Monday 11 June 2012
Heaven on Earth: Corpus Christi
Our Parish Priest (Father Dickson) has given me permission to reproduce his homily given on Corpus Christi: after all, a homily that has been given is in the public domain, isn’t it?!
Every blessing we have; every good gift we enjoy comes to us from Christ Who brought grace into the world and Who is Present in the Holy Eucharist. As such the Eucharist should be at the centre of our lives. As Vatican II reminded us, the Eucharist is the source and summit –the foundation and goal- of our lives. Yet so many have stopped coming to Mass.
We were promised a great renewal by Vatican Council II, but we have gone from 80% practice and 20% lapsation rates, to 20% practice and 80% lapsation rates -that is not renewal; it is a reversal into devastation. If people only knew what the Mass is they would surely value it more, but faith is weak today, and in fact, most people I know between the ages of 15 and 50 have little or no understanding of the Eucharist. For many it is simply ‘a community meal with Jesus’, and though the presence of Jesus should be enough to bring us flocking to the door, Mass is so much more. Three things need to be remembered if the Mass is to be meaningful to us.
First, it is not the Last Supper that we specifically commemorate; the central aspect of Mass is the Cross; Calvary. St Paul does not say, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you are proclaiming the Lord’s Supper” -though the Last Supper gives us the context and form of the Mass. Nor does he say, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you are proclaiming the Lord’s Resurrection” -though it is the Risen Lord Who is Present on the altar. What St Paul does say is “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you are proclaiming the Lord’s death”. As today’s Opening Prayer tells us, Our Lord instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of His Passion; as the memorial of His Body given up and His Blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of our sins. So to come to Mass is to come to Calvary; to stand with Our Blessed Lady and St John at the foot of the Cross as the Blood and water flow from the side of Christ to wash us clean and fill us with grace.
Second, since Calvary cannot be Present unless Christ Himself is Present, we come into the Real Presence of Our Lord at Mass: Our Lord Who is Present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; indeed, Present in His very Person: “He who eats Me...”. To come to Mass is also then, to be in the Presence of the Saviour; of God Himself: to handle the Host is to handle God. This is no mere symbolic presence; people walked away from our Lord because, as the Greek word here tells us, Our Lord was very graphic; very concrete: we are to gnaw at His flesh; to chew. And not only at His flesh, but His very Person: “He who eats Me...”. ‘To eat’ is a very sanitised version of what is in the Greek. So remember, anytime we enter a Catholic Church we are entering into the Presence of God. Gargoyles on the outside of Medieval Churches remind us that the world is our battlefield where we fight against the world, the flesh and the devil; images of saints inside the Church remind us that we have entered Heaven; that we are in the Presence of God and all His angels and saints; we have left the world outside. It is striking to remember that -good and holy though other folk may be- the God others worship we possess in our Tabernacles. That should humble us, and inspire us to come humbly to the Eucharist not just weekly, but daily, if we can.
Finally, Mass is not only Calvary and the Resurrection, but the banquet of the Lamb in Heaven. This is the Supper of the Mass, and the Church reminds us of this very clearly at the invitation to Holy Communion in the New (or Ordinary) Form of Mass: “Behold the Lamb of God; Behold Him Who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.” which is a quote from the angel in Revelation 19 who calls out when the New Jerusalem is established: “Write this! Blessed are those who are called to the wedding feast of the Lamb!”; it is a quote which reminds us that when we come to Holy Communion we come to Heaven; that we anticipate by sacramental participation, our partaking in the Wedding Feast of the saved at the end of the world.
In coming to Mass then, we come to the foot of Calvary; we come to the tomb of the Resurrection; we come to Heaven and participate in its Banquet. How can anyone not want to be here? Speak to those you know who are lapsed; tell them about the wonder that is the Mass and invite them back. Gently, respectfully -but clearly- ask them to come back to Heaven on earth... and not just to Mass, but the complete living out of the Catholic Faith.