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CORPUS CHRISTI SUNDAY

Growing up my mom did all the cooking for the family because my dad never learned to cook well. But one thing he did learn was how to bake bread. And he loved doing it. I remember when he baked it the whole house had that fresh-baked bread smell. And it tasted wonderful! Although he only cooked it on special occasions, I could have eaten it everyday. Bread is one of those comfort foods that everyone enjoys eating. It’s a part of the diet of pretty much all cultures. And so it is fitting that bread is what God uses to bring the whole world together. Today we celebrate Corpus Christi which is Latin for The Body of Christ and we recall how our Heavenly Father out of love for us has given us the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist which is the living bread that came down from heaven. This is a great mystery that we accept by faith but experience through love.

In the first reading we heard how God gave to the Israelites a mysterious bread called “manna” when they were hungry in the desert. This was a preparation for the bread Jesus would give, a mysterious and miraculous bread that would save us from eternal hunger. Food is important for our lives on earth but if we eat bread and live but we do not receive God’s Word then eventually we will spiritually starve to death. That is why so many people are unfilled in life. They feed on sex, drugs, alcohol, parties, entertainment, in order to fill their souls. Although they don’t realize it, their souls are hungry for the Word of God, for his love and truth, but they try to satisfy it with things in the world. And so when the Israelites turned from God and found themselves starving in the desert, God gave them bread to eat. This was to help them to believe that God would provide for their deepest need and to help them understand “that not by bread alone does one live but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jesus is the Word of God made flesh which he makes available for us to eat in the bread of the Eucharist. It is something much more miraculous and powerful than manna that the Israelites ate in the desert. In the Gospel Jesus said to the Jews, “unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” He was talking about himself. Jesus gives us himself to eat in the form of bread so that we may live forever. And so that is why Jesus says “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Even though, our flesh will die our souls will live forever if we receive the Eucharist.

We are really blessed as Catholics to have this gift. That is why we take it seriously and prepare through confession, prayer, and fasting one hour before receiving. I mean you can eat regular bread without preparation or thought. You might say a prayer of thanks for it but it is very different. If it were just a symbol we would not have to do anything different than if we were eating regular bread. But as Catholics we believe that this bread is Jesus. And we worship it, like at the Eucharistic Congress when thousands of Catholics got on their knees in front of the Eucharist. So it is something much more than a sign or symbol. It is the Lord Jesus. That is why we have to be in a state of grace before going to Holy Communion. If we miss mass or get married outside the Church, commit fornication or other mortal sins that breaks faith with God, we know as Catholics that we cannot receive Holy Communion until we go to confession and change our lives. Many are going to Communion without examining their lives, without going to Confession. Do they really believe that it is a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus? We have to appreciate this more.

Other Christians have many other gifts like the Bible and praise and worship. But what they don’t have is the Eucharist. They believe that it is just a symbol. I’m not here to judge anyone but I want to be clear on how privileged we are. Often it is said that we as Catholics don’t do what the Bible says. But the Bible, as we heard today, makes it very clear that what we believe is true. St. Paul says to the Corinthians “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” He doesn’t say it is a symbol but that it is the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus himself said “the bread that I will give is my flesh.” So if Jesus believes that it really is his flesh and blood then so should we.

Now many Protestants still quarrel among themselves about our belief that we eat the Body and Blood of Jesus. But this is nothing new. In the time of Jesus many Jews were also confused when our Lord first spoke these words to them. We hear in the Gospel: “The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”” It is a very strange teaching, very hard for us to understand by human reason alone. But Jesus tells them, “my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” That is why in order to believe this amazing teaching we need faith.

Just as our faith helps us believe that God became a man, it helps us to understand that we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood to share in his Divine Life. Jesus makes this possible by turning bread into his Body and wine into his Blood during Mass. Faith helps us believe this. We have to believe that Jesus knows what he is talking about. That he is God and we are not, that he knows what is best for us. We have to have the faith of a child. Last May we had many children receive the Bread of Life for the first time. They all went to confession before so that their souls would be clean. They believe that it is the Body and Blood of Jesus that they eat and drink in the Eucharist. Do we stop believing when we become adults? Do parents stop feeding their children this saving bread every Sunday? Do we quarrel among ourselves about what Jesus teaches so clearly?

Therefore, we need to fall in love with Jesus in the Eucharist once again and be excited when we go to Mass, just like those special days when I smelt the fresh baked bread that my dad made. Our Heavenly Father gives us the Bread from Heaven every Sunday. This bread is true comfort food that unites the whole world into the One Body of Christ when, as St. Paul says, “we all partake of the one loaf.” And as Jesus promised, “whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Amen.

Father Timothy Gallagher

6-18-14

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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