Corpus Christi 2015

From the Connections:
Elizabeth’s special recipe
Elizabeth's house was always filled with love, joy, good times - and fresh bread.
Of course, things come slower these days for 85-year-old Elizabeth.  The simplest tasks take more time and demand more energy now than they did when she was 25.  But, on days when her beloved grandchildren are coming to visit, she gets up very early and plants herself in her comfortable kitchen.  Her hands, gnarled by arthritis, carefully mix the batter, knead the dough, blend in the sweet cinnamon swirl, and bake the loaves.  The work demands more of her, physically, than the first time she treated her young family to her cinnamon bread, but the joy it still brings makes it all worthwhile.

Her children and grandchildren, who have feasted on the bread since they could first take into their tiny hands, know the effort it takes her now - but that makes it all the more special.  But they would never dare suggest that she stop making it.  For Elizabeth's cinnamon bread contains much more than the flour, water, cinnamon and other ingredients.  In her loving preparation of the bread for her family, Elizabeth includes a most special ingredient: a piece of herself.

In much the same way that Elizabeth’s family realizes that her cinnamon bread contains her love for them, the bread and wine of the Eucharist contains for us the love of Christ, who suffered, died and rose for us.  Christ places “a piece of himself” in this bread and invites us to “feast” on him, to be nourished and sustained by his life until we take our places for eternity at the great banquet of heaven.  In our sharing of the Eucharist we become what we receive:  We become the one body of Christ, we become family to one
From Fr. Jude Botelho:


Today's reading alludes to all kinds of sacrifices the ancient Jews offered. Blood was used as a sign of the Israelites' 'covenant', a special word the Hebrews borrowed from others. It was a pact or contract, between unequal parties, like the king and his subjects; a pact freely entered into, binding perpetually, and sealed in blood. Moses is referring to the pact and covenant with God and this pact was sealed with a sacrifice, offered to God alone. Moses splashed the blood on the altar and he splashed the remaining on the people, binding the two together. The people honour the pact by agreeing to keep the commandments and being faithful to God, in return for his protection of them. Furthermore the people identified with the sacrifice by eating a portion of the victim being offered. Meal sharing was regarded as very sacred in antiquity. By eating, one signified acceptance of, and respect for the person providing the meal.

Food for the Journey
I traveled to a place in the northern tip of Ireland one night to say Mass for a Prayer Group. It was a wild wintry night and, when the Mass was over, I was anxious to get on the road for home. As I dashed towards the car, I was stopped by an elderly lady, and I wasn't too please at the prospect of having to listen to her tale of pains and aches, while I was impatient to get going. I was very taken aback when she handed me a small boat-shaped basket, filled with triangular sandwiches, with all kinds of fillings. The basket was covered with cling film. "I just thought, Father, you might like to eat those on your journey home." She turned and went back into the church. For once I was stuck for words..! I still have the basket on my desk as I write here now. When I look at it I think of the Eucharist, 'food for the journey.'
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel Truth"

In today's gospel we have Mark's account of the Last Supper, and the longest part, has to do with the preparation for the meal. This was no haphazard, hurried, get-together but a sacred event. Jesus was continuing something that had been going on as the Jewish way of offering worship and thanks for their deliverance since they left Egypt. What He did in the Upper Room was, first of all, an adaptation of the Passover of the past. The Passover meal was also an anticipation of Jesus' offering of himself and a commemoration for the people of the future. In addition to being an adaptation of the past and an anticipation of the future, what Jesus did at the Passover was important for what he was doing now. He was signing the covenant with his own blood which will be poured out for mankind. Our taking part in the Eucharist required preparation of both body and soul. The Eucharist is not something that we come to watch, rather it is something we come to do. We have to become personally responsible for our presence at the Eucharist and not make it dependant on the priest who is presiding. Certainly, the priest can help enormously in getting us involved and in breaking the word meaningfully but if I am not disposed nothing will help. Thus a meaningful celebration of the Eucharist would mean not only an open disposition and reverent celebration of the ritual but also letting the Eucharist affect our attitudes and life.

The Body of Christ is not only our redemption, it is our task!
In his sermon 'The Weight of Glory', C.S. Lewis wrote: 'Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to our senses." "Christ's body is hidden in the least of us as it is under the appearances of bread and wine. Both require an uncommon and daring faith.  When we labour for human rights, when we shelter the poor, when we dismantle the bombs, when we protect the unborn, when we reach out to the criminal, we do these things not as political activists or social workers. We do them not as liberals or conservatives. We do them as people who worship the incarnate God. The body and blood of Christ is not only our redemption. It is our task!" 
John F. Kavanaugh

This will be enough for me!
In Ingmar Bergman's classic film, The Seventh Seal, the quest for God is set against a medieval world threatened by plague. After fighting in the crusades a knight makes his way to his native land. He survives a shipwreck, but death lets him know that he is doomed to die within a certain time. The knight wins a little more time at a game of chess, but he is sick at heart: he wants to believe in God, yet he cannot manage by himself to reach faith. He seeks for signs of God's presence, but there is none he can see. It is the time of the Black Death; God seems to be absent from the troubled streets of every town and village. On his journey the knight meets a peasant couple and their child, and shares a simple meal with them. The only food they can manage to gather is wild strawberries -this they share together with fresh milk. The love in the young couple's welcome, the fruit of their love in the sleeping child, Mikael, all this is greater than the food and drink they share. In the simple actions of sharing the meal the knight sees the presence of a love that has eluded him. In that meeting place the darkness begins to lift from the knight. He has been gifted with more than food; he has been graced with more than fellowship. He prays his thanks when he says: "I shall remember this moment. The silence, the twilight, the bowls of strawberries and milk, your face in the evening light. Mikael sleeping, Jof with his lyre. I'll carry this memory between my hands as carefully as if it were a bowl filled to the brim with fresh milk. And it will be an adequate sign. It will be enough for me!"
Denis McBride in 'Seasons of the Word'

Retelling the Story
On a hill near Cape Town, South Africa, just below the famed Table Mountain, a gun is fired every day at noon. The hill is known as Signal Hill. The firing of the gun once served a beautiful purpose. It signaled that a ship, on its way to or from India, had arrived in the harbour with a cargo of goods, and was in need of supplies of food and fresh water. A beautiful exchange resulted. There was receiving and giving. But that was a long time ago. The purpose no longer exists. Yet the gun is still fired dutifully every day. However, the firing is now little more than an empty ritual. Once it had a beautiful meaning. Now the meaning has gone out of it. Most of the local people ignore it. Visitors are told, 'If you hear a loud bang at mid-day, don't worry. It's only the gun going off.' However the ritual still has one thing going for it. Most people know the story behind it. If that story were to be lost, then the ritual would become poorer still. The Eucharist celebrates a wonderful event - the gift which Jesus made of his life on our behalf. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we tell that story again. But like anything that is repeated over and over again, there is a danger that it may become just a ritual.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'

Christ -the primary focus
Leonardo da Vinci was 43 years old when the duke of Milano asked him to paint the Last Supper. He worked on it slowly and with meticulous care to detail. He spent much time making the cup that Jesus held as beautiful as possible. After three years he was ready to show it, and he called a friend to come and see it. He said, "Look at it and give me your opinion." The friend said, "It is wonderful. The cup is so real I cannot take my eyes of it!" Immediately, Leonardo took a brush and drew it across the sparkling cup. He exclaimed as he did so: "Nothing shall detract from the figure of Christ!" Christ must be the primary focus of a Christian's life!
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

God Always Comes...
Once upon a time there was a Rabbi. Whenever he wanted God's presence, he went to a special place in the woods, lit a fire, said some prayers, and did a dance. Then God would appear to him. When he died, his disciple did the same. If he wanted God's presence, he went to the same spot in the woods, lit the fire, and said the same prayers, but nobody had taught him the dance. It still worked. God appeared. When he died, his disciple carried on the tradition. If he wanted God's presence, he went to the same spot in the woods and lit the fire, but he didn't know the prayers, nor the dance, but it still worked. God came. Then he died. He also had a disciple. Whenever he wanted God's presence, he too went to the same place in the woods, but nobody had taught him how to light the fire or say the prayers or do the dance, but it still worked, God appeared. In the end, he died, but he too had a pupil. One day this pupil wanted God's presence. So he searched for the place in the woods, but couldn't find it. And he didn't know how to light the fire or say the prayers or do the dance. All he knew was how to tell the story. But it worked. He discovered that whenever he told the story of how the others had found God, God would appear. In essence, this story explains how the sacred ritual, liturgy, works.
Ronald Rolheiser in 'In Exile'

Jesus, Bread of Life
Brennan Manning, an American Franciscan priest, tells this story of his mother, a lady in her mid-seventies in Brooklyn. Mrs. Manning's day centred on her daily Eucharist. Because she began her voluntary stint at a drug detoxification centre each morning at 7.30 a.m., the only mass she could reach was at 5.30 a.m. Across the road from her lived a very successful lawyer, mid-thirties, married with two children. The man had no religion and was particularly critical of daily church-goers. Driving home from a late party at 5 am one January morning, the roads glassy with ice, he said to his wife: "I bet that old hag won't be out this morning", referring to Mrs. Manning. But to his shock, there she was on hands and knees negotiating the hill up to the church. He went home, tried to sleep, but could not. Around 9 am he rose, went to the local presbytery and asked to see a priest. "Padre," he said, "I am not one of yours. I have no religion. But could you tell me what do you have there that can make an old woman crawl on hands and knees on an icy morning?" Thus began his conversion along with his wife and family. Mrs. Manning was one of those people who never studied deep religious books, never knew the big theological words, but she knew what it is to meet Jesus in Holy Communion. Jesus Christ is the bread of life. What more could we want?
Sylvester O'Flynn in 'The Good News of Mark's Year'

From Father Tony Kadavil's Collection:

# 1: “I would like to say Mass.”
Dominic Tang, the courageous Chinese archbishop, was imprisoned for twenty-one years for nothing more than his loyalty to Christ and Christ’s one, true Church. After five years of solitary confinement in a windowless, damp cell, he was told by his jailers that he could leave it for a few hours to do whatever he wanted. Five years of solitary confinement and he had a couple of hours to do what he wanted! What would it be? A hot shower? A change of clothes? Certainly a long walk outside? A chance to call or write to family? What would it be, the jailer asked him. “I would like to say Mass,” replied Archbishop Tang. [Msgr. Timothy M. Dolan, Priests of the Third Millennium (2000), p. 216]. The Vietnamese Jesuit, Joseph Nguyen-Cong Doan, who spent nine years in labor camps in Vietnam, relates how he was finally able to say Mass when a fellow priest-prisoner shared some of his own smuggled supplies. “That night, when the other prisoners were asleep, lying on the floor of my cell, I celebrated Mass with tears of joy. My altar was my blanket, my prison clothes my vestments. But I felt myself at the heart of humanity and of the whole of creation.” (Ibid., p. 224). Today’s feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus constantly calls us beyond ourselves to sacrificial love for others.

# 2: The greatest work of art in St. Peter’s Basilica:
‘One of the seminarians who gives tours of St. Peter’s told me of an interesting incident. He was leading a group of Japanese tourists who knew absolutely nothing of our faith. With particular care he explained the great masterpieces of art, sculpture and architecture. He finally concluded at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel trying his best to explain quickly what it was. As the group dispersed, an elderly man, who had been particularly attentive stayed behind, and said, “Pardon me. Would you explain again this ‘Blessed Sacrament?’ Our student did, after which the man exclaimed, “Ah, if this is so, what is in this chapel is a greater work of art than anything else in this basilica.”’ (Msgr. Timothy M Dolan in Priests of the Third Millennium, 2000 p. 226). Today’s feast of Corpus Christi is intended to make us value and appreciate the worth of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.   

3: Communion on the moon:  
The Lord's Supper ensures that we can remember Jesus from any place. Apollo 11 landed on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969. Most remember astronaut Neil Armstrong's first words as he stepped onto the moon's surface: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." But few know about the first meal eaten on the moon. Dennis Fisher reports that Buzz Aldrin, the NASA Astronaut had taken aboard the spacecraft a tiny pyx provided by his Catholic pastor. Aldrin sent a radio broadcast to Earth asking listeners to contemplate the events of the day and give thanks. Then, blacking out the broadcast for privacy, Aldrin read, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." Then, silently, he gave thanks for their successful journey to the moon and received Jesus in the Holy Eucharist surrendering moon to Jesus. Next he descended on the moon and walked on it with Neil Armstrong. (Dan Gulley: "Communion on the Moon": Our Daily Bread: June/July/August, 2007). His actions remind us that in the Lord's Supper, God's children can share the life of Jesus from any place on Earth — and even from the moon. God is everywhere, and our worship should reflect this reality. In Psalm 139 we are told that wherever we go, God is intimately present with us. Buzz Aldrin celebrated that experience on the surface of the moon. Thousands of miles from earth, he took time to commune with the One who created, redeemed, and established fellowship with him.

4. “I will not permit Christ to return to Albania as long as I am in charge.”  
Mother Teresa was given a reception by the cruel communist dictator Enver Hoxha who ruled Albania for 40 years from 1945 to 1985. He imposed atheism as the official religion in 1967. The possession of a Bible or cross often meant a ten-year prison term. Welcoming Mother Teresa in 1985, he stated that he appreciated her world-wide works of charity, and then added, “But I will not permit Christ to return to Albania as long as I am in charge.” In her reply after thanking the president for the reception Mother said, “Mr. President, you are wrong. I have brought not only the love of Christ into my native land but also the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist right into your presidential palace. I am allowed to carry Jesus in a pyx during my visit of this communist country where public worship is a crime. I keep Jesus in the consecrated host in my pocket. Jesus will surely return to this country very soon.”  

Hoxha was gone a few days later on April 11, 1985. Communist rule collapsed in Albania in 1992 and Christians and Muslims reopened their churches and mosques for worship. Finally the Lord of the Eucharist has ruled the hearts and minds of the people of Albania. 

When push comes to that famous shove, it doesn't matter what Mother Teresa or you or I believe about the Eucharist. What does matter is what Christ Himself believes about it. For the answer one must go to the record.

5. The Eucharistic piety that converted St. Elizabeth Ann Seton:  
Two hundred years ago, a beautiful young Episcopalian woman accompanied her husband, a merchant, to Italy, leaving four of their five children at home with family members. They had sailed for Italy hoping that perhaps the change in climate might help her husband, whose failing business had eventually affected his health adversely. Tragically he died in Liverno. The grieving young woman was warmly received by an Italian family, business acquaintances of her deceased husband. She stayed with them for three months before she could arrange to return to America. The young widow was very impressed by the catholic faith of her host family, especially their devotion to the holy Eucharist: their frequent attendance at Mass, the reverence with which they received Holy Communion, the awe they showed toward the Blessed Sacrament on feast days when the Eucharist was carried in procession. She found her broken heart healed by a hunger for this mysterious presence of the Lord, and, upon returning home, requested instruction in Catholic Faith. Soon after being received into the Church, she described her first reception of the Lord in the Eucharist as the happiest moment of her life. It was in St. Peter’s Square on September 14, 1975, Pope Paul VI canonized this woman, Elizabeth Ann Seton, as the first native born saint of the United states. The Eucharist for her was a sign and cause of union with God and the Church.

6. A message of unity and sacrificial love:  The Eucharist, (the body and blood of Christ) teaches us the importance of community, the bond that results from this sacrifice. Just as numerous grains of wheat are pounded together to make the host, and many grapes are crushed together to make the wine, so we become unified in this sacrifice. Our Lord chose these elements in order to show us that we ought to be united with one another and to allow and work with the Holy Spirit in transforming us into Our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the head and we are the body. Together we are one. That which unites us is our willingness to sacrifice our time and talents for our fellow members in Christ’s mystical body. This is symbolized by our sharing in the same bread and the same cup. Hence, Holy Communion should strengthen our sense of unity and love.
7. The duty of preparing properly to receive Holy Communion:  
We have tarnished God’s image within us through acts of impurity, injustice and disobedience. Hence, there is always need for repentance, and a need for the sacramental confession of grave sins before we receive Holy Communion. We should remember the warning given by St. Paul: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves." [1 Cor. 11:27-9]. Hence, let us receive Holy Communion with fervent love and respect -- not merely as a matter of routine. St. Paul is speaking also of the mystical body of Christ, i.e., the people of God gathered at the altar. Such a union, plainly, means that our outward piety towards the consecrated Bread and Wine cannot coexist with rudeness, unkindness, slander, cruelty, gossiping or any other breach of charity toward our brothers and sisters.  

8. Let us become Christ-bearers and conveyers:
By receiving Holy Communion we become Christ-bearers as Mary was, with the duty of conveying Christ to others at home and in the workplace, as love, mercy, forgiveness and humble and sacrificial service.

As we celebrate this great feast of faith, let us worship what St. Thomas Aquinas did not hesitate to call, "the greatest miracle that Christ ever worked on earth ...... my Body ........ my Blood". Before the greatness of this mystery, let us exclaim with St. Augustine, "O sacrament of devotion! O sign of unity! O bond of charity!" Let us also repeat St. Thomas Aquinas' prayer of devotion in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament: "O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine!"
9.  “All we really need in our convent is the tabernacle.”  
The former archbishop of San Francisco, John Quinn, loves to tell the story of the arrival of Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity to open their house in the city. Poor Archbishop Quinn had gone to great efforts to make sure that their convent was, while hardly opulent, quite comfortable. He recalls how Mother Teresa arrived and immediately ordered the carpets removed, the telephones, except for one, pulled out of the wall, the beds, except for the mattresses taken away, and on and on. Explained Mother Teresa to the baffled archbishop, “All we really need in our convent is the tabernacle” (Msgr. Timothy M Dolan in “Priests of the Third Millennium” 2000 p. 218).

10. Blessed Imelda:   Blessed Imelda, the Patron saint of First communicants: Blessed Imelda Lambertini had a remarkable experience of this love. She lived in Bologna, Italy, in the 1300s. She wanted to be a nun from the time she was a little girl, and she joined that Dominican convent at the age of nine, to better prepare herself for the day when she would take the habit. Her greatest desire was to receive Holy Communion, but in those days you had to be at least twelve-years- old to do so. Imelda begged for an exception to the rule, but the chaplain refused. She kept praying for special permission. Her prayers were miraculously answered on the Feast of the Ascension in 1333. After Mass, she stayed in her place in the chapel, where one of the nuns was putting away the sacred vessels. Suddenly, the nun heard a noise and turned towards Imelda. Hovering in mid air in front of Imelda as she knelt in prayer was a sacred host, the Blessed Eucharist, shining with a bright and forceful light. The frightened nun ran to find the chaplain. By the time the chaplain arrived, the rest of the nuns and other onlookers had crowded, awe-struck, into the chapel. When the priest saw the shining, hovering host, he put on his vestments, went over to the girl, took the miraculous host in his hands, and gave her Holy Communion. Some minutes later, after the crowd had dispersed, the mother superior came over to Imelda to call her for breakfast. She found the girl still kneeling, with a smile on her face. But Imelda was dead. She had died of love, in ecstasy after receiving Christ in the Eucharist. He had longed to be with her even more than she had longed to be with him. Blessed Imelda's body is incorrupt, and you can still see it today in the Church where she is interred, in Bologna. She is the patron saint of First Holy Communicants. (E- Priest).