May 29, 2016 – Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ
Homily delivered at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Indianapolis:
Today is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We use white altar cloths and wear our celebratory vestments.
We remember the passion and death of Jesus at every Mass, but today we celebrate in a special way the gift He gave us — the gift of Himself, the gift of His Body and Blood. It is the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
On this feast day we focus on the beauty of this gift and on the ways we show our gratitude. After all, the word Eucharist, means thanksgiving.
Each time we receive the gift of the Body and Blood, we give thanks by saying “Amen.” Amen – I believe. We are stating publicly our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
You may be wondering why the gospel reading chosen for today’s feast was that of the feeding of the 5,000. The well-known story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is certainly an impactful gospel, but why not focus on the Last Supper? Why wouldn’t the Church choose the story of the Institution of the Eucharist to mark this feast?
As we heard in the second reading, Paul made reference to the Last Supper. In his letter to the Corinthians, he recounted the words Jesus used, “This is my body. This is my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.”
However, for the gospel reading, the Church asks us to reflect upon the miracle story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. Why? What messages does the Church hope to pass along on this feast day?
There are many. I will share two.
First message: When we turn to Jesus with conviction in our hearts, He responds with abundance.
The 5,000 were not just given enough to get by. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.
He responded to the needs of the people with abundance.
With His Body and Blood He feeds us and sustains us. He provides us with everything we need. In fact, He provides us with things we may not even know we need. Jesus did more for the 5,000 than satisfy their hunger. He fed them spiritually as well.
Pope Francis tells us, “Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist, offering himself as spiritual food that sustains our life.”
Where are we turning when we need to be fed? Are we turning to Jesus, or to worldly things?
Drugs and alcohol, sex and pornography, materialism – so many things of this world that are calling out to us, offering to meet our needs, to fill the void in our lives. However, this food does not sustain us, and whatever satisfaction we experience from it is fleeting at best. We are not left with a feeling of gratitude, but of shame.
When Jesus feeds us, all will eat and be satisfied. He responds with abundance.
If we are turning to Jesus, is it with conviction in our hearts? Do we truly believe He can and will help us? Or are we just going through the motions? Go to Him with confidence. When you say, “Amen!” let the words come straight from your heart.
Second message: Gift-giving with Jesus is not a one-way street. We are called to give a gift in return. Saying “Amen” shows gratitude, but it does not end there. He gave of Himself for us. We must give of ourselves for Him.
We see this demonstrated for us in the first reading. We heard that the high priest Melchizedek “brought out bread and wine” for Abram, to feed him and restore him to full strength. We are told Abram responded to this gift by offering the priest a tenth of everything he owned.
We also hear this message subtly in the gospel. The disciples recognized the needs of the 5,000 hungry people, and their first thought was to send them away. Jesus told them, “Give them some food yourselves.”
He knew the disciples could not produce the necessary food to feed the people. However, by saying, “Give them some food yourselves,” He was planting a seed with them. He wanted them to see how He responded to the needs of those who turned to Him.
When the people came to him, He responded with abundance. He wanted the disciples, and wants us, to witness His generosity. He wants us to respond to the needs of others in the same way. Whether it is hungry stomachs or hungry hearts, we are called to feed others.
When I hand a sandwich to a homeless man, I am feeding him physically. However, he is fed in other ways. The very fact that I am there shows him that someone cares. When I speak with him, he experiences human interaction and compassion. It’s more than a sandwich.
When people ask me to pray for them or for one of their loved ones, I do it. I will often stop what I’m doing and offer that prayer right away. Or I will make a note to myself so I won’t forget. That person is fed by the prayer, but also by knowing that I made their request a priority. And because my prayer joins with theirs, it becomes communal prayer and in communal prayer there is power. It’s more than words.
When one student chooses to sit next to another student who eats his lunch alone day after day, that formerly isolated student is fed. Someone noticed him. Add conversation to it, even a little, and doors are opened. He has value. He is not alone. It’s more than a chair in a cafeteria.
Share the gifts you have received. Like Jesus, respond to the needs of others with abundance.
Appreciate the gifts Jesus offers you:
- His Body and Blood offered to you at every Mass.
- His abundant response to your needs when you turn to Him.
In return, show Him your gratitude.
Saying “Amen” is not enough.
Make your life a living “Amen!”