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Homily for the Feast of Corpus Christi at the Cathedral

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Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde gave the following homily on the Feast of Corpus Christi at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington on Sunday, June 25, 2000.

Let me begin with a story. The scene is a student-filled ballroom of a convention hotel. A well-known priest-theologian had finished his talk. A young student asked him this question: "Why are you a Catholic?"

The priest answered: "Because of the Resurrection." The student pressed the question: "That explains why you are a Christian, but why are you a Catholic?" 

"Because of the Eucharist," he replied. 

Yes, the Eucharist is essential to Catholic belief and fundamental to Catholic life. Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. We do so during the Year of the Great Jubilee, united with so many of our sisters and brothers in Rome where the International Eucharistic Congress has been taking place. As our Holy Father has reminded us: "The Year 2000 will be intensely Eucharistic: in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the Saviour, who took flesh in Mary’s womb twenty centuries ago, continues to offer himself to humanity as the source of divine life" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 55). 

Today’s celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord gives us an opportunity to focus our attention on this basic mystery of our faith, the Eucharist, and to explore the meaning of the Eucharist in our worship and in our daily living. What is the Eucharist? The Eucharist is both a sacrament and a sacrifice. The Eucharist is a sacrament, an outward sign in and through which we meet Jesus who shares His life of grace with us. 

In this Sacrament of Eucharist, we do meet Jesus Himself who comes to us under signs of bread and wine to nourish and strengthen us for our journey through life. We see with human eyes what looks like bread and wine. We see with eyes of faith, not bread and wine, but the Risen Living Lord Jesus. The Eucharist is a sacrifice, the re-presentation or re-living in an unbloody manner of Christ’s Death on Good Friday and of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. 

The scripture readings today stress how God made a covenant with His People, first through Moses and then, finally and forever, through Christ, a covenant sealed and ratified by the shedding of blood. This covenant or bond of love between God and us is renewed and deepened through and in every Eucharist or Mass. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we too promise that "all the Lord has said, we will heed and do." God accepts our words and promises to save us and to give us eternal life through His Son Jesus. 

This Eucharist, which is both sacrament and sacrifice, is basic to our worship as Catholics and our daily living as Catholics. How is this so? The Eucharist is the highest expression of prayer and the summit of worship. The Third Commandment reminds us to worship the Lord on His Day. Because Christ’s Resurrection and the Coming of the Holy Spirit took place on Sunday, the early Christians made the first day of the week "the Lord’s Day." As Catholics, we fulfill the Third Commandment by coming together to worship. How? Through the celebration of the Eucharist. Why through the Eucharist? Because there is no other form of contact with God so intimate and so deep as the Eucharist. In Eucharist, especially at the moment of Communion, the Risen Lord as a Person and each of us as a person become one. Two persons become one in Communion, truly, an interpersonal union. We pray in many ways and in many places and we should. These various kinds of prayer do join us to the Lord and foster a union with Him. But no form of prayer gives the intimacy and the union that the Eucharist gives. 

Imagine! The Lord Himself, Body and Blood, soul and divinity, comes to dwell within us! That is why we worship the Lord through the Eucharist. That is why regardless of how good or bad the music may be, how wonderfully or poorly the priest preaches, how close or distant we feel to the priest, what the motives are of those around us, we should come to celebrate the Eucharist each Sunday and Holy Day. No one and no thing should be an obstacle to our coming to be one with the Lord and, through that oneness, to find the strength we need to live life, with faith, hope and love. Because the Real Presence of Jesus continues, we believe that He is present in a special way in the tabernacle in our churches. We ought to visit the Blessed Sacrament often. The Eucharist is also the summary of our daily living. 

In giving us the Eucharist, Jesus said: "Take it; this is my body." "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many." Jesus not only said those words, He lived them by a life of self-giving and by giving His life on the Cross. You and I are to do the same. Our daily lives must reflect the Eucharist we celebrate. Each day, we must give of ourselves, pour out our lives in service and in love of others. How? In small ways — almost unnoticed, but so real and sometimes not convenient to do. For example: "Daddy, will you come play with me?" "Mom, will you help me?" The phone rings: "I wonder if you could help me…" Or "I need to talk to you because..." An older person in the family: how about a visit, a call or a letter? In Eucharist, we celebrate here in worship what we must live out there in daily life. That is why the Eucharist is essential to Catholic belief and fundamental to Catholic life. 

Maybe now, we can understand better the words of the Opening Prayer: "May we offer to our Father in heaven the solemn pledge of undivided love. May we offer to our brothers and sisters a life poured out in loving service…"

Copyright 2000 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2000