June 23, 2019
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17)
Some of us are squeamish when it comes to the sight or even the mention of blood. Blood is one of the main themes of the feast we celebrate this morning. There is blood in the prayers we offer for this Mass, and before our celebration is through there will be blood in the chalice on the altar.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, AKA Corpus Christi. But, it not just Corpus Christi—the Body of Christ—but Corpus et Sanguis Christi, the Body and the Blood of Christ.
This is significant, because of a common thread we find running throughout the Old Testament is that of blood. To shed the blood of another carried the most severe of penalties; and the offering of blood as a sacrifice became a regular part of worship and faith of Israel. For the Jewish people especially, blood was considered to be a sacred sign of life itself (Leviticus 17:11, 14).
God makes a covenant with the people of Israel, the Ten Commandments. The people agree, not once but twice, to follow that covenant, to obey the commandments of God. And as an outward sign of this covenant between them, Moses pours blood first over the altar (since it was God who initiated that covenant), and then he sprinkles the rest on the people saying: This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you (Exodus 24:8).
Sacrifice and the shedding of blood was a sign that would be repeated over and over again as the people of Israel renewed the covenant God had made with them. They would offer the sacrifice of bulls, of goats, and of lambs, as an outward sign of their fidelity to God.
But why so much sacrifice? Why the shedding of so much blood? It is only with the coming of Jesus Christ that we begin to see that the entire Old Covenant (and all of the sacrifices and shedding of blood that took place for the renewal of that covenant) was really just a preparation for the one sacrifice of Christ and for the shedding of His blood on the cross.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)
It is the blood of Christ and His sacrifice that renews us and gives us new life. It is the blood of Christ freely offered on our behalf that obtains for us the forgiveness of sins. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen puts it, “The higher the life, the more precious the blood. When you come to the life of Christ, who sheds His blood, you get the total remission of sin.”
That is what God was preparing the people of Israel for. That is what He was preparing each of us for: the New Covenant written in the blood of Christ. Today, and at every Mass, we renew that covenant as we hear again the words of Christ from the Gospel, when takes bread and says: “This is my body”
Then he takes the cup and says: “This is my blood.”
We are here today to offer the one eternal sacrifice of Christ to the Father; then here from this altar we will receive the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Do we believe that? Do we ever doubt that the body and blood of Christ are truly made present here in this Church at every Mass? It is not an easy thing to grasp. In fact, without faith, it is impossible.
There is a story about a very devout and holy German priest in the year 1263 named Peter of Prague. His greatest struggle as a priest was that he could not believe Christ was truly present in the consecrated host.
He decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome, asking for the grace of God to help him with his constant doubts about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. On his way to Rome he stopped in the small Italian City of Bolsena, where he celebrated Mass in the Church of St. Christina.
In the middle of that Mass, immediately after he had spoken the words of consecration (This is my body . . . this is the cup of my blood . . .), blood began to seep from the consecrated host and trickled down his hands and onto the altar. Obviously, he was a bit shaken up by that experience. He interrupted the Mass and asked those present what he should do.
Pope Urban IV, the pope at that time, was only one city away, in Orvieto. And so they brought Fr. Peter to that city, where the pope listened to him and began to investigate all that had happened.
One year after that event, Pope Urban IV instituted a feast honoring the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ. He called it Corpus Christi, and it is the feast we are celebrating today.
Miracles happen. We know and believe that as people of faith. Some of us, in our own lifetime, may witness events like the Eucharistic Miracle at Bolsena.
But the greatest miracle that has ever happened in the history of the world occurred when God became a man, and suffered and died on the cross to bring us home to heaven. Nothing greater than that has ever happened in this world.
And to make sure we would never forget it, in order to remain with us always, even until the end of the world, He gave us Himself as an everlasting memorial of His suffering and death. He gave us Himself—body and blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist—so that we might renew this covenant of love He has made with us.
Archbishop Sheen was once asked this question: "Bishop Sheen, you have inspired millions of people all over the world. Who inspired you? Was it a Pope?"
Bishop Sheen responded that it was not a Pope, a cardinal, another bishop, or even a priest or a nun. It was a little Chinese girl of eleven years of age. He explained that when the Communists took over China, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the Church. After they locked him up in his own house, the priest was horrified to look out of his window and see the Communists proceed into the Church, where they went into the sanctuary and broke into the tabernacle. In an act of hateful desecration, they took the ciborium and threw it on the floor with all of the Sacred Hosts spilling out. The priest knew exactly how many Hosts were in the ciborium: thirty-two.
When the Communists left, they either did not notice, or didn't pay any attention to a small girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything that had happened. That night the little girl came back. Slipping past the guard at the priest's house, she went inside the Church. There she made a holy hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred.
After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, knelt down, bent over and with her tongue received Jesus in Holy Communion, (since it was not permissible for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands.)
The little girl continued to come back each night to make her holy hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue. On the thirty-second night, after she had consumed the last and thirty-second host, she accidentally made a noise and woke the guard who was sleeping. He ran after her, caught her, and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle. This act of heroic martyrdom was witnessed by the priest as he watched grief-stricken from his bedroom window.
When Bishop Sheen heard the story he was so inspired that he promised God he would make a holy hour of prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament everyday of his life. If this frail, little child could give testimony and witness to the world concerning the real and wonderful Presence of her Savior in the Blessed Sacrament, then the Bishop was absolutely bound by all that was right and true, to do the same. His sole desire from then on was to bring the world to the burning Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
The little girl showed what true courage and zeal really is; how faith could overcome all fear, how true love for Jesus in the Eucharist must transcend life itself. What is hidden in the Sacred Host is the glory of His love. The sun in the sky is symbolic of the Son of God in the Blessed Sacrament. This is why most monstrances are in the form of a sunburst. As the sun is the natural source of all energy, the Blessed Sacrament is the supernatural source of all grace and love. The Blessed Sacrament is JESUS, the Light of the world.
Let us pray.
That in uniting Christ’s Body and Blood with ours in the Eucharist we are strengthened in our faith and love of God and neighbor. We pray to the Lord.
On this great Feast Day, we are reminded that we are the Body of Christ. We pray that in our daily lives, in our every moment, we be aware of this great privilege and act with the same goodness, integrity, honesty and love which Jesus himself would bestow on others. We pray to the Lord.
In today’s Gospel we read how Jesus had compassion on the multitudes that were hungry and without shelter. We pray for those throughout the world who are hungry, homeless and persecuted that, through Christian charity, their needs for shelter, love, care and understanding be remembered and remedied. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for a greater awareness of the threat to our world of climate change and ask the Lord to forgive our destruction of his wonderful creation. We pray also that all governments take immediate actions to avoid the worst impacts of this crisis in a just and sustainable way. We pray to the Lord.
At this time when there is an increasing incidence of racist and xenophobic attacks on the most vulnerable of Gods children in our society, we pray for a rejection of racism, intolerance and sectarianism. We pray to the Lord.
That our lawmakers will awake to the violent atrocities within our country and pass legislation to curb gun violence. We pray to the Lord.
And for all who seek comfort, that they may find it in God’s healing word; and that God may hear the intentions found in our parish prayer list. We pray to the Lord.
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
We thank you, Father, for the precious gift of the Eucharist, through which we receive your Son. Compassionate God, open our eyes to the miracles around us. Help us see your refreshing care in the changing seasons. Help us see in the breaking of bread your great love for us. Help us know in our lifting of the cup your tender forgiveness. Open our eyes to see that all are welcome at your table, for your love reconciles differences and your mercy celebrates diversity. In songs and prayers of this day and in the simple gifts of bread and cup, may we catch a glimpse of heaven. Through the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, may all of our brothers and sisters commit to ending violence and murders. Help us in our struggle to love all peoples, that we may see you in everyone.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA