Homilies

Solemnity of Corpus Christi    
Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Gospel of Mark 14:12-16,22-26
Eucharist – The Most Precious Divine Gift!  Why? 

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 3 June 2018

We are gathered here to celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  As Catholic Christians, we all know and believe that the Eucharist is the central worship of our faith.  We gather as a community daily and for most of us at weekends and on special Feast Days during the liturgical year.  For the homily, I would like us to reflect on a few questions that we may not have reflected on deeply enough:

First, “Can we imagine ourselves as Catholics NOT having the Sacrament of the Eucharist?”  What do you think would happen to your faith and my faith in Jesus as our Saviour and Lord?  Would our faith be what it is today, as you and I have it?  Clearly, not.  In all probability, you and I would have lost our faith.

Second, “Can we imagine what would happen to our Catholic Church IF Mass attendance is optional on Sundays and special Feast Days like Christmas, Good Friday, Easter?”  What do you think our faith in Jesus would be like?  In other words, if the Church accepted that everyone of us can come to Mass as and when we like, do you think there will be as many of us here today? 

Let us remember that our Catholic Church is not forcing us to attend Mass, when She makes it obligatory.  The Church is merely exercising Her Wisdom to state clearly what is essential for our faith, and how we are to keep and develop our relationship with Jesus.  It is like our parents making it obligatory for us, when we were children to go to school, eat healthy food, and be kind, respectful, moral and honest in our living.  And as we grow in maturity into adulthood, we are grateful to our parents for their wisdom the upbringing they have given us.  We would not see them as having “forced” us to go to school and be good persons, when we were young.

And so, the Wisdom of our universal Church is clear.  For those who have stopped coming for Mass, and choose to rationalise and insist that it is enough to pray privately at home, and that it is also enough to believe in God without having to follow the moral rules and obligation to attend Mass of the universal institutional Church, sooner or later these people will lose their faith in Jesus.  And when this inevitably happens, without the Eucharist, and so, without being able to receive the divine gift of Jesus Himself at Holy Communion, they sadly will become too weak to fight the attractions and temptations of the materialistic and secular world.  We all need Jesus in the Eucharist.  We all know that even for those of us who receive Him in the Eucharist, life continues to be very challenging and often painful.  Without Jesus in the Eucharist would be worse . . . when we rely on our own strength and will.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are here today not to judge people who have left the Church and have stopped coming for Mass; whatever their reasons for doing so is another matter.  We are simply saying that sadly, for such persons, they have literally turned away from an otherwise more wholesome and meaningful life, that being united with Jesus in the Eucharist would offer them.  Ponder for a moment on those people whom we know, including our family members, relatives and close friends who have left the church.  “Are what we have just reflected on, not true of these many people we know?”

The third question we would like to reflect on is, “What if receiving Holy Communion, is just a symbolic ritual, and not the Real and Physical Presence of Jesus?”  This means that, each time we gather on Sundays and Feast Days, we would just be hearing the Word of God proclaimed, then hear the homily of the priest, and then sing a few hymns and return to our homes without receiving Jesus at Holy Communion? 

Today’s Gospel of St Mark describes how Jesus “took some bread, and when He had said the blessing, He broke it and gave it to His disciples saying, ‘Take it, this is My Body.  Then, He took the cup, and when He had returned thanks He gave it to them, and all drank from it, and He said to them, ‘This is My Blood of the covenant, which will be poured out for many.” 

More explicitly in the Gospel of St John, 6:53-56 Jesus says, “I tell you solemnly, if you do not eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you will not have life in you.  Anyone who does eat My Flesh and drink My Blood has eternal life and I shall raise him up on the last day.  For My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink.  He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood lives in Me and I live in him.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, these words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark and especially in the Gospel of John are crystal clear and unambiguous, and cannot be disputed.  A spiritual writer, Charles Pope says, “We do not partake of a symbol.  The Eucharist is not a metaphor, it is truly the Lord.  Neither is it a “piece” of flesh of Jesus that we are eating like cannibals.  Nevertheless, the Bread and Wine is truly the real and whole and entire Jesus, that we are receiving, but under the physical appearance of bread and wine. 

When a couple stands before the Church and promises before God, the officiating priest and everyone present in the Sacrament of Marriage, and say, “I take you so-and-so to by my husband and wife . . .for better or for worse, in health and in sickness . . .” upon saying such words, what happens? They are spiritually and even legally immediately transformed from being separate individuals into one united and inseparably body, as husband and wife, even though externally there are no physical changes in the appearances of the groom and the bride. 

Likewise, when a validly ordained priest during Mass says, “This is My Body, . . . and this is My Blood” in persona Christi, in the person of Christ, the bread and wine is immediately transformed into the Real and Physical Presence of Jesus’ Body and Blood, even though externally there is no physical changes in the appearances of the consecrated bread and wine.  

My brothers and sisters in Christ, as Catholics during Benediction, healing services and at Masses, we all kneel at the consecration and elevation of the Bread and Wine to show our deep reverence to the true and Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; we genuflect when we enter our Church.  During all the Youth Prayer Services in our Cathedral, we see the youth kneeling on the rough road outside, even though the Benediction was inside the Church.  Indeed, we see several hundreds of thousands of youth kneeling in absolute silence during Benediction at World Youth Days.  You and I and more than a billion other Catholics in the world today believe in the Real and physical Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. 

Even as this is the reality of our faith, we also know that in the universal Catholic Church, yet millions have very sadly stopped believing in the Eucharist and have stopped coming to Church.  This too was the case during the time of Jesus.  The Jews could not accept the explicit words of Jesus, that the consecrated Bread is His Real Flesh and the consecrated Wine is His Real Blood.  The Gospel John 6:66-69 tell us, “Many of Jesus’ disciples left Him and stopped going with Him.  Then Jesus said to the Twelve, “What about you, do you want to go away too?”  Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who shall we go to?  You have the message of eternal life, and we believe, we know that You are the Holy One of God.  And so, as I draw our reflection to a close on this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, for those of us who continue to value the Eucharist, I would like us to reflect on some of these points on the Eucharist today and in the coming week, so that we make the needed special efforts to renew our faith in the Eucharist and not take the most precious and divine Gift of Jesus Himself lightly and for granted.

First, let us pray for the grace to deepen our faith in what Jesus in St John’s Gospel 6:56 says, “Anyone who does eat My Flesh and drink My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink.  He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood lives in me and Iive in him.”  

Second, come early for Mass and prepare your hearts to receive Jesus worthily at Holy Communion.  Never be late for Mass; every part of the Mass is important.  At the beginning, we each ask for God’s Mercy and forgiveness at the Penitential Rite.  Pay attention during the Liturgy of the Word.  Jesus is speaking to us and has special message for each of us personally . . . regardless of how boring the homily may be.  Participate in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, unite our whole life with Jesus to God our Father – our family our concerns, and our deepest desires.  Be more fully conscious that the Holy Spirit who transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus, will also transform your life, /in the Sacrifice of being united with Jesus as the Sacrificial Lamb, to God our Father.

Third, upon receiving Jesus at Holy Communion, never fail to thank Jesus sincerely and reverently, and relish the very precious moment of being in deep union with Jesus, for He has physically and personally entered our lives to nourish and strengthen His Love for us, as He says, “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood lives in me and Iive in him.” 

Fourth, and finally, let us remember that at the end of the Eucharist, we are missioned to bring Christ and witness His Love to our families and the world.  We are to “live the Eucharist that we have celebrated and the Gospel more fully in our daily lives.”

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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