Solemnity of The Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), June 26, 2011 Audio Homily

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Anthony of Padua Church, New Bedford, MA
Solemnity of The Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
June 26, 2011
Dt 8:2-3 14b-16a, Ps 147:12-15 19-20, 1Cor 10:16-17, Jn 6:51-58

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click at the bottom of the page. The following text guided this homily:

DARING TO DO ALL WE CAN

  • In the Lauda Sion Salvatorem, the beautiful and long sequence written by St. Thomas Aquinas for the first celebration of Corpus Christi in 1264 and sung before the proclamation of the Gospel on every Corpus Christi since, there are words that crisply summarize how we’re supposed to celebrate the great gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. It calls all of us together “Sion,” meaning those assembled on God’s holy mountain, and begins “Praise the Savior! Praise your leader and shepherd with hymns and songs.” Then it says in Latin, “Quantum potes, tantum aude,” “Dare to do all you can” because the reality of Jesus in the Eucharist is greater than all the praise we would ever be able to say. In the translation we used today, we sang, “Sing his glory without measure, for the merit of your Treasure never shall your praises fill.” In other words, we can never praise our Savior enough for the gift of himself in the Holy Eucharist. Words alone don’t suffice. St. Thomas challenges us and the whole Church to dare to do all we can to express our love and gratitude. To celebrate in a fitting way, therefore, we need to be bold. We need to push beyond our accustomed limits. We need to give God praise not just with words, but with hymns, songs, and lengthy sequences, with lights and incense, with adoration, with processions, with banners, and more. We need to throw the kitchen sink into our celebration and hold nothing back.
  • Dare to do all you can. 30 years ago, right after he had come to Rome to work in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, our present Holy Father, wrote a beautiful book on the Eucharist entitled “The Feast of Faith.” In a chapter entitled “What Corpus Christi means to me?,” he thought back to the celebrations of this feast as a young boy, especially the Eucharistic processions and said, “We took quite literally” what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Lauda Sion sequence: quantum potes tantum aude, dare to do as much as you can, giving God due praise. “This,” he said, “is what the entire community feels called to do at Corpus Christi…. I can still smell those carpets of flowers and the freshness of the birch trees” that the people of his village used to use to cover the road on which the Corpus Christi Eucharistic procession would go. “I can see all the houses decorated, the banners, the singing; I can still hear the village band, which indeed sometimes dared more, on this occasion, than it was able!” He went on to describe his surprise when all of a sudden young soldiers in uniform showed up with guns in formation and jubilantly began to shoot them in an orderly way in the air. At first it seemed a little out of place, guns being shot in the presence of the Prince of Peace, until he received an explanation of what they were doing. This was their way, he learned, “of welcoming Christ as a head of state, as the Head of State, the Lord of the world, present on their streets and in their village.” Corpus Christi was the day in which he and his fellow villagers “celebrated the perpetual presence of Christ as if it were a state visit in which not even the smallest village was neglected.” The people of Markt-am-Inn, Bavaria, dared to all that they could to express their love, their faith, their gratitude for Jesus’ not just making a state visit, but establishing his throne in the tabernacles of even tiny little towns.
  • Today, here in New Bedford, we’re called to dare to do more, to get a little crazy, to put out into the deep and do something truly extravagant in response to what Jesus has done in the Eucharist. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup a couple of weeks ago, more than a million people went to Boston to scream and cheer, wearing jerseys and costumes, climbing up on phone booths, and barrels and rooftops, in order to express their joy at the Bruins’ great victory. If that’s what we do to celebrate defeating the Vancouver Canucks and winning the Stanley Cup for just a year, what should we do to celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and sin forever? If millions will scream at the top of their voices for Tim Thomas’, Zdeno Chara’s and Brad Marchand’s heroics and dedication, what should our response be to Jesus’ unbelievable generosity, humility and love, in making himself so vulnerable as to conceal his body, blood, soul and divinity, his entire person and life, under the simple appearances of consecrated bread and wine in order to be with us until the end of time? Today is a day in which we’re called to dare to do all we can, to do more out of gratitude for Jesus than the most fanatical Bruins fan we know did and is continuing to do to celebrate the Black-and-Gold.
  • How should we celebrate? What should we do to celebrate this greatest gift, this greatest victory, this greatest love ever?
  • A few years ago, on Corpus Christi in 2008, Pope Benedict said that there are really three things each of us should do, three settings and practices in which we should dare to do more, to give our absolute best. “First of all,” Pope Benedict said, “we gather around the altar of the Lord, to be together in his presence; secondly, there [is] the procession, that is walking with the Lord; and lastly, kneeling before the Lord, adoration, which already begins in the Mass and accompanies the entire procession but culminates in the final moment of the Eucharistic Blessing when we all prostrate ourselves before the One who stooped down to us and gave his life for us.” In each of these three settings, we’re called to dare to give God the best and all we have. Let’s look at them individually.
  • The first way we’re called to do something extravagant on this feast day is now at Mass, when we gather around the Lord’s altar, to be together in his presence.
    • It’s here that we should give as much or even more to God than Shawn Thornton or Dennis Seidenberg were accustomed to sacrifice their bodies on the ice. Our attitude should be that we’re here to give 100 percent. Like athletes, we should recognize that if we’re really going to do something beautiful for God, we can’t do it as a group of individuals, but we’re called to do it as a team. Just like the Bruins played together, so we’re called to pray together, which doesn’t mean merely that we pray side-by-side simultaneously, but we really come together. A good team is not just the sum of the parts of the individual players, just as a choir is not merely the accumulation of individual voices. They’re called to play as one, to sing as one, and we’re called to pray and worship as one.
    • Pope Benedict mentioned that in the early Church, there was really only one Mass in every city. All the Christians came there to pray together in the Mass celebrated by the bishop. Often, they did this during persecutions. Those Christians who came to pray together when they might be arrested and killed for doing so, developed deeper bonds than marine corps units in wartime or underdog championship teams ever did. Pope Benedict is saying that all of us in the Church need to dare to do all that we are able to bring about this type of Eucharistic communities in our parishes, in our dioceses, throughout the universal Church.
    • Basing himself on St. Paul’s words to the Galatians, “You are all one in Christ Jesus,” the Pope said, “In these words the truth and power of the Christian revolution is heard, the most profound revolution of human history, which was experienced precisely around the Eucharist: here people of different age groups, sex, social background, and political ideas gather together in the Lord’s presence.” For this reason, he continued, “the Eucharist can never be a private event, reserved for people chosen through affinity or friendship. …. We are united over and above our differences of nationality, profession, social class, political ideas: we open ourselves to one another to become one in him. This has been a characteristic of Christianity from the outset, visibly fulfilled around the Eucharist. …Therefore Corpus Christi reminds us first of all of this: that being Christian means coming together from all parts of the world to be in the presence of the one Lord and to become one with him and in him.” Thus, the first way we’re being called to respond to the gift of himself in the Eucharist is to do all we are able, with his help, to allow him to form us, through his Word and through Holy Communion, into one Body, one Spirit.”
    • That means we all need to dare to examine our attitudes and tear down whatever walls we put up that hinder this type of communion. This means we all need to dare to enter into the chorus of prayer by saying the prayers loudly and enthusiastically in unison with others and by singing as well as we’re able. It means in a Church our size that we need to dare to change seats to be physically closer to those with whom the Lord is seeking to bring us into communion. It means ultimately that we need to dare to make Jesus in the Eucharist the center and highlight of our week, the focal point of each day, and try to help others to live this type of Eucharistic life. The greatest way to preach about the power of the Eucharist is to show how Jesus in the Eucharist can truly make us a loving family that stretches across every demographic indicator and in fact stretches across the globe.
  • The second “constitutive aspect” of Corpus Christi, Pope Benedict says, is walking with the Lord, which he says is manifested by our walking together with Jesus and with each other in Corpus Christi processions.
    • This is something that when he was a young boy, every Catholic would do. Nowadays, it’s something that many Catholics my age and younger have never even seen, not to mention never participated in, which is one of the reasons why for the past several I’ve been encouraging everyone to participate in the Corpus Christi procession in downtown New Bedford and one of the reasons why I’m asking you to make time this afternoon not just to go and watch the procession but to go and walk in it as a Catholic. A Corpus Christi procession is one of the great ways to show ourselves and others that we’re not ashamed of our Catholic faith, that we regard it as a great gift, and that we, with joy and enthusiasm, want to share it with others.
    • 30 years ago Cardinal Ratzinger said that this annual Eucharistic procession “gives demonstrative expression to the triumphal joy in Christ’s victory as we accompany the Victor on his triumphal procession through the streets.”
    • In 2008 he said it’s an opportunity for us literally to follow Jesus, as he who is the Way leads us in the monstrance and we walk behind him along the streets of the city. Like the Jews during the exodus followed Moses for 40 years in the desert, as we read in today’s first reading, so we follow Jesus in the exodus from our homes, from our television sets, from our swimming pools, even from our spiritual paralyses, and head out on a pilgrimage following Christ wherever he leads and inviting others to join us on that journey. When we go out together in a procession, Pope Benedict says, we show the whole world that God “does not leave us alone on the journey [of life] but stays at our side and shows us the way. … God created us free but he did not leave us alone: he made himself the ‘way’ and came to walk together with us so that in our freedom we should also have the criterion we need to discern the right way and to take it” amidst the many precipices we face in human life. “
    • The Holy Father in his 2007 apostolic exhortation on the Holy Eucharist said he felt “obliged to urge parishes and other Church groups … to undertake “processions with the Blessed Sacrament, especially the traditional procession on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi” as a means by which we are able to show the world our faith in this great sacrament of love and encourage us to follow Jesus home to heaven. So we’re being urged by God through our Holy Father to participate in this afternoon’s Eucharistic Procession. I encourage you on behalf of the same Lord to dare to do all that you are able to add to its beauty by inviting others and participating with enthusiasm and gratitude.
  • The third part of the celebration of Corpus Christi is “kneeling in adoration before the Lord.”
    • After the procession finishes today, there will be 77 hours of Eucharistic adoration at the Chapel for Pope Benedict as we prepare for the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination on Wednesday, asking God to bless him and to bless all of us through him. The Vatican has asked Catholics across the world not to send cards, or chocolates, but to pray, and not just to pray anyway they feel like, but to pray before the Lord in adoration together with other Catholics. The reason is because throughout his pontificate Pope Benedict has been stressing the importance of Eucharistic adoration and begging pastors and the whole people of God to take up the practice of Eucharistic adoration both individually and in community, establishing “wherever possible … specific churches or oratories for perpetual adoration.”
    • He’s stressed adoration as the most fitting antidote to the rise of secularism and so many of the problems in the world that flow from a lack of recognition for human dignity. He said in Germany in 2005, “In our new context in which worship, and thus also the face of human dignity, has been lost, it is once again up to us to understand the priority of worship. We must make the young, ourselves and our communities, aware of the fact that adoration is not a luxury of our confused epoch that we cannot permit ourselves but a priority.”
    • Adoration is not a luxury, but a priority, because when people cease to adore God, they begin to make gods of themselves, or pleasure, or power, or material goods. The rise of practical atheism — when people live as if God does not exist— and the decrease of adoration go hand-and-hand. Once Christians begin to behave as if the presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is tangential to their lives, once they no longer allow Jesus’ Eucharistic presence to influence their daily priorities — through for example daily Mass and adoration, not to mention, obviously, the Sunday Eucharist — then it’s easy to see how it’s just a small step to structuring their life as if God doesn’t exist and to begin to place their faith, hope and love in the things of this world. Catholics who don’t participate in Eucharistic adoration are, therefore, Catholics at risk, at risk of marginalizing God more and more from their daily lives and marginalizing themselves from the gift of salvation and sanctification that he wants to give us at every moment. On the flip side, when we really believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist and we truly love him, we will want to come to spend time with him, just like we readily make sacrifices to spend time with those we love. The word adoration comes from the Latin expression for mouth-to-mouth kiss because it expresses the love that drives us to want to be with Jesus. Our desire for Eucharistic adoration, and the sacrifices we’re willing to make to adore the Lord, are really signs of the intensity of our faith in and love for our Eucharistic Lord. And Pope Benedict says it’s the “most effective and radical remedy” against the weakening of our faith through idolatry of something or someone other than God.
    • “Those who bow to Jesus,” Pope Benedict says, “cannot and must not prostrate themselves before any earthly authority, however powerful. We Christians kneel only before God or before the Most Blessed Sacrament because we know and believe that the one true God is present in it, the God who created the world and so loved it that he gave his Only Begotten Son (cf. Jn 3: 16). We prostrate ourselves before a God who first bent over man like the Good Samaritan to assist him and restore his life, and who knelt before us to wash our dirty feet. Adoring the Body of Christ, means believing that there, in [the Eucharist] Christ is really there, and gives true sense to life.”
    • One of the concerns so many parents and grandparents have is that they’re children will give up the practice of the Catholic faith. Pope Benedict is saying that the “most effective and radical remedy” against this happening is Eucharistic adoration, because once we begin to kneel with adoring love before Jesus, once we know he’s there for us in the quiet of a chapel, once we know we can bring all our needs and concerns to him, once we basically begin behaving as if he’s real and make the time for him, then we are made stronger against all temptations. So I would encourage all parents to try to make Eucharistic adoration with their kids a real part of every week. And I would remind all grown ups that their parents, especially those who have died and see things as they really are, are praying now that you make Eucharistic adoration more and more a part of your life, so that your faith may be stronger and you may be prepared to desire the eternal adoration of God which is heaven.
  • Cardinal Ratzinger concluded his beautiful reflections 30 years ago in The Feast of Faith by saying, “Ultimately, Corpus Christi is an expression of faith in God, in love, in the fact that God is love. All that is said and done on Corpus Christi is in fact a single variation on the theme of love, what it is and what it does. … Corpus Christi tells us: yes, there is such a thing as love, and therefore there is transformation, therefore there is hope. And hope gives us the strength to live and face the world.” Because so many live without hope and without experiencing the liberating love of God to its depths, he added, we need this feast today now “more than ever.”
  • God the Father has given us this feast day and the reality of the Son’s real presence in the Eucharist to respond to this greater-than-ever need. Let us respond by daring to do all that we are able to celebrate this stupendous gift of gifts.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1DT 8:2-3, 14B-16A

Moses said to the people:
“Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God,
has directed all your journeying in the desert,
so as to test you by affliction
and find out whether or not it was your intention
to keep his commandments.
He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger,
and then fed you with manna,
a food unknown to you and your fathers,
in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.

“Do not forget the LORD, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
that place of slavery;
who guided you through the vast and terrible desert
with its saraph serpents and scorpions,
its parched and waterless ground;
who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock
and fed you in the desert with manna,
a food unknown to your fathers.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R/ (12) Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R/ Alleluia.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R/ Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R/ Alleluia.
He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
R/ Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R/ Alleluia.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
R/ Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R/ Alleluia.

Reading 21 COR 10:16-17

Brothers and sisters:
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.

Sequence – Lauda Sion

Laud, O Zion, your salvation,
Laud with hymns of exultation,
Christ, your king and shepherd true:

Bring him all the praise you know,
He is more than you bestow.
Never can you reach his due.

Special theme for glad thanksgiving
Is the quick’ning and the living
Bread today before you set:

From his hands of old partaken,
As we know, by faith unshaken,
Where the Twelve at supper met.

Full and clear ring out your chanting,
Joy nor sweetest grace be wanting,
From your heart let praises burst:

For today the feast is holden,
When the institution olden
Of that supper was rehearsed.

Here the new law’s new oblation,
By the new king’s revelation,
Ends the form of ancient rite:

Now the new the old effaces,
Truth away the shadow chases,
Light dispels the gloom of night.

What he did at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
His memorial ne’er to cease:

And his rule for guidance taking,
Bread and wine we hallow, making
Thus our sacrifice of peace.

This the truth each Christian learns,
Bread into his flesh he turns,
To his precious blood the wine:

Sight has fail’d, nor thought conceives,
But a dauntless faith believes,
Resting on a pow’r divine.

Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things are all we see:

Blood is poured and flesh is broken,
Yet in either wondrous token
Christ entire we know to be.

Whoso of this food partakes,
Does not rend the Lord nor breaks;
Christ is whole to all that taste:

Thousands are, as one, receivers,
One, as thousands of believers,
Eats of him who cannot waste.

Bad and good the feast are sharing,
Of what divers dooms preparing,
Endless death, or endless life.

Life to these, to those damnation,
See how like participation
Is with unlike issues rife.

When the sacrament is broken,
Doubt not, but believe ‘tis spoken,
That each sever’d outward token
doth the very whole contain.

Nought the precious gift divides,
Breaking but the sign betides
Jesus still the same abides,
still unbroken does remain.

The shorter form of the sequence begins here.

Lo! the angel’s food is given
To the pilgrim who has striven;
see the children’s bread from heaven,
which on dogs may not be spent.

Truth the ancient types fulfilling,
Isaac bound, a victim willing,
Paschal lamb, its lifeblood spilling,
manna to the fathers sent.

Very bread, good shepherd, tend us,
Jesu, of your love befriend us,
You refresh us, you defend us,
Your eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see.

You who all things can and know,
Who on earth such food bestow,
Grant us with your saints, though lowest,
Where the heav’nly feast you show,
Fellow heirs and guests to be. Amen. Alleluia.

Gospel JN 6:51-58

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”