13 June 2009

Homily - 14 June 2009

Here is the homily I preached this evening. I'm not quite happy with it yet and I'm thinking of focusing more on the Psalm in the morning.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi (B)

The readings present for us today two covenants, the first a foreshadowing and the second the fulfillment of the first. The first was sealed with the blood of bulls; the second with that of the Son of God. Why were these covenants sealed in this way?

It was on Mount Sinai, after the experience of the Exodus from Egypt and after receiving the law from the Lord, that the people answered Moses and the Lord, saying, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us” (Exodus 24:3). They remembered the good deeds he had done for them and responded in kind.

Moses then “took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of his’” (Exodus 24:8). It was the blood that sealed the covenant between God and men.

The Lord then called Moses up the mountain and, after instructing him in the worship of God, gave him the tablets of the Ten Commandments “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18).

Why is this covenant sealed with the sprinkling of blood upon the altar and people? To Moses the Lord said, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life” (Leviticus 17:11).

Nothing more valuable could be given to God than blood, yet the blood of bulls and sheep lacked the power to fully atone for all sins and so had to be offered time and again.

It is against this background that the Lord Jesus gathered in the Upper Room with his Apostles to celebrate the Passover, the Exodus from Egypt. He gave the cup to them, saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many” (Mark 14:24). With his own blood he seals the new covenant, “once for all,” and gives himself to us that we “may receive the promised eternal inheritance (Hebrews 7:27; 9:15).

In giving us the Eucharist as our food and drink – his very own Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – the Lord Jesus anticipated his death on the Cross and gave each of us a share in it, not only in his death but also in his resurrection. For this reason he says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:51).

In the Eucharist, he has given us “a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover,” and as the memorial of his death and Resurrection so that the grace of his sacrifice might be offered to all people.[1] All of this he accomplished when he said to the Apostles, “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19).

Recognizing all that the Lord had done for Israel through the Exodus, the Psalmist asked, “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me” (Psalm 116:12)? The Apostles, too, asked this question and answered, saying, “The cup of salvation I will take up and I will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:13).

The question of the Psalmist is one that has long resounded in my heart: “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?” There is precious little I can offer in gratitude to the Lord that compares with his goodness.

My life has not always been easy – at times it has been almost unbearable – but I have always been certain of the Lord’s closeness to me. In times of profound grief, of grave illness, of uncertainty; in times of great joy and gladness and gratitude; I have always known the Lord’s abiding presence in the Eucharist. To the tabernacle I have often come seeking solace and strength, joy and peace, and this I have always found.

The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar shows us the tremendous love of God. It is the Lord’s own answer to suffering and pain; he does not simply erase suffering with a brush of his hand; such would be beneath his dignity and unworthy of his love. Rather, he does the inconceivable: he enters into suffering itself, to suffer with us and for us, to give his all for us. He redeems us with his own blood that we might live in and for him. This is true and authentic love; this is the love that is always present with us through the ministry of his priests who are configured to him in such a way as to act in his person; without their ministry there can be no celebration of the Eucharist.

“How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?” I knew that the Lord asked one thing of me; the gift of my life. Seeing how he had given himself so freely to me, how could I refuse to give myself freely to him?

I heard him say, “Follow me” and “Do this in remembrance of me.” “The cup of salvation I will take up,” I said, “and I will call upon the name of the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:13). I sensed that the Lord wanted to use me to make his presence known in the sacraments and there was no other response I could offer.

He continues to call men to share in his priestly ministry and, indeed, we need such priests. We need men of courage and faith to heed his command to make bring the Eucharist to every part of the world. If those whom he calls would answer in faith and offer themselves for his service, I daresay we would have no parish without a priest.

On Friday, Holy Mother Church will observe the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is intimately connected with the Eucharist. On the same day, Pope Benedict XVI will open a special Year for Priests, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the death of Saint John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. This special year, which is meant to encourage priests to strive for spiritual perfection, will conclude one year from Friday.

If you love the Eucharist, if you cherish this great treasure which the Lord has left to his Church, pray for your priests, that we might grow daily in holiness and allow the Lord to mold our hearts ever more closely to his own. Pray that we will recognize more and more that “God is the only treasure which ultimately people desire to find in a priest.” Pray, then, that we will be holy and bring the Eucharist to you with reverence and love, that we will allows keep our vows to the Lord in the presence of his people (cf. Psalm 116:18).

Pray, too, that more young men will hear the call of the Lord and take up the cup of salvation in his service. Pray that young men will open their hearts to the Lord, recognize his goodness toward them and respond with generous hearts.

Let each of us this day approach our Eucharistic Lord with humble adoration, grateful for his goodness to us, that we might know the fullness of life and love. Amen.

[1] The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1337; cf. 1363-1364.

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