22 May 2008
“‘Do this in remembrance of me.’” (1 Cor. 11:24) In the name …
Fr. Sen. Soltysiak, Fr. Sen. Banas, Fr. Walter, and faithful of the Central Seniorate gathered here this evening for the Feast of Corpus Christi, three days ago I accompanied my daughter Kristin and a van load of her teenage World History classmates on a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. That sounds like an introduction to a sermon on Penance rather than the Eucharist, but I digress. After our tour of the museum, we walked a couple of blocks over to Boylston St. for lunch. When we had all finished, the teacher thought it the most efficient use of time to walk back to the museum himself to pick up the van. He asked me to stay put and watch the kids, and that he’d pick us up right there on the sidewalk. Knowing that this could take a bit of time I took the kids for a walk. No more than a few feet down the block is the bookstore for the Berklee College of Music. I had wanted to do this for a long time. I asked the kids to wait a while, I ran in the store, and I bought myself a tee-shirt with “Berklee College of Music” printed on the front and “Eat. Sleep. Music” printed on the back. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time because I am notoriously without musical talent. But now, with my Berklee tee-shirt on, I can go back to Boston this summer and wave at my supposed classmates as they’re carrying their cellos, violins and whatever else around Boylston St. and they can think of me as one of their own: a person of music. I’m planning to go to Tanglewood out in the Berkshires to hear some concerts this summer, and as others are just listening to the music they may see me in my Berklee tee-shirt and think, “Oh I wonder if he can play like that?” Because of one tee-shirt I can come across, for a change, as a person blessed with musical talent.
Today we gather together to celebrate the Body of Christ, Corpus Christi. It wouldn’t have been proper to celebrate this wondrous mystery of Jesus’ sacramental presence among us on the day of its institution, which was Holy Thursday. The Last Supper is when Jesus said “This is my body” and “This is my blood,” but it’s also the night He said, “One of you will betray me.” And the Passion begins. The crucifixion is not even 24 hours away. So after the church has celebrated the fullness of Easter for its seven weeks, and after we have experienced Pentecost with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and have tied all of this together with Trinity Sunday, we have now finally come to the first oppor-tunity to give proper attention and celebration to the mystery of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ.
It’s important that we gather here this night to reverence this holy sacrament, what the Mass itself calls a mystery of faith. This sacrament is treated differently than the others. This is the only sacrament that is referred to in two different contexts. We speak of the Holy Eucharist as the sacrament reserved in the tabernacle of the altar or displayed in the monstrance, and we can also refer Holy Communion as the faithful reception of that Holy Eucharist. One refers to the entity, the other to the act of receiving it. And this difference makes a difference. We can talk about holy water, but no one points to it and says “Baptism.” We can have a Bible on the shelf, but again, the sacrament is the Word of God Heard and Preached. A priest can carry holy oils into the hospital, but that can’t be confused with the sacrament of Holy Unction. But there is a separate reference to the substance of the Holy Eucharist and the act of receiving Holy Communion, and like I said, this difference makes a difference.
Penance doesn’t do anyone any good if they don’t confess their own sins. Matrimony is meaningless without two people pledging their love to each other. Holy Orders aren’t going to serve the church unless there are people willing to enter Sacred Vocations. But on the other hand, the Eucharist is stand-alone holy. It doesn’t have to be received as Holy Communion for it to be sacrament. Even if there was no one in this building, the Eucharist reserved in that tabernacle is holy, even if an individual host keeps getting lost at the bottom of the ciborium and sits there for years so that it’s never shared as Holy Communion, it is holy. It is sacrament. This is why the Holy Eucharist is the only sacrament that could possibly be carried in procession as we will shortly do to the four altars so that its sanctity is conveyed just by its approach rather than its reception.
This independent quality of the sacrament, however, can lessen our own spiritual sense of responsibility towards the sacrament as Holy Communion. We can imagine that if the Eucharist is stand-alone holy, then its reception as Communion should make us automatically holy. It’s like putting on the Berklee College of Music tee-shirt. When I’m wearing it, I may look like a musician, but my musical ability hasn’t changed at all. If I receive the Eucharist, if I physically approach the altar and take the consecrated elements into my body, but if I don’t receive it with the intention of coming into Holy Communion with Christ, if I don’t receive it with the intention of coming into Holy Communion with all other believers, if I don’t let it morally change me and spiritually refresh me, then the holiness of the sacrament is devalued.
As church we emphasize the two hour fast and the necessity of Confession as the requirements of Holy Communion’s reception, but maybe we should be equally diligent in stressing the requirements of Holy Communion’s expression, that the holiness of the Eucharist only begins when we receive it as Communion, and that it reaches its fullest potential when we realize that we carry the presence of Christ with us in Communion out from this House of God and into the world of God. When we live our daily lives in communion with Christ because of the Holy Communion we receive here, then the Eucharist is not only worn for show like a Berklee tee-shirt, then the Eucharist has truly for us become the Body of Christ, Corpus Christi, and it is for this fullness of the sacrament that we pray this evening in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo