5th/ 6th June 2021

posted 9 Jun 2021, 04:52 by Parish Office   [ updated 9 Jun 2021, 04:52 ]

Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Year B (5 & 6/6/21)

Words change their meaning over time. Some usages drop out of use, whilst others develop secondary meanings, and sometimes the secondary meanings eventually displace the original meaning. One classic example is the word “wicked” – in earlier years people understood the word to mean evil, whilst now it is also used to mean good. If we go back a bit further in time, the word “gay” used to mean happy. What about the word “awful”? Today it would be used to mean horrible, but previously it meant “full of awe”. I remember coming across a hymn that spoke of God’s awful glory, but I did an internet search and I couldn’t find out which hymn it was.

Words change their meaning, and this also causes confusion when it comes to our faith. When Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me”, it’s easy to interpret “memory” in the modern sense, of just remembering, or calling to mind. But for first century Jews, it was much more than that. When they celebrated the Passover, they weren’t just remembering what had happened all those years ago – they believed that they actually took part in the original Passover. Memory wasn’t just about remembering in their heads what had happened – it was about bringing an event from the past into the present and taking part in it themselves. So when Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me”, He was, in a sense, saying, “Do this to make Me and my saving sacrifice present”.

Words can be confusing sometimes, and just changing a minor detail can make for a complete change in meaning. You can take the same letters, in the same order, and if you just adjust the spacing you can get a different message. For example: compare “God is nowhere” with “God is now here”. Just adding one extra space makes for a completely different meaning. Let’s apply this to the Eucharist. Some people think that the Eucharist is just a representation of Christ and the sacrifice of the Cross. But the Church teaches that the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross. Not just a representation, like a painting on a wall, but a re-presentation – the sacrifice of the Cross is presented, put before us, once again. We take part in it again each time we come to Mass. We only need to look at the words of the Gospel today: Christ said “This is my body” and “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many.” Those words could be describing the celebration of the Mass, or what took place on Calvary, because they are one and the same. We can look at the altar as the priest says, “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood”, or we can look at the Cross as those same words are said. Pope St Paul VI said the same thing in a new Creed called the Credo of the People of

God. He said, “We believe that the Mass … is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars” (para 24). So the Mass is not like getting a VHS video off the shelf, dusting it off, rewinding the tape and playing it in a video recorder. It’s more like a kind of internet livestream, or if you prefer, a live TV broadcast, except that it’s livestreaming or broadcasting through time, bringing the past right now, live, into this very building.

But there’s more. Livestreaming and broadcasting are limited realities – if you see something on a computer or TV screen, you can’t get into the screen and take part yourself; in one sense you are hermetically sealed from what you are watching. But when we physically attend Mass, we are taking part in Calvary just the same as if we were physically present, in that we receive grace from God. Have you heard the definition of sacraments being outward signs of invisible, or inward, grace? You can’t see the grace given to us by the sacraments, but you can sometimes see and feel the effects – how many people have just felt wonderful by attending Mass, or being absolved of their sins in confession, to give two examples? It’s as if at times, God allows us to “feel” the greatness of what is happening; but when we don’t feel anything, God’s grace is there just the same – occasionally He lifts the veil so we glimpse some of the glory that lies behind what is going on.

And if the Mass is the sacrifice of Calvary, then who do we find there on Calvary, if not Christ Himself? So the Eucharistic species, i.e. what we receive in Holy Communion, have to be Christ Himself: His Body given up for us, and His Blood poured out for us. It’s that real, that we call it the Real Presence.

How truly lucky and fortunate we are to be able to take part in all this! With the eyes of faith we can enter into a new dimension and see, no longer bread and wine, but Jesus, with only the outward appearances of bread and wine; with the eyes of faith we see His saving sacrifice there on the altar. Our only response can be to kneel down and worship and adore, and similarly, when we enter and leave the church, to go down on one knee in adoration of the Lord reserved in the tabernacle.

Words change their meaning, but Jesus and His sacraments remain the same. We are the ones that need to change, by regular contact with our saving Lord.