14 June 2020 Homily by Bishop Noel Treanor for Feast of Corpus Christi
Today with millions of Catholics around the world we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. With all of them we listen to the same readings from the Word of God. Written in different contexts, these three readings draw our attention to aspects of the mystery of the Eucharist and its import for Christian identity and life. So, let’s have a brief look at their contents.
The first reading, an extract from the Book of Deuteronomy, is written in retro key. I’m sure you noticed the two hinge verbs : remember and do not forget! The reading refers to the episode of the Jewish wandering in the desert. It was a time of hope and of trial ; a time of suffering, faith, doubt. It was a time when faith was tested. It was a time of truculence on the part of this people of faith, a time when reason and gold displaced God and the things of God, notwithstanding the gifts of manna and water. Not unlike phases we can remember in our own lives!
(Remembrance, commemoration, is key to maintaining and shaping identity, to configuring intent for life in the present and for shaping life-giving perspectives for future existence and identity. Through Christ’s descent among the dead and his resurrection, remembrance gained for Christians the capacity to liberate from the incarcerations of the darkness of netherworld memory. Through Christ’s descent among the dead, for the Christian, commemoration acquired the power to open all of the past, with its light and deep wounded darkness, to the new and transformative hope of the assurance of life eternal in the Risen Christ with whom we have communion in the Eucharist).
If the lines from the book of Deuteronomy centre on the significance and power of commemoration, the lines from St Paul dwell on themes of communion, sharing, community. These dynamics arise from sharing the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
Three words catch the import of the thought of St Paul and the New Testaments writings on the Eucharist. They are : communion, community and solidarity. From post Resurrection times, the followers of Christ gathered on the Sunday in his memory.
They shared his living Word as the charter for their lifestyle.
They blessed the bread and wine and shared them in memory of his saving death and resurrection and they committed to serving the needy and the poor.
Jews, as they were, they remembered the experience of the historical Jesus within the great tradition of their history as a people and they gave thanks, as the word Eucharist implies, for the gift of new life and new hope in the Risen Christ.
Turning to the gospel text, the lines from the gospel according to St John emphasise Jesus as the new manna, the bread of life. You will remember that St John’s gospel does not include an account of the Last Supper. Instead the author sets that intriguing scene of the washing of the feet of the disciples in the context of the celebration of the Passover feast. The message is made clear to all who would be associated with Jesus, the Word of life, the living bread : sharing his meal, the Eucharist, entails service, solidarity. In the course of his historical life Jesus showed that that service is to be given freely to all without exception.
So, my dear viewers, on this feast day of Corpus Christi, a few key thoughts may be brought to mind to centre ourselves on the meaning of God’s presence to life and living:
- As we pick up the theme of remembrance and memory, we may care to recall all who have inspired us in the appreciation of the Christian way of life. We remember them, especially those who have passed through the doorway of death and live, like us, in the communion of the saints.
- We may wish to re-awaken our sense of the person of Jesus of Nazareth as the living centre and source of our faith and spirituality
- We may remember and recall that our access to Christ, that personal centre of faith, runs through the Scriptures and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Re-discovery and renewed appreciation of what we take for granted brings grace anew.
- In the context of the current and ongoing limitations on our freedom for the health and safety of all, it’s good to ponder and recognise the importance of physically gathering as Christian communities for the celebration of our faith, for worship and the celebration of the sacraments. They are personal, family and community moments which also shape the spiritual fibres and tissue of community and society. We pray for the success of research for a vaccine so that we may gather in safety to worship God and cement our faith communities.
- As we gather, pray and worship together still in liturgical cyberspace, it is also good to remember the importance of continuing to support your parish, diocese and their agencies of service and charity. Life and the service of need go on. The Eucharist calls us as the Christian community to respond to need, penury, those enduring hard times and situations. We are blessed by the multiple ways at our disposal to support and share.
- And, finally, mindful of those words from the Sequence for Corpus Christi which ran :
“Be one, or be a thousand fed”
we remember that the body and blood of Christ was sacrificed and given for humanity. Christians may give therefore no harbour to racist attitudes or prejudice. Today we remember and rise to the catholicity, the inclusivity of Christian life and outlook, as expressed by St Paul in his letter to the Galatians :
“ For, as many of you as were baptised in to Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female : for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to his promise” (Gal 3.27-29).
May the celebration of the Eucharist sustain us in the knowledge of God, revealed in Jesus Christ and may the commemoration of his life, death and resurrection at the table of the Word and the table of the Eucharist invigorate us for living our lives in this world and sustain our hope in life eternal.