Sunday, May 25, 2008

Feast of Corpus Christi - homily

Last year during one of our Youth Group meetings, one of our teens said to me, “I just felt God’s presence”. At another meeting, another teen said that she just felt the hand of God on her head. We do a lot of fun stuff at Youth Group and we have a good time. But, once a month we do Eucharistic Adoration; these were two of our teens’ experiences with Adoration. One of our adults who comes to Adoration regularly said that she didn’t think true peace was attainable in this life before she started going to Adoration; she has since found true peace. Adoration is one of the greatest ways for us to honor this glorious feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. So what is Adoration?

Adoration is when the Eucharist is exposed for us to adore and worship. At St. Andrew’s, we have Adoration every Friday from 7-8 pm. At the beginning of the hour, we bring the Eucharist out of the tabernacle and place it on the altar in a vessel called a monstrance. We have silent prayer for a while and then music for meditation and reflection. Then, at the end of the hour, we have the rite of Benediction. When I celebrate Benediction, I bring the monstrance out to the congregation. I place a veil over my hands and give sections of the congregation the solemn blessing with the monstrance.

Now, if we are saying that this Eucharist is the Body of Christ, then it is really the hand of Jesus giving the blessing to his people. We have had kids from our school, teens, and adults all experience this powerful moment with the Eucharist so close during Benediction. It is really Jesus walking through the Church, giving his blessing just like 2000 years ago. Powerful, radical stuff! Our kids and teens love Adoration!

It might be intimidating, though. It’s not just coming to Church on a Friday night; it’s not just praying for an hour (although you don’t have to come for the whole hour; you can just come for a few minutes). What can be most intimidating is coming face-to-face with God. This is what happens with Adoration. And yet, Jesus says, ‘come to me’. ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened…all you who drive by here every day…going to all of your activities…to and from work…bring me all of your worries, your problems, your fears, anxiety, hopes, dreams, joys, sadnesses…bring them all to me…and I will give you rest. I will give you peace that you can’t find anywhere else’.

This is really what we do when we come to Adoration – we dump all of our stuff on Jesus. We say, ‘Lord, take all of this. Help me’. He wants us to bring Him everything we are going through. It is like coming to see a good friend. We come to His house to spend time with Him. This is one of the biggest reasons He has given us the Eucharist, I think; it is so he can be close to us and we can be close to Him.

To remind us all about this radical opportunity to be with Christ, I have made some cards for you. They are magnetic business cards that advertise Adoration and the times we offer it here – Fridays from 7-8 pm and 1st Saturdays from 9-10 am. Please take one card as you leave here this morning and put them on your fridge at home.

I have told you the statistic that 70% of Catholics don’t believe that the Eucharist is for real. They believe that the Eucharist is just a symbol; that it’s just bread. This is what Protestants believe! I think the reason the 70% and Protestants don’t believe in the Eucharist is because they really haven’t heard the teaching, especially from the Gospel we just heard (John 6). Jesus is saying over and over again that the Eucharist is for real. He uses the words ‘flesh’ 5 times and ‘blood’ 4 times in relation to the Eucharist. The people heard him speaking literally and they took him literally. They questioned him about it and then left him, saying, ‘who are you to give us your flesh to eat? What are you talking about? We’re outta here’. The Apostles were confused, too, but stayed with Jesus. The early Christians took this teaching literally and passed it down to us. For 2000 years, we have believed that the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Finally, whenever we come to Mass, we are saying that the Eucharist is for real. When the minister says to us at Holy Communion, “the Body of Christ”, and we say, “Amen” (I Believe), we are saying that the Eucharist is for real. Whenever we genuflect in Church, we are saying that Jesus is really present in the tabernacle. Whenever we drive by a Catholic Church and bless ourselves, we are saying that the Eucharist is for real. Whenever we come to Adoration, we are saying the Eucharist is for real. At a youth conference recently with 300 teens adoring Christ, I said to them, “we look like we’re crazy! We look nuts - on our knees worshiping what looks like a piece of bread!” What is the basis for all of this? The basis for this feast, for 2000 years of belief, for Adoration, for all of this– it is four words: THIS IS MY BODY.

8 Comments:

At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus’ total love for us 2,000 years ago, for which he willingly gave his life, is, as you mention in you C.O.O.L brochure, a living memorial. What we celebrate today, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, is not so much the presence of God in the past, when he walked with and among us, but a celebration of a living God, a God in the here and now, a God who “lives in me and I in him”.

A surgical patient I briefly interacted with several years ago made a comment to a question I asked that was a beautiful example of the presence of God in our lives, alive daily in the here and now.

Escorting a patient back to the “pre-surgical” area where all the final things that need to be done before surgery are completed can be a tense, short walk. Family and/or friends are able to be with the patient prior to surgery, just not for the time the OR staff needs to complete their work before the surgery can begin.

As most patients walk back, they are usually anxious, so I try to ease the tension with some light spirited conversation. I noticed that this particular patient didn’t have any family or friends in the waiting area to join her when the pre-op stuff was completed, so I casually asked, “Are you here alone?” Her response was one I usually didn’t hear, and did not anticipate. “I’m not here alone, my friend is walking right next to me," she said as she looked to her side, with word free body language that said, “I am going to be ok”.

All I could think was, “Wow. Here is a lady facing what will probably be the ‘big C’ diagnosis and she is so at peace with life.” Regardless of her religious orientation, I perceived a woman living and sharing the Eucharist in and through every minute of her life. What a beautiful example of truly understanding Christ’s love for each of us. What a beautiful example of truly sharing His love for each of us. Little did she know what she did for me in that short walk.

 
At 8:43 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

We Lutherans may not go for transubstantiation, indeed that is a key bone of contention between Lutheranism and Catholicism, but we do NOT believe that the Eucharist is "just" bread or "just" wine. We believe that Christ is truly present in the bread and in the wine.

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger fran said...

When I attended elementary school, many years ago, the teacher would call role every morning. As each child's name was called, that child would respond, "present" and a check mark was placed next to their name in a book.

When a person attends a professional conference or meeting, they usually sign in at a table or reception area before going into the actual room where the program is to take place. Signing in indicates that the individual is present.

Whenever we indicate that we are present in a place, verbally, or by signing an attendance sheet, we are acknowledging that we are there; present in that place, in that time and in that space. We are physically there, - flesh and blood.

If we believe that Jesus is truly present, in the bread and wine, isn't that acknowledgment that it is also Him flesh and blood? Can someone be truly present, and, at the same time, not there physically - flesh and blood?

 
At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cynthia,

Please help me to understand your statement. I'm having a hard time comprehending how Lutherans believe Christ is truly present in the bread and wine and yet do “not go for” transubstantiation. How does the Lutheran religion explain the Discourse on the Bread of Life found in John 6?

 
At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a good portion of our Catholic families are what are now termed “Cultural Catholics.” I reluctantly include myself in this group. We observe actions of faith without understanding their complete meaning or significance. Sometimes, without all the correct information, some of us hold ideas that take forms that aren’t at all in line with the church’s teachings, meanings and any kind of relevance but don’t know it. When you don’t know that you have questions- you don’t seek answers.

When I started reading this blog last year and attending Mass more often, I began to realize that I had many questions and began to ask them (many were probably stupid sounding). For some who haven’t been educated in ways that it’s obvious to me that some of these readers and writers here are, it’s hard (maybe) for some to relate to what others here express, even if they might want to.

The first time I went to Adoration (as an adult), one smell of the incense and I lost it. It impacted me viscerally, for it reminded me of the time when my grandparents took me to Benediction at St. Jerome’s when I was a child. I wasn’t well educated in my catechism and I think I believed that Jesus is the Son of God because they believed it. I honestly think for a good portion of my life it was that simple. That single moment of connectedness at that Adoration (and I can’t quite define it properly- it had more to do with remembering my grandfather), to me, was worth more than years of studying the theology of transubstantiation. It was like being brought to a place I felt I belonged, and I know that sounds corny.

I think those of us who are “Cultural Catholics” tend to spend more time on the celebratory side of the liturgical year because we connect all those times with memories of family and friends. We make those times part of our Catholic experience because our memories and understandings that they are special times are vivid. Although it's been said here many times that "feelings" aren't the important thing- for some of us, in the way we were raised (right or wrong) that's what we know and how we connect.

I have taken my children to Adoration at different times and in different places (with groups present and with only myself and them in an Adoration Chapel). Each time we have gone to Adoration we do something together afterwards. We talk about what they saw and heard (if there was a talk), and what they were thinking, Once, it opened the door to a conversation about something one of children had been really worrying about that I didn’t even know- but that was the very thing about which she had prayed. My children now connect Adoration with something celebratory- and maybe that’s not the right thing to do; I don’t know.

I don’t know if I’m ever doing anything “right” and that’s becoming okay with me. I can only do the best I know. For instance, I teach my children to listen for “the bells” during the Mass so they know when Jesus comes. If that’s all they ever grow up understanding about transubstantiation and connect that with that “awe” they felt when they were 3 yrs old and said, “Oooh Mommy- the bells! He’s here!” Then, I think I will have done something good.

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

I unearthed my Small Catechism...Luther references 1 Corinthians to assert that the bread and wine are still present in the Sacrament.

To further explain Lutherans and transsubtantiation, I've pasted below a post from Pastor Gary Nuss from another website:

"Luther rejected the doctrine of transubstantion, at least in part because he did not accept the Aristotelian metaphysical basis for it.

"The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in its document The Use of the Means of Grace, includes the following:

In this sacrament the crucified and risen Christ is present, giving his true body and blood as food and drink. This real presence is a mystery.

"The Augsburg Confession states: “It is taught among us that the true body and blood of Christ are really present in the Supper of our Lord under the form of bread and wine and are there distributed and received.” The Apology of the Augsburg Confession adds: “We are talking about the presence of the living Christ, knowing that ‘death no longer has dominion over him.’”

“The ‘how’ of Christ’s presence remains as inexplicable in the sacrament as elsewhere. It is a presence that remains ‘hidden’ even though visible media are used in the sacrament. The earthly element is . . . a fit vehicle of the divine presence and it, too, the common stuff of our daily life, participates in the new creation which has already begun.”

"There is no doubt, however, that Luther and Lutheran theology hold firm to the Real Presence, that in the Eucharist we receive the true Body and Blood of Christ.

"Some more information about Luther and his understanding of Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist, from Luther's Smalcald Articles, written in 1537:

Of the Sacrament of the Altar we hold that bread and wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ, and are given and received not only by the godly, but also by wicked Christians.

And that not only one form is to be given. [For] we do not need that high art [specious wisdom] which is to teach us that under the one form there is as much as under both, as the sophists and the Council of Constance teach. For even if it were true that there is as much under one as under both, yet the one form only is not the entire ordinance and institution [made] ordained and commanded by Christ. And we especially condemn and in God's name execrate those who not only omit both forms but also quite autocratically [tyrannically] prohibit, condemn, and blaspheme them as heresy, and so exalt themselves against and above Christ, our Lord and God [opposing and placing themselves ahead of Christ], etc.

As regards transubstantiation, we care nothing about the sophistical subtlety by which they teach that bread and wine leave or lose their own natural substance, and that there remain only the appearance and color of bread, and not true bread. For it is in perfect agreement with Holy Scriptures that there is, and remains, bread, as Paul himself calls it, 1 Cor. 10, 16: The bread which we break. And 1 Cor. 11, 28: Let him so eat of that bread."

 
At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Tom said...

Transubstantiation is the doctrine that, at the consecration, the bread and wine undergo a change ("trans-") of substance from bread and wine to Jesus' Body and Blood, so that the consecrated Host is no longer bread and the consecrated cup no longer holds wine. This is Catholic dogma.

Consubstantiation is the doctrine that, at the consecration, Jesus' Body and Blood become really present along with ("con-") the bread and wine, so that the consecrated host remains bread while also being Jesus' true body. This is what Luther taught.

The Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion are the other major Christian bodies who believe in the Real Presence. They don't teach transubstantiation as dogma, but they don't dogmatically reject it. (The Orthodox don't go in for speaking of the mysteries of the Faith in such philosophical terms, and the Anglicans don't go in for dogmatic definitions.)

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger fran said...

For further explanation of consubstantiation - the thinking that the substance of bread co-exists along with Christ's Body, and that the substance of wine co-exists along with Christ's Blood, during the Consecration, go to:

www.newadvent.org/cathen/04322a.htm

 

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