Homily for Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ 2007
Confirmation and First Holy Communion Weekend.
The excitement and joy of these young children at being Confirmed and making their first Eucharist is a parable to us adults of the eagerness we need to have to receive Christ into our lives. Confirmation on Friday night with Bishop Finnigan was a wonderful celebration. My only regret was that I missed out on the beautiful chocolate cake!
Have you ever been to a BYO Meat BBQ? I have sometimes been invited to such BBQ s. However, I sometimes forget to bring the meat! Other times I remember at the last minute and all I can find is some tired old rissoles in the fridge! So I look in envy on those enjoying prime steak. Most people are quite willing to share, luckily for me! So I do not miss out.
It was to a similar but far more serious situation that St Paul was responding in out second reading today from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. He was reminding the Christians who gathered in the town of Corinth what the Eucharist was all about as they seem to have forgotten. All would bring what they could for the Eucharist. Some to eat as a meal and some for the Eucharist itself. The wealthy would bring a lot. Some of the poor none at all.
In those days there were no church buildings as we know them. Christians would meet in someone's house. It would often be the house of a reasonably wealthy person. Their house would be large enough to host the gathering. Yet even these houses would only have room for about 9 or 10 people at the central dining area. Some others could sit around the wall area of the room and the rest outside on the patio. This was aggravated by the community assuming the usual Roman social structure which ensured sharp divisions between classes of people.
Unfortunately, then, the wealthy hosts, tended to invite their special friends into the dining area where there was plenty to share. The not so special guests, the poor, on the patio could only look on with envy. So the Corinthian Church was divided. The Body of Christ was not one body.
St Paul is quite angry about this situation which is the opposite of what the Eucharist is about. "When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord's supper." Rather they are just indulging themselves.
Remember what John says in his letter, (1 John 4:20, 21) 'Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.' The Eucharist at Corinth had become a sham.
The Eucharist is a sacrament of God's love. To celebrate with out love is a contradiction. If we are really to remember Christ in the way he commanded that means we must love as he has loved. Only in this way will we really "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Contrast the Corinthian Church with the gathering that Jesus hosted that we read of in the Gospel today (Luke 9:11-17). In a deserted place the question of how to feed the multitude of people arises. Jesus tells the disciples to give them something to eat themselves rather than send them away. The disciples protest that they don't have enough food to feed them. So Jesus leads them to believe in God's abundant care for his people by the multiplication of loaves and fish. Jesus welcomes all to the banquet. God is lavish in his hospitality. We, however, find it difficult to be so generous. That is the challenge to us and will be to the children receiving Eucharist for the first time.
Jesus is really present under the sacramental signs of bread and wine. But he is only present when the words of institution are spoken by "Christ". That is, a Church that is living the saving love of Christ. The presiding minister can only honestly say those words when they are spoken on behalf of a people who strive love one another as Jesus has loved them. Other wise to say "This is my Body.... This is my Blood." is a lie.
This has been well summarised by saying that: "There can be no Eucharist in a community whose members do not love one another." Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, OP. Jerome Biblical Commentary, p809.