Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ C
It was nearly 20 years ago, when I was a seminarian, that I first learned of a most extraordinary woman. She was a model member of her Catholic parish: the first to step forward and volunteer, gracious and kind, generous with her time and resources. There was just one problem: she wasn’t Catholic. Actually, she’d never even been baptized. I asked her parish priest why she hadn’t yet “taken the plunge.” His answer: because of the Eucharist. She didn’t have any problem with the Church’s doctrine on the Eucharist—far from it. She was moved by the Church’s faith that God would come to his people in a manner as simple, humble, and accessible as a small host. Her problem was that she didn’t see much evidence of this faith in the lives of most Catholics. If Catholics really believe what they say they believe, then how come so many of them miss Mass so often? How come they behave so casually in church? How come they aren’t any different on Monday for what they celebrated and received on Sunday? And why aren’t they stopping in to visit the Blessed Sacrament any time their schedule allows—falling on their knees, or even prostrate on their faces, before the Almighty Lord of heaven and earth who has chosen to dwell right here among them? She just couldn’t figure it out. To the best of my knowledge, she’s still not a Catholic to this day.
I would guess that all the Catholics in this room right now would say that, yes, they share the Church’s faith in the Most Holy Eucharist: that the bread and wine soon to be offered on this altar will truly become the Body and Blood—the real presence—of our Lord Jesus Christ. But how deeply do we believe this? Are we quicker to make excuses for why we can’t get to Mass than to make sacrifices in order to be here? Would we walk 10, 20, 25 miles, if that was the only chance we had to go to Mass? (Our predecessors here did precisely that: the historical record shows that the first Catholics of Malone walked all the way to the church at St. Regis in order to hear Mass at Christmas and Easter.) Do we ever consider getting up just a little earlier, or giving up part of our lunch break, to come to daily Mass? Would we willingly let go of our hope of grandchildren if our only child said he felt called by God to be a priest? Would we risk prison living in China, or death living under ISIS, so we could receive Holy Communion? These are not hypothetical questions! Just how deep is our faith in the Holy Eucharist?
We are privileged to witness a miracle here at every Mass—one far greater than that of which we heard in this Sunday’s gospel. When Jesus takes, blesses, and shares the bread and wine we offer, he does much more then multiply their quantity as he did the loaves and fish long ago; he infinitely multiplies their quality as they become his most sacred Body and most precious Blood. May our entire lives be a resounding “Amen!” to the Church’s faith in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
With gratitude to One Bread, One Body, for inspiration for this homily