Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
This solemnity reminds me of the sacred Triduum we celebrate just before Easter. The first night of the Triduum is Holy Thursday or the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to His disciples. This is my body. Then He takes the chalice, blesses it, and gives it to His disciples. This is my blood. The readings today speak of the bread and wine, His body and blood. I am reminded how each church, when we decorate for Holy Thursday, set out a loaf of bread and a glass of wine. It is such a powerful image. Jesus takes something quite common and makes something extraordinary out of it. Jesus has done this quite often, taking something that appears common and makes it extraordinary.
In the Eucharist, Jesus wants to have an intimate relationship with us. In the mass, we use the words, “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours Almighty Father, forever and ever. Amen” Through the Sacraments we are invited into a life in Him. Jesus takes us within Himself such that He can work through us. The Eucharist is the greatest intimacy we have with our God. And it is not just an individual relationship, but a relationship with all of us who participate. We become the body of Christ. Jesus uses the sacrament of marriage as the example. He is the groom, the head of the Church, and the body of Christ is the Bride. As the groom loves his bride so does Christ love His Church.
Through this love we receive the greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our strength, and with all soul. And the second commandment is this: love your neighbor as yourself. In this way, Jesus takes marital love and makes it something extraordinary. So, although in this context it is something extraordinary, we still live and work in the ordinary. We have problems and challenges not just with our spouse but with family and friends. I think marriage gives us examples of different challenges. Let me give you an example. In every marriage, there is one common challenge that men will always face. If you are recently married, you may not have experienced this yet. But if you have been married for several years you know the question and it makes a strong man shake with fear. It has been said often that there is no dumb question, but there are some questions where no matter what you say you can never have the right answer. What is the question? It happens as you and your wife are preparing to go out for a nice dinner and a show on Saturday night. You are just about to leave when your beautiful wife turns to you and says, “Does this dress make me look fat?” If you say yes, the evening is a total disaster before it even begins. If you say no, she will not believe you and she will say you are not telling the truth and an argument begins that never ends. To this question, I have been told many clever responses, but none work. Some men try the selective hearing option. You cannot even pretend you did not hear the question. Let me assure you, there is no answer to this question.
God created us man and woman. Each of us is to be treated with dignity and respect. We all desire love. We all want to be treated fairly and equitably. But men and women just do not think the same or see things from the same perspective. Where a woman will ask if a dress makes her look fat, a man will not ask if his hat covers the bald spot on his head. In every relationship, we are ordered toward the common good of our spouse. At the start of relationship, we are sensitive to the needs and desires of our spouse. Over time, we are not so attentive. Little things we used to do are forgotten. It is not that we do not love one another, we have become comfortable in our life together. When the wife asks if this dress makes her look fat she is asking if you are still paying attention to her. Do you still find her attractive and desirable?
We have a strong issue of racism today. There is something of a parallel with the example I have given you between men and women and with people of different races. It is my opinion that you cannot understand how another thinks or feels unless you have lived life as they have. And if you are in a position of privilege it becomes even more difficult. There are phrases used in society today that help us to see racism. Phrases such as: As long as they stay where they are, I have no problem with them. If they want to live in America then they should learn English, our grandparents did. The first statement teaches and hurts. Teaches because our children hear the phrase and that becomes their understanding. Hurts because there is no welcome, no charity. It is the sin of indifference. A sin that perhaps we will not have to deal with, but our grandchildren will have to address our indifference in the decade. And learning English, yes, we all need to learn English. We study twelve years in school and even native speakers do not do well with it. And we should recall that grandparents did learn English, what they could, but when they came together as a group or family, they spoke their native language. Should we not give others the opportunity to do the same?
Another example, look at your church. Is it inviting to other cultures? Why would an African American want to come to your church? If all you have are statues of European saints, is that welcoming to people of color? Some will say well they should be able to see Jesus in the white-faced saints. Then we should be able to see Jesus in the African saints. Or the toys your children play with today. What nationality are they? These are just little examples of how we promote racism in our culture.
A relationship needs to be developed by people of all races. Every day we are to begin anew. Look with new eyes what is your home and where you work. Is it a place open to all people or are there subtle hints of racism? Listen to the words you speak. Are they words of invitation or do they push people away?
Starting today, work to grow closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.