Sent: Sunday, 2 June 2013.
Corpus Christi Homily
Homily for Body and Blood of Christ, 2013, Year C
An angler sat on the grassy bank with the salmon he had just caught lying beside him. He was waiting for the young family he had befriended. The salmon was to be his parting gift to them at the end of their holiday. Their car arrived. Greetings were exchanged and the gift was handed over. ‘We have a long journey ahead’, they said. ‘Well, then, their friend rejoined, ‘Let you be driving and driving!’ These were words of blessing. He was saying to them: The road may be long, but may you go safely all the way to your destination. In the years to come, as that family grew up, these words were often used in blessing whenever they parted from each other.
It was a word of blessing and a gift of bread and wine that Abraham received when he returned from battle. He had gone to rescue his kinsman, who had been taken captive. On his return the priest-king Melchizedek blessed Abraham for his courage and blessed God for guarding him. This ancient story of blessing belongs to a time two thousand years before Christ, but its meaning points forward to the great blessing that will come upon the world in him. The blessing given to Abraham will be fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
St Paul explains this blessing to the early Christians of Corinth, by telling them the story of the Last Supper. It was a final parting of friends, and Jesus wanted to give them a gift as he left them. As we know so well, he took bread and wine, blessed them and said, ‘This is my body. This is my blood. Do this as a memorial of me.’
In the parting of friends, the separation is overcome by the giving of gifts and the words of blessing. ‘Goodbye’ means ‘God be with you’. In the gift that Jesus gives, he truly is with us always. He has given us a gift for the journey of life. It is a personal gift and one for the whole community. In fact, it is a gift that makes community: we share Christ as we share the bread and wine.
This feast of Corpus Christi celebrates the fact that we are the Body of Christ. The gift that we receive, the sacrament that we celebrate in the Mass, transforms us from a crowd of people into a family of faith; from separate individuals into the brothers and sisters of Christ; from a wandering mass of people into the people of God; from an aimless group into a journeying people. We have a destination and we are travelling together into a Promised Land.
In a way our procession through the cloisters and back into the Church is a symbol of our lives. We are on a journey and we follow the one who alone can lead us to our true destination. And we are blessed on our way and fed by God’s own life. We must do the same for the great crowd of hungry people who seek to have their hunger satisfied and who are looking for direction in their own lives.