Sunday Sermon for June 18, 2017, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Year A
Readings: Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor 10:16-17; Jn 6:51-58
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? And the bread that we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ? With these words St. Paul forces us to look deeper than what the sense are able to perceive. How can a cup of wine that is blessed cause us to participate in the Blood of Jesus? How can a piece of bread that is broken cause us to participate in the Body of our Lord?
In the first reading, we hear how God answered these questions in a veiled and general way 1500 years before St. Paul wrote his words. Speaking through Moses God told the people of Israel that He allowed them to be afflicted with hunger and then fed them with Manna. His purpose was to teach the people that they do not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Jesus is the Word of God spoken in the silence of eternity, and He is God Who took our human nature to Himself and spoke to us the words of salvation. We are to live according to His words, but He is the Word by Whom we live. His words can enter into our minds; we can meditate on His words in our minds, we can embrace His words in our hearts, we can conform our lives to His words in our actions. The Scriptures are a beautiful gift given to us by our Lord. He did not have to reveal Himself to us; He instructed us out of love so that we could live in a way that is truly the best for us.
God is love. His love was demonstrated to us through a gift that is even beyond the words He spoke through the writers of the Sacred Scriptures. In the fullness of time God revealed the infinite depth of His love for us: He became Incarnate for us in the blessed womb of His Holy Mother. He lived and taught the way of righteousness. He sealed His teaching about love by freely laying down His life for us on the Cross. He did He have to do this; He freely chose to do all of this simply because He loves us. But all of this, as extraordinary as it is, still did not adequately express the fullness of God’s love for us.
For this reason, He did something that is so astounding that it is utterly unimaginable. Because it is so profound, many people still do not believe that God would do such a thing. People find it hard to accept that God would humble Himself to become one of us. It is even more difficult for them to believe that He would give Himself to us to be eaten in the form of a piece of bread or to be drank in a cup of wine. People cannot accept the humility and the charity of God. Perhaps it is because their own pride and selfishness would not allow them to do anything remotely similar which, for them, would be immensely less than what Jesus did in taking on our human nature. Perhaps it is miracle of Transubstantiation and the fact that we cannot perceive our Lord with our senses.
I suspect, however, that the bigger problem is that they cannot accept that God loves them so much that He would do this for them. Perhaps it is the fear of being loved so much. Perhaps it is the inability to reciprocate such love. As we receive our Lord in Holy Communion we have to open our hearts to receive His love. Once received, we can love Him with the love with which He loves us.
How could Jesus give Himself to us in the form of bread? He told us in the Gospel that the bread He will give is His flesh for the life of the world. He also said that unless we eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, we have no life in us. We believe, not because we can see, feel, or taste Him, because we cannot; we believe because He said it and He is God. Jesus does not want merely external observance of a set of ordinances, as good as they are. What He wants is to be loved. For this reason He is the Word Who enters, not our mind, but directly into our hearts to unite Himself with us there. Now we have to choose to unite ourselves with Him and allow ourselves to be loved by Love Himself. This will change everything: not only our external behavior but, if we are willing, it will transform us completely to God!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.