Homily for Corpus Christi

Homily: Corpus Christi, 19 June 2022

Dear Friends, this Sunday we celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi. You might remember that at the Last Supper Our Lord spoke over the bread and wine he shared with his Apostles, saying: “this is my body”, “this is my blood”, “do this in remembrance of me”. In speaking this way, Our Lord transformed these natural elements, bread into body, wine into blood, which he offered to the Apostles. 

This was not the only transformation the Apostles witnessed at that time. On the very next day, which we call Good Friday, Our Lord once again offered his body and blood, this time on the cross. This offering he made to God the Father as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins and, in so doing, he transformed suffering and death into hope and new life. 

Both these transformations took place on account of the communion that exists between God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This communion means that “without losing his divinity”, the Son of God became man (Php 2:7). And as man, Our Lord offered his body and blood on the cross as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. His death was real. However, death cannot contain God, which accounts for his resurrection, which took place also in the flesh. It is because his resurrection was in the flesh that we have reason to hope. It is also the reason the communion Our Lord initiated at the Last Supper is important if we hope to share in his resurrection. Without this communion, because we are not God, our future is death without resurrection. 

There is another side to this communion which is often overlooked and it is this. The communion the Apostles shared at the Last Supper not only united them to Our Lord’s resurrection. It also united them to his Passion on the Cross. St Paul seems to have grasped this rather quickly. To the Christians at Corinth, he taught:

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16).

The same is true for us where the communion we share at this altar is a participation in the passion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord. One of the options for the mystery of faith we profess is: “when we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim your death O Lord”.

This communion brings about another transformation. St Augustine observed that the body more powerfully assimilates to itself that which is weaker. For example, when we eat food it is transformed into our body, so to speak. In a similar manner, when we partake of the body and blood of Our Lord, there is an assimilation or transformation that takes place. Only it is we who are made the body of Christ; it is we who are transformed into what we eat. This takes place so that we can share in the resurrection of Jesus.

But there are no shortcuts to this resurrection, reminds Pope Benedict. Instead, this transformation takes place like the grain of wheat which, only when broken, gives life. This is our communion with Our Lord’s Passion. Our self-offering must take the form of the daily offering of our body and blood to our spouses, our parents, and our legitimate authorities. It also includes the little things such as being on time, stopping at red robots—even when nobody is watching, picking up our clothes off the floor if our parents have asked this of us, being honest and faithful at work, etc.

The feast of Corpus Christi, as you can see, is about far more than doctrinal orthodoxy, important as this is. It is about becoming what we eat by the daily imitation of Jesus whom we receive at Mass. This leads us to daily prayer, which is another self-offering we make to God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit who teaches us to pray. St Philip Neri reminds us: “my house shall be a house of prayer”.  Let us make time to spend with Jesus in prayer at home and in the Church during Exposition and Benediction.