Friends, this feast today, Corpus Christi, or the Body of Christ, is a wonderful one in that it calls us very clearly, to the heart of the message of our brother Jesus, that each of us, be “bread” for our world. Our Scripture readings today are all about feeding those who are hungry, giving hospitality, which Joan Chittister says, “is the sacrament of the self—in it we give ourselves away to those who need to rest their burdens for a while”—those who come to our homes, to our shores; we must give the best wine and food, and it isn’t mere food for the body, but for the heart and soul—the food of understanding of what another walks with.
We see this plainly in the gospel today from John. Jesus not only sees and understands their physical hunger, but knows they are looking for more—to be loved and cared about, to be understood from one perhaps who truly knows the plight of their everyday lives—of how hard they have to work from morning till night to keep food on the table for their families.
And we too think of our brothers and sisters at our southern boarders—no matter the rhetoric out of Washington, these “neighbors” only want what each of us wants; security, food, and a roof over their heads, for themselves and their families.
Many women in our world, many of you here understand the sense of hospitality and care that Joan Chittister speaks of, that sense of giving people a respite from the cares of life. We were trained, growing up, we women, that when family and friends came to visit, we would always give them, “a little something” to eat before they left.
For me, it was my Aunt Eleanor on my mother’s side—I always enjoyed visiting her, because before we could leave, we had to have some, LUNCH, and my Aunt Eleanor was the best at laying out a spread! Not just coffee and cookies, mind you, but sandwiches, and perhaps even a luscious piece of cake with ice cream. She truly knew how to treat guests. And it was not just the physical food, but the “food” of friendship and fun! It was almost too much! This everyday example is really eucharist in our everyday lives.
In the gospel today, we see Jesus doing the same as my Aunt Eleanor. In this story, as well as throughout the entirely of the gospels, Jesus brings out the best, and is most generous with the gifts—12 baskets left over!
Jesus invited the people of his day to eat his body and drink his blood and upon hearing his invitation, found it confusing. This was because they were looking at his message in a purely physical way—the way our Church hierarchy has for far too long. How can I eat another’s flesh and drink their blood? Yet, Jesus said, they and we must do this to have everlasting life.
Surely, Jesus’ words held a deeper meaning—taking the words and actions of Jesus and making them so much a part of us that in fact we “eat” and “drink” them, his body and blood, soul and divinity—all of himself. When he said, “Eat my body, drink my blood,” which is all of me, my life, flowing through me, my very Spirit, given by my Abba God, he was really saying, “Become like me!”
So we, as his followers, strive for that—to become more like him every day—“eating and drinking” of his words and actions—making them our body and blood, or in the words of the song, “bread for our world!”
And when you think about it, isn’t this what each of us strives for in life? To know when our time here is coming to a close, that we have made a difference, that what we feel is most important in life, that we have cared for ourselves and our families and extended care as well to all those who come into our lives, that our care has indeed extended beyond ourselves and our immediate families—that basically, the world is a better place because we were here—our life, “our blood,” so to speak, our essence has flowed out among those in our world. I think it is significant that both Sister Joan Chittister and Father Richard Rohr, both in their early 80’s have felt the need at this time in their lives to write, perhaps, “one last book” and in their words, and I paraphrase; they didn’t want to die feeling they had not said, these final, most important words, given them, for our world!
As a final example, let’s look at Jesus’ last supper, indeed a meal of love with his faithful followers and no doubt, men and women were present. What happens there? Jesus breaks bread and pours wine and tells them that whenever they do this, he is there with them. Just prior to this sharing, Jesus prays a beautiful prayer of love to God asking that God would bless all those given to him (his apostles, disciples and friends) and all who would believe because of their words (that’s us friends!)—he prayed that God would bless us all and keep us safe.
He prayed that they and we would love others as he had loved us and does love us, and we know that within a very short time of this prayer, his body would physically be broken and his blood physically spilled, just as he had so often broken and spilled his body and blood emotionally and spiritually, during the years of his short life— all of it, out of love for us—so that we would get this one message right. When we think of heads of state, of corporations, even religious organizations and what they put into writing about what they feel most important for their members, followers, to be about, none is as simple or eloquent as Jesus’ final testament—“I want you to love, as you have seen me love.”
Think what it would be like in our world if our country extended diplomacy with a bit of love and understanding, trying to see both sides of “the deal” not striving “to be great again,” but for a more humane resolution! Think what our Church Universal would be like if more love and less law was extended!
So, our brother Jesus, with a great deal of emotion—took the elements of the traditional Seder Meal, blessed and broke, poured and shared and raised them to a new level, saying, “When you do this, remember me—that I have loved you and so go out and love others! If we stop at the single thought of eating his body and drinking his blood; we will be lost and confused like those first believers, hearing those words for the first time. We always need to go deeper where Jesus is concerned.
Many of us remember, as youngsters, learning that if the consecrated bread ever dropped while the priest was distributing it, everything must stop until it was reverently picked up. Do we likewise stop everything in our world when Jesus’ body is “dropped and broken” through the trafficking of the young, through the sexual abuse of children by those who should be protecting them, through the concentration camps on our southern border, and through the ongoing violence of guns in our society—more guns than people in our United States of America, and we could go on!
I think Jesus used the simple language of eating and drinking to help the people, all of us, see and understand the greater message he intended to share—simple eating and drinking was and is, the stuff of life, it was about keeping the body and mind, heart and soul together. If people, all of us, could take in that simple concept of food and drink, giving us life and energy to live, and move it to a higher level, realizing that to begin to live as Jesus’ example to us, to take his actions, his words, his love, and eat of THAT “body” of truth and drink of THAT “life-blood” of goodness, then we would rise above our humanity, and in fact, be more like God.
Today, we are singing, “Let Us Be Bread” for a purpose! We are expected to be “bread” for our world and that “bread” is made up of goodness, mercy, caring, justice, understanding, and love. And when did we ever live in a time that called for such “bread” more? From the Vatican to the halls of Washington, calling each of us to let “our hearts break open with love,” as Melinda Gates speaks so well of in her new book, The Moment of Lift.
When we can try and put ourselves in the shoes of those who don’t know justice in this world—having enough physical food for their families, a roof to cover their heads, being shown the respect that every human being deserves, then, and only then; would all of this suffering cease! This is truly Jesus’ body and blood! Amen? Amen!