- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

June 14, 2020

Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO

+ HOMILY for Corpus Christi, Year A

In the past few weeks, we have seen secular parallels to the fundamental actions we celebrate today on Corpus Christi, the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. First of all, we gather around the altar of the Lord, to be together in his presence, just as many gathered together to mourn the killing of George Floyd. Secondly, there will be a procession, which is a walking with the Lord, just as there were many protest marches throughout the world. And finally, we will be kneeling before the Lord in adoration, just as many were seen kneeling for other reasons.

Our first action in today’s celebration is to gather together in the Lord’s presence. The Eucharist forms one faith community, as we heard in St Paul’s words in the second reading: “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor 10:17). Another famous Pauline expression comes to mind: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female” – to which we may add, no black or white. And why? Because “you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

“You are all one”! In that expression the truth and power of the Christian revolution is heard, the most profound revolution of human history, which was experienced precisely around the Eucharist. Here, people of different age groups, sex, social background, and political ideas gather together in the Lord’s presence. The Eucharist can never be a private event; it is a public devotion that has nothing exclusive about it. We are united over and above our differences of nationality, profession, social class, or political ideas: we open ourselves to one another to become one in him. And Corpus Christi reminds us first of all of this: that being Christian means coming together from all parts of the world to be in the presence of the one Lord, and to become one with him and in him.

The second parallel to recent events is a walking with the Lord. The Corpus Christi procession teaches us that the Eucharist seeks to free us from every kind of despondency and discouragement so that we can set out on the journey of life with the strength that God gives us through Jesus Christ. It is the experience of the people of Israel in the exodus from Egypt, their long wandering through the desert, as the first reading tells us: “Not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut 8:3).

The Eucharist is the sacrament of the God who does not leave us alone on the journey but stays at our side and shows us the way. In fact, it’s not enough simply to move on, to march on, you also have to see where you’re going. “Progress” is not enough if there are no criteria as reference points. God created us free but he did not leave us alone: he made himself “the Way”, and came to walk together with us so that in our freedom we should also have the criterion we need to discern the right way and to take it.

At this point we should bear in mind the first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod 20:2-3). Here we find the meaning of the third parallel which Corpus Christ offers to recent events; kneeling in adoration before the Lord and not before anyone else. Adoring the God of Jesus Christ, who out of love made himself bread broken, is the most effective and radical remedy against the idolatry of the past and of the present. Kneeling before the Eucharist is a profession of freedom: those who bow to Jesus cannot and must not prostrate themselves before any earthly authority, however “woke” or politically correct.

We Christians kneel only before God or before the Blessed Sacrament because we know and believe that the one true God is present in It, the God who created the world and so loved it that he gave his Only Begotten Son. Kneeling in adoration is a bodily prayer that prolongs the celebration and Eucharistic communion, and in which the soul continues to be nourished. It is nourished with love, truth, and peace; it is nourished with hope, because the One before whom we kneel does not judge or cancel us, but liberates us from passing trends, and transforms us inwardly.

That is why our gathering, walking, and adoring today is such a joyful thing. As we celebrate, let us pray for ourselves and for everyone. Let us pray for every person who lives in our country, that they may know you, O Father, and the One whom you sent, Jesus Christ, and thus have life in abundance.