Corpus Christi 23/6/2019

posted 24 Jun 2019, 04:27 by Parish Office

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year C (22 & 23/6/19)


Ecclesia semper reformanda – the Church is always in need of renewal.  It’s part of human nature, that over time, we can find ourselves deviating from the right path and losing our focus.  It’s a bit like a car I drove once.  When you accelerated, the car pulled in one direction, and when you braked, it pulled in the other.  You had to apply appropriate force on the steering wheel to keep the car going in a straight direction.


Alas, it has always been thus.  In the second reading, St Paul is correcting the Church in Corinth and trying to get them to re-connect with the heart of the Eucharist.  What was happening at the time, was that before the celebration of Mass, they used to have a meal, also called an agape.  It was supposed to be a great show of fraternal love, but what was happening instead, was that the rich were gathering together by themselves and enjoying themselves to excess, whilst the poor were sitting together embarrassed by the fact that they had almost nothing to eat.  And this was then overshadowing their celebration of the Eucharist that followed.  Thankfully, this custom is long gone, and although it has been cut back from what it was before, we have the Eucharistic fast, which means that we don’t eat any food, or drink anything apart from water, up to an hour before we receive the Eucharist.  (Medicine, though, doesn’t count.)  It goes without saying, then, that the only food we do eat in church is the Eucharist.


In each age, there have been things that have overshadowed and obscured the celebration of the Eucharist, to a greater or lesser extent.  Fr James Mallon has written a book called Divine Renovation, based on his experience in turning parishes around, and part of this is the quality of our Sunday celebrations.  Some of the things he mentions are more within the hands of the priest, but there are also things that everyone can do.  Some years ago, a priest was giving a talk about the Mass to young people, and he said that one of the problems we have shows itself within the first few minutes of the start of the Mass.  The priest says in a loud, audible voice, “The Lord be with you”.  And the people respond in an inaudible mumble.    So, pointing to a newly-ordained priest, he basically said, here’s Fr Tom, who is young and enthusiastic.  But how long will his enthusiasm last, if each time at Mass he says, “The Lord be with you”, all he gets back is a half-hearted mumble?  I adapted this once when I said Mass in a high school for a class of teenagers.  I said to them that if you went to a football match, and when your team scored, half of the people didn’t even notice, one or two people cheered and the rest just celebrated in a quiet mumble, it would be much of a football match.  You need to put yourself into it.  To be fair to them, they took the message on board, and the Mass was much more upligting as a result.


We can also say the same about singing.  Today’s longer form of the sequence says, “Then be the anthem clear and strong, thy fullest note, thy sweetest song”.  God deserves our very best.  Today we have a real cause for rejoicing – celebrating Our Lord’s presence among us as the Holy Eucharist.  Never mind any secular personality coming to visit.  Today we have Our Lord Himself.  If we are more enthusiastic about Our Lord than about our hobbies, then there will be no danger of being guilty of idolatry.


St John Paul II, writing towards the end of his life in a document called Ecclesia de Eucharistia, said that, following Vatican II, there had been both positive growth, but also shadows.  In certain places, Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned and, I quote, “abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament.  At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery.  Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet [end of quote].” (para 10)  It’s almost as if in a different way, the problem St Paul was addressing in the second reading has come back – people beginning to treat the Mass increasingly as if it were not sacred and forgetting Who is present at the heart of it all.  As part of a remedy for this, he mentions the practice of Eucharistic adoration, helping us to rediscover Christ’s presence at the heart of the Mass.  He says, “The Eucharist is a priceless treasure:  by not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace” (para 25).  Ecclesia de Eucharistia is a wonderful and inspiring document, well worth reading.  It’s also relatively short.


Lastly, before I finish, one more thing that we can do to renew our appreciation for the presence of Christ when we receive Holy Communion:  it seems that, across the world, people have asked themselves whether there is some way of making the reception of Holy Communion more reverent.  This idea was made as a strong recommendation by Rome some time ago, and has now been adopted by the Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland (see GIRM 160).  When you come forward to receive the Host or from the chalice, just before you answer “Amen” and receive, bow your head to the Sacred Host or the Precious Blood, and then receive the Lord.  It’s a way of reinforcing the fact that we are receiving Our Lord Jesus Christ, not just any ordinary object.


So to sum up, our time is just like any other and there is always the need to re-polish our celebration of the Mass.  By more enthusiastic singing and saying of the Mass responses, by bowing our head before receiving the Lord in Holy Communion, and by praying in Eucharistic adoration, we can deepen and renew our wonder of this awesome mystery, the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.