Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Sunday, June 18, 2017
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

     This past Friday, I spent an hour and a half at the Memorial Union across the street working a booth for religious organizations during freshman orientation.  I love freshman orientation.  It is interesting to watch this dance, with the parents pushing, sometimes pulling, their child to come and check out the churches.  But more often, students themselves come up and tell me that they heard good things about St. Thomas Aquinas and want to know how to get connected.

     I met a  couple from Rochester, Minnesota whose son will be a freshman this fall.  He was over talking to another booth, and the mother said these exact words to me, "I just hope he doesn't try to go through Iowa State without the Eucharist."  Now I have often heard parents say they hope their child goes to church, or that she gets involved.  But I don't think I have ever heard a parent say I hope they continue to receive the Eucharist while at Iowa State.

     It would have been good if she would talk with her son and talk about now only what she wants for him, but more importantly, why.  From her own life experience, why is the Eucharist important to her?  What difference has it made in her life?  That would be more helpful to him than the postcards that I was handing out.

     Today is the feast of Corpus Christi.  Jesus makes this rather stark statement:  "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you do not have life within you."  In our 2000 year old tradition, the Eucharist is not just a symbol of sharing, and not even a re-enactment of an event from 2000 years ago. Instead, at every Mass the Eucharist re-presents to each and all of us the sacrifice of Jesus for us.  In a very real sense that we cannot fully understand or explain, the simple bread and wine brought up to the altar become the flesh and blood of Christ.

     In my years as a priest, it is moving to me to see the faces of those who come up to receive the body and blood of Jesus.  Often it seems routine, which is pretty normal and human.  But at times, the faces reveal what is in the heart.  Sometimes it is thanksgiving, and sometimes it is despair.  Faces reveal lots of joy or lots of pain.  Faces reveal burdens that I know the person is carrying, and often burdens that others do not know about.  Especially when I take Communion to the hospital on Wednesdays to people who are ill, often anxious and sometimes dying, the faces reveal what is in the heart.  They reveal the longing to be touched, to be touched by the Divine.

     The first reading from Deuteronomy gives the background for the Gospel.  You remember the 40 years of God's people wandering in the desert, needing daily bread from God just to survive.  This bread is called manna, which in Hebrew literally means, "What is this?"  The Gospel changes the question to "Who is this?"  Manna is the bread that comes from God.  Jesus teaches us that this bread is God.  Manna gives people food for one day.  The Eucharist is the food that leads people to eternal life.

     Deuteronomy also tells the people:  Do not forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of slavery in Egypt, and who now feeds you in the desert.  Perhaps that is what the mother wanted her son to realize.  Do not forget the Lord your God while you are at Iowa State. Do not think you are self-sufficient.  Do not get so caught up in the excitement of youth that you lose sight of eternity.

     I wish I had more time to talk with that mother, and ask her why the Eucharist is so important to her, and why she wants that so much for her son.  She tells her son, and she might say to us, "I just hope you do not try to go through life without the Eucharist."