today's readings are Exodus 24: 3-8; Psalm 116; Hebrews 9: 11-15; Mk. 14: 12-16, 22-26
When I was studying at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Scarborough, a highlight of each year took place on a Wednesday evening in the fall term. On that evening each seminarian who had spent the previous year on their pastoral placement would give a brief verbal report on his year living and working in a parish of his particular diocese. As much as I enjoyed hearing these various reports, undoubtedly the one report I will always remember was given by Ralph McRae, who had spent his year in a parish in his home Diocese of Saint John, New Brunswick.
That year one of Ralph’s duties was to prepare 25 Grade 2 children for their 1st Reconciliation and 1st Communion. At one class, Ralph was trying to explain to the kids the concept that we Catholics believe and celebrate on this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, that the bread and wine used at mass, will, through the power of the Holy Spirit, become the body and blood of Christ. In his presentation, Ralph held up an unconsecrated host to the children and said, “When Father asks the Holy Spirit to come down on the bread and wine, we believe that this host becomes Jesus’ body”. Just then a girl held up her hand, looked Ralph straight in the eye and asked, “Do you believe that?” Ralph was stunned by the question. He stood there for about 10 seconds before he said, “Yes, I do.” The little girl looked at him and said, “Okay”.
Ralph told us that when the girl asked her question, for the first time in his life he was really forced to examine his belief in the eucharist. Yes, he had always believed that the consecrated host was the body of Christ – but that girl’s question forced him to go to a deeper level of belief – and as a result his love and devotion for the eucharist became stronger.
My people, that girl’s question on this Corpus Christi can be directed at you and me – do you today truly believe that at mass we receive the Body of Christ? I can tell you that we do, your parents and teachers taught you that we do, the Church has taught for 2000 years that we do, and Jesus Himself in the gospels tells us that we do – but do you truly believe it?
Let’s take a look at an unconsecrated host. What do you see? Well, it is pretty non-descript. It’s flat, it’s thin, it has an off-white colour, there’s a cross imprinted in the middle, and as for its taste, well it has little taste. But this is what God chooses to become Jesus’ body – and consider this – if God can take something as simple as this and then change it into the Body of Christ, just imagine what would happen to us if we truly let God act within us. What changes would happen to you and me! And trust me, God does try to act within us – the problem is, a lot of times we don’t cooperate.
One way that God definitely acts within us is through our receiving communion. After all, we are receiving Jesus. And not “sort of” Jesus, not “kind of” Jesus, not symbolically Jesus, but Jesus Himself. And if we are receiving it with faith and reverence, then something should happen within us when we receive it. Like getting a little stronger in our faith, a little more sincere in the practice of our faith. For receiving it should make a difference within us. That’s why we are called to receive it again and again, wo we can become better persons, and live out our faith day after day.
By the way, do you realize that each time you receive holy communion you make a statement of faith? You do. And you do so with just one word – Amen. Amen is a Hebrew word that literally translated means, “Yes, I believe, it is true”. When I hold up the host in front of you and say, “The Body of Christ”, I am making my statement of faith. You in turn make your statement of faith when you say, “Amen” – yes I believe, it is true. So the next time you receive holy communion keep that in mind. Say that Amen with conviction. Mean it. And believe it.
I’d like to share another story that happened to a priest I know named Fr. Jerome Machar. This story nicely sums up what we believe and are celebrating this Corpus Christi. One Sunday, while Fr. Jerome was distributing holy communion, a young Mom and her 4 year old daughter came forward. Fr. Jerome first blessed the girl and then held up the host to the mother, saying, “The Body of Christ”. Just then the girl burst into a big smile, pointed at the host and said, “Jesus”. And to that story we say, “Amen”.