Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ Year A
Theme: Let’s Go Organic!
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Sunday June 14 2020
Nowadays, people are health-conscious more than ever. This explains the wide popularity of organic foods and restaurants. In one such restaurant serving organic meals, a customer complained, “Waiter! How come there are leaves and twigs in my soup? Do you expect me to eat all these?” “My apologies, sir,” said the waiter. “I’ll call the branch manager.” The branch manager came, and explained to the customer. “I’m sorry, sir. But that recipe is very special to the owner of this restaurant. He got it as inheritance from his family tree!”
If we are looking for a truly organic food and drink, it is the sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus repeatedly stressed it several times in the Gospel this Sunday: “For my flesh is true food; my blood is true drink” (Jn 6:55). And if we are looking for vitality, health, power and life, listen again to what Jesus said: “Whoever who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:54).
On this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, once again we proclaim the truth of this most august sacrament. Jesus is really present in the Eucharist. It is his Body and Blood that we receive in Holy Communion. He comes to us; he enters our entire system. His Blood enters into our blood stream; his Body becomes incorporated into the cells of our body.
A rich tourist visiting the Philippines had a heart failure. He was admitted to the hospital for surgery. Since he had a rare blood type, the doctors looked for a blood donor. They found a man from the Ilocos region who had a similar blood type. He willingly donated his blood for the millionaire. As a token of gratitude, the rich man sent the Ilocano a new BMW car, diamonds and cash. A couple of weeks later, however, he needed another surgery. The same man was summoned again to donate blood. But after the second surgery, he received only a thank you card and a box of cookies. He was totally disappointed. He asked the rich man: “What happened to you? I thought you would be generous as before”. To this the millionaire replied: “Manong, didn’t you realize? The Ilocano blood now runs in my veins.” (Ilocanos are known for having a very frugal lifestyle).
Can we say the same thing as Christians? When we receive Holy Communion, it is now the bodily tissues and blood of Jesus Christ that runs in our system. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (#1374).
The Jews complained about this: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” It is not, however, the question of ‘how’ that really matters. Even if Jesus explains it to us, we will never fully understand it, anyway. Rather, it is a question of ‘why’. The answer is clear: love. Jesus himself becomes true food and drink because of his love for us, in spite of our sins, and he longs to stay with us in each moment and in every aspect of our life. Jesus in the Eucharist is, indeed, the “Emmanuel” – God with us, here and now on earth and until we reach heaven for eternity.
This Sunday, allow me to share with you two important lessons in relation to the sacrament of the Eucharist. First, this feast should be an opportunity for us to examine ourselves, particularly our behavior, actions and gestures in the Mass. There is the Latin dictum, “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” (The law of prayer is the law of belief.) In other words, the way we pray is an expression of our faith. If we truly believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, we will always come for Mass on time, dress properly and modestly, behave reverently in the Church all the time, and regularly go to confession in order to worthily receive Holy Communion. The reason behind the abuses in the celebration of Holy Mass, by priests and lay people alike, can be traced to a severe lack of faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Pope Benedict XVI is well aware of this problem. In the book “Light of the World”, Peter Seewald asked the Pope why, at papal Masses, he requires people to kneel and receive Communion on the tongue. He answered: “I am not opposed in principle to Communion in the hand; I have both administered and received Communion in this way myself. The idea behind my current practice of having people kneel to receive Communion on the tongue was to send a signal and to underscore the Real Presence with an exclamation point… I have heard of people who, after receiving Communion, stick the Host in their wallet to take home as a kind of souvenir. In this context, where people think that everyone is just automatically supposed to receive Communion — ‘everyone else is going up, so I will, too’ — I wanted to send a clear signal. I wanted it to be clear: something quite special is going on here! He is here, the One before whom we fall on our knees! Pay attention! This is not just some social ritual in which we can take part if we want to” (pp. 158-159).
Secondly, this feast should also lead us to appreciate the reason why Jesus chose to become our food and drink in the Eucharist. He fervently desires that we share in the life of God. In the Eucharist, not only are we nourished with the heavenly food; we are also elevated to a higher dignity as God’s children. This is illustrated in the material world. The animal says to the plant: “If you want to share in a higher form of life, let me eat you. But you have to die.” When this happens, the plant becomes incorporated into the animal kingdom. The same is true with the animal. Man says to the animal: “If you like to share in human life, let me eat you. But you have to die” Then the animal becomes part of the human kingdom. This is the natural order of things in this world.
But in the case of our relationship with God, the reverse is what happens. God does not say to us: “Let me eat you, and you will die.” Rather it is the other way around. He tells us: “Eat me, and you will live! You will become part of me and you will have eternal life.” When we eat the Body of Christ, He does not lose His being and identity as in the case of the plant and animal. Rather, we who eat His Body are the ones being transformed and incorporated into Himself. So we share in the divine life, we receive eternal life and are elevated to the level of the divine – we are not only sanctified, but ‘deified’. After years of receiving Holy Communion, can we say we have become more holy and divine? If not, there must be something wrong, not with the sacrament of the Eucharist, but in the disposition and manner that we receive this sacrament.
Let me close with these words from Pope Benedict XVI: “We bring Christ, present under the sign of bread, onto the streets of our city. We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to his goodness. May our streets be streets of Jesus! May our houses be homes for him and with him! May our life of every day be penetrated by his presence” (Homily for Corpus Domini, 2005).
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches