Homily for Corpus Christi 2005
Whether Michelle Corby is innocent or not, the unhappy saga of her trial highlights the struggle various countries have trying to stop the drug trade. It is ironic because many of the countries trying to do this are at the same time promoting the very values which bring such evils about in the first place.
I was listening to someone on the radio the other day talking about the temporary nature of life. The person was not a believer. He was speaking of the absolute truth of the decay and decline of all things. Without the sun to provide energy there could be no life at all. Even the sun will die. So the conclusion which is not an unreasonable one from the point of view of one without faith, is as he said, ‘We’ve had it. I’ve had it, you’ve had it, we are all losers.'
(See ABC transcript on this link.)
It is this very fact of life that everyone, believers and unbelievers alike, have to come to terms with. We are faced with the dilemma that this is all there is and then it ends and all religion is illusion, or there is more beyond what we can know unaided.
That notion of 'we are all losers' is tells us something of what Jesus is saying when he refers to his “flesh and blood”. You may remember Jesus saying to Peter in Matthew's Gospel, “It is not flesh and blood that has revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven” (Matt 16:17). Peter had just confessed his faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. “Flesh and blood” is a metaphor for our humanity in its mortality, its weakness, its tendency to sin. In Ephesians Paul warned his readers that “our struggle is not against the enemies of flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
It is this “flesh and blood” that Jesus, the Son Incarnate, has taken on. When he says he gives us his “flesh to eat and his blood to drink” it is against this background he says it. He would be subject to suffering and death himself. In himself he confronts the same age old question we all face: is this all there is?
So when he offers us his flesh and blood to eat, he is saying first of all that he is a 'loser' for us! He used no supernatural power or trickery to avoid our human lot. This is my body given for you. Secondly, he is inviting us into a deep union with him and through him to God. Thirdly, he invites us to unite our weakness, our flesh and blood, with his. In so doing we would find life. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life! There is nothing temporary about the life he offers. It is eternal and it begins now.
And what is the characteristic of this eternal life we live right now? Simply, a life of selfless love as he loves. Nothing spectacular, nothing out of this world, nothing easy. If we are living selfless love as he has loved we are already sharing in the life of God and will be raised up on the last day. So the religion we follow is not a result of our susceptibility for escapism. And don't we all seek that at times! It is real. It is now. It is eternal. It is not playing harps with angels!
The real illusion is a life lived only for oneself. An attitude made into a gospel by our society. That illusion motivates much of what happens in our world. But it can lead to neurosis, addiction and madness. Moses says today, remember what God has done for you. God had led us out of slavery. A God “who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your ancestors had not known.” God is still doing that for us. That is our faith. That is what we proclaim in the creed and say 'Amen' to in the Eucharist.
So to receive the Eucharist is to be totally receptive to a gift only God can give. That is why we place our hands together and receive the host. We do not take it. Our attitude is as people who know we have nothing, but are willing to receive everything. As we received our life as a gift when were born, so shall we live, and so shall we die. We are saying we take on our mortality as Jesus took on his, simply trusting in God. There is for us no other way of living. Jesus, broken and poured our for us, is the bread of life, nourishment for the journey. The Eucharist is the “summit and source” of our Christian life as Vatican II said in it's famous phrase. But the Eucharist is not the journey up to the summit. Nor is it the journey down from the source. We do not stay here. We must go. We are sent. The Eucharist unites us with Jesus for the journey ahead wherever it leads.