25 MAY 2008 - CORPUS CHRISTI SUNDAY
Deut 8, 2-3. 14-16; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 10, 16-17; John 6, 51-58
"Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day: for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them."
"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake (share in) one bread."
As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves 1 Cor 11:26-29
Eucharist the center of our life
Two Sundays ago we celebrated Pentecost and last Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Blessed Trinity and now we commemorate the Blessed Eucharist. There is a certain logic in this sequence of celebrations.
Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church and on the Feast of the Blessed Trinity we look at the very nature of God himself. Today in the Feast of Corpus Christi we examine how God continues to make himself present to his Church, how he sustains and nourishes us. And he achieves all this principally through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Incoherence, inconsistency of our life
While we cannot judge another person's soul, still we recognize that those involved in certain actions should not come forward for Communion.
You may have heard about bishops admonishing certain politicians not to receive Communion. In this instance the politicians had taken public stands promoting abortion. Since one is Democrat and the other Republican, clearly the bishops are not acting in a partisan manner. Still, the bishops' action surprised some people. What business, they ask, do the bishops have telling someone they should not receive Communion?
The popular perception sees caring liberal bishops welcoming Catholic politicians regardless of their abortion orientation to receive Communion while heartless conservative bishops use confrontation at the altar rail as an opportunity to embarrass and harass political leaders who cross them on their hobbyhorse of opposing a woman's 'right to choose'.
From the earliest days of the Church, receiving Holy Communion unworthily has been forbidden; forbidden out of concern for those who would make such unworthy communions. St. Paul in the eleventh chapter of First Corinthians wrote: "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord." (1 Cor. 11:27-29)
From this perspective, Bishops who treat Catholic politicians who support abortion as if they were in full communion with the Church are neglecting their pastoral concern and charity for their wayward spiritual children.
The November 2007 video shows Cardinal Arinze eliciting much laughter and applause when he made the analogy, "To the person who says, 'Personally I'm against abortion, but if people what to do it, I'll leave them free', you could say, 'You are a member of the senate or the congress, personally I'm not in favour of shooting the whole lot of you, but if somebody else wants to shoot all of you in the Senate, or all of you in Congress, it's just pro-choice for that person, but personally, I'm not in favour.'
Actually, the bishops were acting out of a long tradition. St. Paul told the Corinthians to examine themselves carefully before receiving Communion. Otherwise instead of receiving a blessing they might bring condemnation upon themselves. And St. Paul identified at least one person who should not be part of the Church's communion. St. Paul was not acting on his own. Jesus practiced a similar tough love.
Part of our problem - at least in the United States - is that we have lost the sense of coherence between Communion and the rest of ones life. I would like to mention this Sunday that other acts also exclude a person from Communion. For example, a couple living together without sacramental marriage should not come forward for Communion. If someone has missed Sunday Mass without a sufficient reason, they should not receive Communion until they have gone to confession. At their annual meeting, the American bishops published a document titled "'Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper': On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist." It gives specific guidance on who may receive Communion and when a person should refrain.
The bishops were careful to stress that you and I should not set ourselves as judges of those who come forward for Communion. For example, a couple may not be in a sacramental marriage, but they may have made a special pledge to live as brother and sister. That would between them and their pastor. If one does have a concern about whether someone else should refrain from Communion, the first thing to do is to pray. Maybe you are not the right one to approach that other person. Maybe God will sense someone else on account of your prayer. And maybe he will open a door for you to gently guide the other person. It would be a great act of love.
In today's Sequence, St. Thomas mentions that some receive Communion for salvation, others to their damnation. The greatest thing you can do for another person is to be an instrument setting them on the path to salvation. That is what the bishops were doing when they admonished Catholic politicians who are promoting abortion. We are not here to make people into Democrats or Republicans. We are here to help people become saints. Someday the Republicans and Democrats will be as long forgotten as the Whigs and the Know Nothings. But the saints will shine like unquenchable stars.
This Sunday we celebrate the great gift of Communion. Let's humbly ask the Lord that we may receive him in a way that will lead us to salvation.
The Church is the Body of Christ
For the Child:
Thanksgiving after Receiving Holy Communion
Dear Jesus, I believe that You are present within my heart.
You said, "This is My Body and My Blood."
And I know You love me and want to be with me.
From my heart, I thank You for all You have given to me: my life, my parents, my health, Baptism, protection, and all that I have.
Make me more grateful still.
Generous Lord, I ask for still more: Protect my soul and body.
Be good to those I love. Grant me this special favor. (mention it here)
Watch over me and make me good and happy.
Jesus, I promise to receive You often in Holy Communion.
Remain with me, dear Jesus, today and always.
Never leave me in life and be with me in the hour of my death.