Homily – Corpus Christi Sunday in a Time of Pandemic and National Crisis

Dear Friends,

We find ourselves once again unable to meet due to this time of pandemic, along with struggling as a nation to get to the heart of systemic racism within our country–its very culture.  Even though this is stressful to deal with, I find myself being hopeful in that this time seems to have struck a cord with people throughout our nation wanting to really try this time to make a difference. Our prayer must be that our loving God would give us all the strength we need, the perseverance and the will to finally, finally make the needed changes!  God be with us all.


Entrance Antiphon

Bless the Creator, O my Soul, God who gives us peace, who strengthens us for all trials and disappointments, who shares our joys, who wants good for us and not bad. Bless the Creator, O my soul, glorify God forever.

Opening Prayer

Today O God, You remind us how much we are loved by you through the incarnation of Jesus, Your First Born. Help us to always  lovingly receive Jesus into our lives through the gift of the Eucharist—Jesus, let us always be totally aware of your intention for this gift—that it should be shared with all who come to the table in order that we all can truly be You, O Jesus, for our world. We ask this of the Creator and the Spirit, in Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.


Readings:

  • Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14-16
  • 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17
  • John 6: 51-58

Homily

The feast of Corpus Christi—the Body of Christ is one of those feasts that should leave us unsettled, especially if we are looking at it rather, one-dimensionally.  Many times this feast has been presented as a Sunday to uplift the Eucharist, its physicality—place it in a golden case and then onto a golden stand.  This, of course, is a pre-Vatican II ritual that, as we have grown up in our faith, have realized that this feast is really about so much more.

Our brother Jesus, who always had deeper messages to convey than his first followers understood initially, couldn’t truly have meant for the gift of the Eucharist to be something static—bread that we worship.  All his words, his actions in Scripture certainly showed us that the only “body” he wanted us to care for—to care about, was the “body” that we found in our world in all its many forms, colors, sizes—human, non-human, animal and so on.

The Eucharist, the “bread of life” was meant as a comfort, yes, because the Jesus of 1st Century Palestine couldn’t stay with us in that physical form, so he gave us a sign—to remind us that our God is indeed with us, but, this is only the beginning. The Eucharist must be reciprocal—we have received; now we must give!  As we know, Jesus was always shaking things up, stretching his followers to be more, see more, understand more, see their lives as “gift” given to share, to make life better for all.

Diane Bergant, Scripture scholar, states that “blood symbolized life itself” and for us, that means the life of Jesus, his words—his actions—all that he taught about living-loving, dying and rising to a new place. She goes on, “the significance of the cup of wine is not in its material substance, but in its incorporation of the partakers in the blood of Christ”—in other words, the sharing of Jesus’ “essence” with the community is where the true goodness lies. This feast of Corpus Christi should not leave us “settled” in simply, worshipping the body and blood, because if it does, perhaps we have missed the point of this feast.  Jesus never asked us to worship him in the elements of bread and wine, but to care for his “body” in the world.

Exegetes continue; breaking bread with someone was looked at in the time of Jesus as a sign of forming community with them.  Jesus raised that to a new level in saying that sharing Eucharistic bread forms us into the body of Christ.  In other words, when we eat regular food, we incorporate that food into our very selves.  The opposite is true with the Eucharist, Bergant says.  When we partake of Eucharistic bread; we are transformed into Eucharistic bread, meaning—we become Jesus’ body for the world.  You might want to read this line again so as not to miss its meaning!

Looking at the Eucharist in this way, is indeed another level—receiving communion is not just between us and God, but us, and God, (think Jesus) and our world. Receiving communion is a community action for the larger community. A wise person once said, “Eucharist is really a verb, not a noun.  I would agree because it is all about, “becoming.”

In the Gospel from John, Bergant tells us that “flesh and blood,” on a literal level, was a common way of characterizing a human being—when applied to Jesus, speaking of Jesus’ flesh and blood is our proclamation of faith in the incarnation—the fact that Jesus became one of us to have a human experience, thus telling us how much we are loved by our God—that God in Jesus would go to that extent to make sure that we creatures know how important we are to the Creator.  Jesus became one of us, flesh and blood through his entire life; not just when he gave us the Eucharist. When we make conscious efforts to live as Jesus, we do give his “body and blood,” on a deeper level, to our world.

Take this thought and apply it now to the world in which we live.  We are in the midst of Covid 19, a pandemic that truly threatens all of us because it is an unseen organism and there is no vaccine at present to stop its spread.  We as Christians, as followers of our brother Jesus must do our part to truly share his love, his compassion in our world by doing all that we can to keep ourselves and others safe through “distancing,” wearing of masks and good hand-washing—simple measures, but so life-giving.

I have stopped adding “social” to “distancing” because as someone said, as humans, we need the aspect of being “social,” of relating to others—this pandemic has taught us that much, even the most introverted among us—we need others and should all try during this time, to reach out to others through a call, a card, an email—to let them know they are missed, are loved.  This is all about being, “the Body of Christ!”

Add to the pandemic; our country has been shaken to its core these past two weeks at the death of yet another black brother, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer.  With his death that has been accepted as murder by many, one of too many before it; our nation apparently is beginning to say—“this is enough!—we must change!”  This is all about “being Jesus’ body and blood” in our world—Eucharist!

I think it would be good for us to try and put ourselves at Jesus’ last supper with his family and friends and really attempt to tap into all that was going on for him, in his humanity, all that was before him in his journey to be Christ.  Most of us can only really get our heads around the human component—Jesus’ earthly family, his friends, his disciples.  What was he truly thinking, feeling, when he said, “Whenever you share this meal, the simple elements of bread and wine, think of me!”  Remember, if you can, that when you take these elements, simple gifts from the earth; they are in effect my life-blood—my body, all that I have taught you, all that I have given you, by way of example, by way of my life among you.  When you take all of this in and let it change your life, you do become my body—given to you that you then can continue my work in the world—can be “Eucharist for others. That is why each week that we have been unable to meet as a community with each other, I have been able to say to you, let us remember that we are bread for each other because Jesus lives within us!

And friends, this is why Jesus could truly say, “You will do greater things than I!”  He truly believed and trusted that his family and friends, his followers would continue his work in the world.

That’s where all of us come in.  We can’t let what we do at Mass end there—this is only the beginning.  The only real purpose for the Eucharist, in the end, is that it be a launching pad for all that comes next.  Just as Jesus, our brother, knew such events in his earthly life among us; he brought his very best to his last supper with all those he most cared about.

I had the privilege of officiating on Saturday at the funeral liturgy of our brother, Eric Bartleson.  In a time of pandemic that none of you could attend—only a couple of close neighbors and family, we did our very best to celebrate his good life among us.  For those of you in the Winona area who knew Eric, I promise a time in the near future, when it is safe to do so, to appropriately remember him—a time of eucharist!

When we celebrate those larger times of eucharist within our families, within our city, on a national level to make our country better for all, on a global level for our world, we are truly Jesus’ body and blood in the world—and it all begins each time we celebrate the Mass. Let it be so! Amen? Amen!


Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “You satisfy the hungry heart.”

  1. For all in our country and around the world who suffer due to the forces of

nature—surround them with your love and care O God and help each of us to do

all that we can to help protect and safeguard our world, we pray—

Response: “You satisfy the hungry heart.”

  1. For each of us here, that we might receive today a new appreciation for what

Jesus’ incarnation into our history really means, we pray—

     Response: “You satisfy the hungry heart.”

  1. For anyone here today, suffering in any way, be it in body, mind or spirit, we

pray—Response: “You satisfy the hungry heart.”

  1. Bless our community, All Are One—keep us O Spirit close to the heart of Jesus

and help us to be ever ready to accept any and all into our family, we pray—

Response: “You satisfy the hungry heart.”

  1. O God, work within each of us, within our leaders, to be people of peace and to

work for peace within our war-torn world, especially be with all in this country as

we work against the sin of racism, we pray—

     Response: “You satisfy the hungry heart.”

  1. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week—from Covid

19 and be especially with the Bartleson family as they grieve the loss of Eric,

including Pat Przybylski, his friend and companion—give them your peace to find

their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “You satisfy the hungry heart.”

***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, then response

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—(pause) then response

Let Us Pray

O good and loving God, made manifest so wonderfully and beautifully in Jesus, our Savior and Friend, you know what we need before we ask—do give us what we most need today! Help us to be aware anew today through this beautiful feast of Corpus Christi of how much you love us and want to be close—to be part of our very beings in order that we can then be transformed into you.  You are our Creator, our Savior, our Spirit Friend—we ask all of this in Jesus’ wonderful name—AMEN.


Prayer after Communion—(we again remember that the “Eucharist” is more than the “bread of the altar,” but the body of us all that Jesus was for our world.  We remember that he is always with us in our commitment to follow him—in our commitment to share his love with everyone we meet).

Let us pray—

You have satisfied us O God with yourself—guide us as we leave here today to bring your love, your life to all we meet. Help us to remember that we are gifted in order that we might be a gift to our world. We ask all this in Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.