• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

Corpus Christi (A)

"My Flesh is true food, and My Blood is true drink."

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 81(80):17 “He fed them with the finest wheat and satisfied them with honey from the rock.”

First Reading: Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a — “He gave you a food unknown to you and your fathers.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20 — “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem!”

Second Reading: 1 Cor 10:16-17 — “The bread is one, and we, though many, are one body.”

Sequence: Lauda Sion“Lo! the angel’s food is given …”

Alleluia: Jn 6:51 — “Alleluia, alleluia. I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord; whoever eats this bread will live forever. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Jn 6:51-58 — “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

Communion Antiphon: Jn 6:57 — “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him, says the Lord.”

Welcome Back! Not long ago, in the Midwest, a man named Gary passed away from cancer, at age 51. That’s tragic, but even worse, Gary had spent 25 years of his adult life in prison, until the Innocence Project appealed his conviction and had it thrown out. As he had maintained all those years, he had never committed any crime. In prison, though, he had decided to make the best of his unjust situation: He studied, earned high school and college diplomas, then turned around and taught fellow inmates how to read and to write. It was not long after his release, however, that he discovered the deadly lymphoma. Upon his release, after learning of his cancer, a friend asked Gary if he was depressed. “No!” he exclaimed, “Listen, I’m driving in my convertible with the wind in my face on a sunny day. I am free!”

In the true story of Gary, we hear of a person who has learned to live fully in the present. Life tossed him some hard things ... but in the face of those things he refused to become bitter or to let them become his focus. Rather, he took what life gave him in the moment, right there and right then, and discovered what was truly life-giving. That may be the deepest meaning of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi ... the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ for each of us.

If we read the Bible regularly, or even if we only listen on Sundays when we’re at Church, one thing we can see over and over again is that God teaches us in the Scriptures to depend on Him. For 40 years they wandered in the desert, being fed manna, a heavenly bread, by God himself. But the Hebrew children, famously, didn’t get the message: “[N]ot by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” Jesus tells the full meaning of God’s will for us in this weekend’s Gospel, calling Himself, “the living bread that came down from heaven,” commanding us to eat of His Body and to drink of His Blood. You don’t have to look far to see these themes throughout Scripture ... God will provide ... We have only to trust in Him, even in ... and perhaps most important in ... situations where we are the neediest. I think about the situation of the past three months ... the COVID-19 Pandemic ... with its quarantines and face masks ... social distancing and shortages ... I think that in it, God was trying to tell us something. And I wonder ... how many got the message? Do you think it’s purely coincidence that the church doors in the Diocese of Camden are open today? Today? On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ ... Corpus Christi ... a celebration of Eucharist?

This weekend’s Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is our time to remember what the Eucharist teaches us. All we ever really need is what God provides for us. We have only to trust. That is the message of the Hebrew children’s experience and it is the message of Jesus for His church. That which is right in front of us is what has been given to us … for better or for worse. We’re called to find a way around bitterness, denial, stubbornness and look for the hand of God. This is the hand of freedom, the hand that allows us to ride with the sun and wind in our face and exclaim, “We are free!” We all matter. Jesus is the Living Bread. The Eucharist, Corpus Christi, is not some monument or inspiring story. The Living Bread is alive! When we partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord, at Communion not long from now, we partake in Life itself. We unite ourselves to divinity through Jesus’ humanity.

And what we also have to realize is that we’re all in this together. Eucharist is never a “solo act.” As Saint Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians, “[W]e, though many, are one body.” So, this Body of Christ that we celebrate at this Table ... this Altar that we partake in at Communion, brings us not only into union with God, it also brings us into communion with one another. For the many are one body. As God pours out Himself for us in the Body and Blood of Christ, so, too, are we to pour out our lives for those around us. The Eucharist is an invitation for each of us to be at the service of others. Right here, right now: That’s the attitude that Gary, the innocent prisoner showed in prison, and even after, as his life was robbed by cancer. Our call to service … to be part of the life of God … is not for a rainy day. It’s for now, for the situation we find ourselves in, good or bad and anywhere in-between.

That’s the whole point of what we’re about today, and every day that we gather at this Table. We come together to hear the story of God’s love for us and then we live in community in the life of God in the Eucharist. That love of God, freely given, if it’s caught, can’t be contained. We pour it out freely to those around us. God is teaching us that every single one of us matters ... black, brown, white, yellow, blue, or any other color or classification you’d care to throw out there. That’s the “Amen” we say to “the Body of Christ.”

And so, there are two questions I ask to consider as you approach the Table of the Lord for the first time in a long time ... and to think about as you walk out the doors and return to your cars ... please take some time to ponder these questions throughout the coming week. I think they are all the more relevant in light of the unrest that our nation and the world is experiencing in light of COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd. How can each of us be sure that our Communion ... that Eucharist ... is not a “solo act?” “We, though many, are one body ...” and How can we best honor God’s outpouring of love and mercy today and everyday? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength ... AND love your neighbor as yourself.” We need Him ... and it’s not all just about us.

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