Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Theme: “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi”
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Sunday, June 23 2019
A poor family was gathered around the dinner table for the birthday of the youngest son. After a short prayer of thanksgiving, the father said: “Son, it’s your birthday. Now make a wish, and then blow the candles.” The boy dutifully closed his eyes and then blew the candles. Then the father asked him, “Son, what was your birthday wish?” The boy said, “I wished that on my birthday next year, there will be a cake on the table so that I won’t be holding the candles.”
The family was so poor that there was not even a small birthday cake on the table. But they knew that it was not what is essential in the birthday celebration. Rather, it is the gift of life that they are thankful to God for; it is the family gathered together in love and harmony; it is the assurance of God’s abiding presence that fills them with hope and joy. These are the things that make a birthday celebration truly meaningful, and not the cake, food or merriment.
This Sunday we come together again to celebrate the Eucharist. It is always and essentially a thanksgiving, for that is what “eucharist” means. The spirit of joy and gladness should be in us every time we gather to celebrate the Mass. Unfortunately, there are many Catholics who do not see it that way anymore. Many have even left the Catholic Church because they found the celebrations boring and dry. They have come to Mass with lots of expectations and these have not been met, so they claim.
For instance, many of them expect to be entertained. They want the priest to always have jokes, stories and new gimmicks. They demand contemporary and more upbeat music from the choir. They want something new and spectacular every time. No wonder the most attended Masses aside from the Simbang Gabi are Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday – there are added attractions: ashes, palms and Easter eggs.
Worse still is that there are some priests who have fallen into this kind of thinking. Instead of being ministers, they try hard to be entertainers – giving what the people want to hear and see, rather than what God wants for them. Their aim is to please the people, not God. In effect, the Word of God is not preached faithfully and prophetically, the celebration becomes like a performance, and the priest takes center stage acting like a host in a show.
It is really unfortunate that many of us have lost sight of what is really essential in the liturgical celebration. As in a birthday celebration, it is the gift of life and family that is essential, not the birthday cake and the party. So also in the Mass: it is not the priest, or the ministers, the congregation, the music or service that truly matters, but Jesus Christ, who personally offers His eternal Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.
Pope Benedict XVI insists on this: “The Liturgy is God’s action.” The center of the liturgy is not man, but God. Therefore, no bishop or priest can mess with the liturgy just to please and entertain the people. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal is very strong on this: “Nevertheless, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass” (GIRM #24).
Knowing and believing that Jesus is truly present, we then do the best we can to celebrate the Mass faithfully and meaningfully. Pope Benedict XVI said, “The best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself well celebrated.” This is what it means by the expression “active participation” (actuosa participatio). “The primary way to foster the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself. The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio. The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness…” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 38).
There is the classic saying in Catholic Theology, “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” The law of prayer is the law of faith. It refers to the relationship between worship and belief. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi. The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.” (n. 1124).
In other words, if we really believe that the Mass is the one and the same eternal sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, that Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist that we receive in Holy Communion, then we will do the best we can to behave properly during Mass and to worship solemnly and appropriately. And if we truly believe that the Eucharist is the sacrament of God’s love for us, then we who partake of it must also be motivated and filled with love. Saint Josemaria Escrivá said, “You say the Mass is long; and I add, because your love is short!”
On this celebration of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, let us renew our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Let this renewed faith inspire and move us to come to Church every Sunday full of joy and eagerness, and to make our Eucharistic celebrations meaningful, lively and truly pleasing in God’s eyes.
Therefore, we are duty-bound, first, to prepare ourselves properly. This means, among others, going to Confession, wearing the appropriate clothes, punctuality, one-hour Eucharistic fast and removing all possible sources of distractions. Second, we are also duty-bound to actively and meaningfully participate in the celebration. Only then will we be able to receive Jesus worthily in Holy Communion. Then the Mass ceases to be boring and dry. It truly becomes for us the source and the summit of our life as Christians.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Capitol Park Homes, Amsterdam St.
Old Balara, Quezon City