated in an organized fashion.
“And taking the five loaves and the two fish, Jesus looked up to heaven, blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled.” (Luke 9:16-17) Such small larders of provisions for so many became fare so abundant that leftovers were carried off the mountain!
During that post-surgery week, I remembered vividly the feeling of dread at undergoing the now completed procedure, lamenting that what had appeared to be a simple cavity turned out to be so much more. And then, propped up by desperate prayer, I met Dr. Fischer, his charisma dissolving fear and transforming what seemed a dreaded procedure into not much at all.
I’m guessing my own jitters were not so unlike the anxiety of the twelve disciples who heard Jesus instruct them to seat the crowd of five thousand hungry people in preparation for a meal. Perhaps muttering under their breaths that what Jesus was suggesting was ludicrous, yet they did as they were instructed. Then astonishment—how could such a pittance have become such bounty?
As we come together to celebrate The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, so do we gather as the Church, an institution both very human yet also divine, struggling to navigate troubling waters. Let the inspired words of Jesuit theologian Walter Burkhardt speak to this reality: “In the course of a half century, I have seen more Christian corruption than you have read of. I have tasted it. I have been reasonably corrupt myself. And yet, I love this church, this living, pulsing, sinning people of God with a crucifying passion. Why? For all the Christian hate, I experience here a community of love. For all the institutional idiocy, I find here a tradition of reason. For all the individual repressions, I breathe here an air of freedom. For all the fear of sex, I discover here the redemption of my body. In an age so inhuman, I touch here tears of compassion. In a world so grim and humorless, I share here rich joy and earthy laughter. In the midst of death, I hear an incomparable stress on life. For all the apparent absence of God, I sense here the real presence of Christ.” (“I Love This Church,” Walter Burghardt, S.J.)