Homily: Corpus Christi Sunday

Brothers and sisters in Christ: what a beautiful occasion it is to welcome all of you to celebrate the Holy Eucharist on this, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, The Feast of Corpus Christi. I want to thank your pastor, Fr. Jason for allowing all of us to gather here on this special feast day, and to begin after this Mass our procession with the Holy Eucharist to St. Anthony’s church at the other end of our journey. I thank all of you for being here, and hope that many of you will join us for the procession following Mass.

Saint Thomas Aquinas said that the Holy Eucharist is “the greatest of all [Christ’s] miracles,” and that, “No other sacrament has greater healing power.” He says, “here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this?” Indeed, what could be more wonderful than this? That Christ himself is set before us, given to us as our food.

At every Mass we go though, with and in Christ to the Father—in praise, in adoration, in thanksgiving; thanks and adoration. And at every Mass, the Father gives us His Son—fully and completely present in the Eucharist when we receive Him in Holy Communion. Every Mass then is a giving and a receiving: we give ourselves in Christ to the Father, and we receive Christ in return from the Father. It’s a transaction designed by God to save us. Every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we enter into this wonderful exchange: we give ourselves to God, God giving Himself to us, so He can save us.

You may have heard the old adage that the Church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist makes the Church.

If we ponder the mystery of the Church, one of the things the Bible tells us about the Church is that we are the Body of Christ, and we are the family of God. Those are the two images in the Bible that I think are the most beautiful descriptions of what the Church is. We are the Body of Christ in the world, and we are also children of God, the family of God, sons and daughters of the Father.

Christ’s gift of his Body and Blood in this sacrament, the Eucharist, is a gift beyond gifts, because when we receive Him—His Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity, the whole Christ—we mysteriously are enabled to become what we receive. In this gift, Christ is fully present and in that Presence, He gives Himself to transform us, and to make Himself present in us. As St. Paul says, he is the Head and we are the members. We are all part of one Body, a mystical Body, and this is what the Eucharist brings about.

One of the parts of the Mass that I have always enjoyed as a priest is the distribution of Holy Communion. I have always considered it a privilege and an honor to be able to give the Body of our Lord to His Body the Church—to bestow Christ on another person. As people go to Holy Communion, I pay attention to each person who approaches, especially the person’s eyes. So when you come up today, I’ll be looking at your eyes.

Recently, I was distributing Holy Communion and when I came to a woman, she was weeping, she was crying. But it was clear that her tears were tears of joy. It happened that at this Mass, there was a server holding a patten to each person receiving Holy Communion, and I noticed that as I gave her the Host, as I gave her the Lord in Holy Communion, one of her tears fell and landed on the patten. It caught her tear.

As we went back to the altar, we carried that tear. And it occurred to me…what a precious gift that must have been to Jesus. This woman’s tear. This woman’s expression of love at receiving him in the Eucharist, her love expressed in tears of gratitude and joy.

I thought of that woman in the Gospel who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and how Jesus so appreciated that gift that gesture of love…and how this woman who received Him in the Holy Eucharist was very much like her.

I mention this because this Feast of Corpus Christi has a character intended to stir up our hearts so that we will marvel in gratitude and love at this precious gift of the Eucharist that we have been given, and so we will never become indifferent or take it for granted. The Eucharist is the place where God’s power flows into our lives—it is the summit of the Christian life, the high point of our lives as Christians. You and I have been gathered to Christ so that we can come together as the people of God, to worship God in thanksgiving, in praise, and adoration, and to participate in the sacrifice of Christ, to receive His Body and Blood at the Lord’s banquet table. This is the center and source of our life as Christians, because the Eucharist is Christ, Our Lord and Our Savior, broken and given for all of us for the life of the world.

That is why we have solemn processions through our streets this weekend with the Eucharist, as a way to show our honor and our love for the Lord given to us in this beautiful Sacrament; that is why we adore the Lord present in the Host, that is why we have Benediction where we receive this special Eucharistic blessing from the Lord Himself. That’s why we genuflect towards the tabernacle and why we kneel during Mass. All of these ways show our love, our gratitude, our adoration for Christ our Savior. So that we will realize it is Christ Himself who is poured out and broken for us so that we can be healed. So that we will “come to know Him in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:30-35) as did the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus did. So, that we will see the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that “behold, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). In the Eucharist, Christ abides with us, he makes his home with us, and he makes his home within us.

As we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi this weekend, let us realize that the key to a bright future lies in being faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist, especially at Sunday Mass. Don’t ever miss it!  Always celebrate it with gratitude, with adoration, with love. Make the Eucharist the center of your life. This is our food for the journey—the Bread come down from Heaven to help us get to Heaven.

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all Praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!  Amen.

+ Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr.

(June 3, 2018: Corpus Christi Sunday)


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