Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Theme: For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim my death.
By: Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf
Homily for Sunday, June 23 2019
READINGS: Gen. 14: 18-20, Ps. 110, 1 Cor. 11: 23-26, Luke 9: 11-17
The Church traditionally in her liturgical calendar celebrates the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ called in Latin Corpus Christi on the Thursday following the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity Sunday. Being a solemnity, the Church made the flexible rule that it can be a moveable feast such that it can be moved to the following Sunday as we are doing today to enable all her members to participate in this celebration which is one of the most valuation gifts of the Church. Its Eucharistic procession is always in this our region transferred to Christ the King Feast.
Beloved, it is important to note the symbolisms of Bread, Wine and Fish in the three readings and the use of cup (chalice). One may ask why in the Old Testament the priest Melchizedek used bread and wine to make a sacrifice. St Paul in the second reading narrated the tradition he received directly from revelation from Christ speaking of the same Bread and Wine and the use of the chalice. In the gospel of today Jesus used Bread and Fish for the same sacrifice as a gift to the hungry people following him. Bread in Latin does not mean just loaves made with wheat flour but is another name for food. This is why the Latin rendition in the Benediction formula used Panis (Panem de cealo…) meaning food from Heaven. Bread from the Old Testament is one of the commonest foods that travellers carry in their haversack with water. It is meant to sustain life since man or living creatures cannot survive without food and drinks. For our life to continue we must eat and for the spiritual life to continue we must eat the spiritual food the one he told the Jews that is not the type their ancestors ate and died but the one he will give will give eternal life.
He gives wine because wine was a normal drink for families at meal time especially in the evenings, it helps to digest the food and protect the heart and cheer men’s heart according to the wisdom writer. He has to give us the drink that is his own blood which not only rejuvenates us but pumps life into us and sustains us forever. This wine (his blood) digests the word of God we receive and gives us the real blood that is life-giving. No wander he said that unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you will not have life within you. The fish was a normal and common food as well since he had to call fishermen to be his disciples. When he met them after resurrection by the sea side he made them catch huge fish and he prepared roasted fish for them to have as breakfast. Fish was a substitute where bread was not available and that is why fish is also a symbol of the Holy Eucharist. In the presentation of the Eucharistic tradition, Paul used the chalice (Cup) which contained the wine (Blood). The chalice was to carry the wine like the body carrying the blood and you have to drink the blood that is contained in the chalice. Little wonder then you cannot receive the Eucharistic specie of bread (the Body) without having the blood because the body carries the blood. The Body of Christ is the living body that has blood running in it not a dead flesh. And so in the Mass anyone who receives only one specie either body or blood has received both complete. It is not the quantity that matters but Christ is full and complete in each species. This is why the celebration is called in Latin Corpus Christi not Corpus et Sanguinis as we have in the English rendition- Body and Blood of Christ as if each can exist without the other.
Beloved, the hungry disciples who were tired and needed to be recuperated and given life and new strength represents the world that is hungry for Christ and the apostles that could not give them food but wanted them to go represents the human beings and the world that cannot give life to humanity but must be sent back to Jesus the life-giver. Jesus in his compassion cannot watch the world hungry without feeding them or thirsty without giving them drinks.
This is why the Prophet speaking the mind of Christ said that all who are hungry should come and buy corn without money and those thirsty, milk. It is the duty of the apostles of today to bring the hungry world to Christ and show them compassion. It is not enough to give excuses that we can do nothing about it or that we don’t have enough, we are called to give others in need something. Jesus commands today: Give them something to eat, must be taken seriously. The celebration of the solemnity of Corpus Christi commands us to life of genuine love, concern for the needs of others, charity and love, feeling for the less privileged among us and comfort to the wearied and then support for one another.
It is a Eucharist because what we received in the Church from Christ- the gift of his Body and Blood is no mean gift and we ought to respond with thanksgiving. This is why in the sacrament of celebrating this Body and Blood, we call it Eucharistia which is thanksgiving offering. The Church in celebrating this sacrament is like singing: What can we bring to offer as our gift to you, O Lord our God, as our gift to you. You are full of kindness for your sinful sons O Lord our God, for your sinful songs. Father all that we have, come from your hands, so then we offer you Jesus as our Gift to you O Lord our God, as our gift to you.
Beloved, let us with respect and pride keep celebrating this wonderful mystery of God’s love through Jesus Christ to his Church because as often as we do it we do so in memory of his death till he comes again. We must celebrate it daily with devotion as the only and most effective and efficacious way of thanking God daily and proclaiming his passion till we meet him in glory. Let us as part of our thanksgiving behave like Abram and present to the priests of God our tithe for this sacrifice they offer for us and for our salvation. We pray that all those who truly hunger for this Eucharist and cry for it may one day have the obstacle removed so that they can really participate in the eating. Those whose condition cannot be rectified but love him sincerely in the heart, may they receive him spiritually each time they participate in the celebration. We pray that we may love this Eucharist and have time to adore him and celebrate him with pure and holy hearts of love and never in hatred and division but as one so as to meet again in his kingdom of love, Amen.
Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf