Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Year B)

Jun 2, 2024 Views 367 Listen 3 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Exodus (24:3-8)

When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the Lord, they all answered with one voice, "We will do everything that the Lord has told us." Moses then wrote down all the words of the Lord and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, "All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do." Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of His."

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18)


(R) I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.

How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. (R)

Previous in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones. I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; you have loosed my bonds. (R)

To you will I offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews (9:11-15)

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a young cow's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (14:12-16, 22-26)

On the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?"

He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the Master of the house", the Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. "Make the preparations for us there."

The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Then after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, also known as Corpus Christi in Latin, goes back to the 13th century, when it was established by Pope Urban IV to celebrate the "mystery of the nourishing and enduring presence" of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, but its roots, as today's readings suggest, go far back to the institution of the Holy Eucharist by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper and to the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. However, for a meaningful celebration of this feast, it is important that we understand the symbolism. From the Old Testament we learn that God established a covenant partnership with the descendants of Abraham, or Israelites, as a condition of their freedom from slavery. The covenant was that if the Israelites keep God's Law given through Moses, they will be blessed with prosperity and protection from other nations.

Today's first reading from the Book of Exodus describes that in response to the Lord's deliverance, Moses set up an altar and asked some young men to slaughter bulls and then He sprinkled their blood over the altar and the people as a sign of ratification of the covenant. However, because of their disobedience and failure to keep the rules of the covenant, God made them wander for forty years in the desert. Yet, God did not abandon them, and, as part of His continuing love and care, He fed them with a special food from heaven called "manna." When they finally passed over and settled in the Promised Land, they remembered and gave thanks to God in what was called the Passover Meal. This was the meal that Christ and his disciples were celebrating in a room in Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion.

During the meal, Jesus shared a loaf of bread with the disciples and said, "This is My Body", and then He gave them a cup of wine and said, "This is My Blood." He did not say, "This is like my body and like my blood; nor did He say, "This is a symbol of my body and blood." So, we Catholic Christians believe that the consecrated bread and wine are not merely symbolic representations of the body and blood of Christ but rather, literally, the body and blood of Christ. The manna in the desert satisfied the Israelites of their immediate need for physical nourishment but by way of contrast, Christ's body and blood give us spiritual nourishment. In the Passover Meal the Israelites remembered the Exodus and gave thanks for God's saving grace within. Whereas, in the Eucharist, instituted by Christ, we not only remember and give thanks for God's saving acts in history but also Christ's sacrifice on Calvary.

The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Christ, as the new High Priest, has entered the permanent heavenly sanctuary that is not of human making, and He did so not with the blood of animal sacrifices, but with the sacred blood of his own sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. As Christ is both the High Priest and the victim, His sacrifice is superior to the old covenant's use of animal sacrifices. So, by a huge act of faith, we believe that through the power of the Holy Spirit and the words of Christ spoken by the priest, the bread and wine become really the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Down through the centuries the Church has used diverse forms of ceremonial and ritual prayers and scriptural texts to express, protect and enhance the sacredness of the moment of consecration of the bread and wine in the Eucharist, also called the Mass.

For many centuries, the special sacredness accorded to the consecrated bread and wine made the faithful look at them with much fear and superstition and even feel that God is distant, remote and unreachable. They received only the consecrated bread and no one could touch it except the priest, and even then, his two fingers had to be kept joined until the end of the Mass. Over the course of time, the faithful even started to believe that instead of receiving it, it was sufficient for them to look at it from afar to receive the sacramental grace needed for their material or spiritual good. Hence the priest would lift the consecrated bread up for the believers to see. And if necessary, the priest would hold it up for a longer period of time, for the longer they gazed at it, the more graces they received. There had been also many stories about consecrated bread literally bleeding and wine turning into real human blood.

The practice of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling rather than standing was far more common and, more importantly, the faithful would go to the altar rails to receive it. Also, while the priest distributed communion a server would hold a metal plate under the chin of the communicant to avoid the danger of the sacred bread or some fragment of it falling. Another practice that was deeply rooted in the traditions of the Church was fasting before receiving the Eucharist. Fast was seen not merely as a ritualistic observance but as a profound spiritual discipline that prepared believers to receive the Eucharist. There was a time when communicants abstained from food and drink, except water or medicine, since midnight of the night before; then it was three hours before, and then one hour before. Thus, a kind of mystical phenomenon was surrounding the Holy Eucharist until the 1960s when the Church introduced some changes in the liturgical and devotional practices.

The changes were meant to not only make it easier for the faithful to receive Holy Communion, but also to bring them closer to God and Christ. Today, we walk up to the priest to receive Communion. We can choose to receive communion either keeling or standing and either on the tongue or in the hand. We can receive both species in the Body and Blood of Christ. Altar rails and communion plates have become less common. However, we cannot deny the fact that in the aftermath of the liturgical reforms we have lost our love, reverence and devotion for the Holy Eucharist to some extent. There has been a slow but sure slide into what is called "Eucharistic irreverence," instead of the "Eucharistic wonder and amazement." Unfortunately, even the less strict, current requirements are frequently disregarded altogether. We can see that in the indifferent manner in which some of the faithful come to receive communion. I think this is because of our lack of proper understanding of and familiarity with the Eucharist.

In some sense, familiarity with the Eucharist is wonderful and most desirable for it brings us to deeper and closer intimacy with Christ. However, we receive so often the Eucharist that, at the very least, our familiarity leads us to indifference. At the very worst, it breeds contempt for the Body and Blood of Christ. So, many of us lose our sense of awe and wonder at the great sacrifice that Jesus has made. We lose the real sense of being united in, and with, Christ. It's because perhaps in the past the effectiveness of the Eucharist was diluted by it being too remote from us. But now, its effectiveness and meaning are diluted by being too close to us. So now, what can we do to preserve the special sacredness of the Holy Eucharist? Today, I would like to remind you of a few things although you know them.

  • When you enter a Church to pray alone or to attend Mass, consciously remind yourselves that you are entering a sacred place, the House of God and the place of our encounter with God. If there is a tabernacle and the red lamp near it is lit, it means that it contains the "holy of holies," and that Christ dwells with us in a very special way in the Holy Eucharist. Therefore, we should make a deliberate and conscious genuflection or a deep bow towards the tabernacle as an expression of our reverence and adoration of Christ.

  • The Eucharistic prayer is really the centre or high point of the Holy Mass. The priest recites the prayer alone so quickly that if you blink you find yourself standing for the Lord's Prayer before you know it. So, during the prayer whether we stand or kneel, we should be united in our thoughts and hearts in praise and thanksgiving offered to God for the gift of His only Son.

  • If we are going to receive communion in the hand, we must ensure that our hands are clean. If not, on that occasion, we must receive it on the tongue. We should avoid chewing gum and eating candies during the Holy Mass and prior to receiving communion. In fact, we should abstain from all food and drink, with the exception of water and medicine, at least one hour before the Holy Mass.

  • When the priest or the extraordinary minister of the Holy Communion offers the consecrated bread with the words "the Body of Christ," we should look at it, realise what it is and express our assent saying "Amen", not "Thank you." We should handle the Eucharist with the utmost respect and devotion and consume the Body of Christ in front of the priest, not halfway down the church. Likewise, we should receive the Blood of Christ by saying "Amen". We should carefully dip the consecrated bread into the consecrated wine and immediately consume it. When we return to our seat, we should sit or kneel in silent communication with Christ who is now in our hearts. Thus, the Body and Blood of Christ should be treated in the most holy manner: in body, mind, and spirit.

As we celebrate this great feast day of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we shall pray earnestly for the gift of faith that enables us to understand and embrace more fully this mystery, which St. Thomas Aquinas called, "the greatest miracle that Christ ever worked on earth," and to approach the Holy Eucharist with all due reverence, humility and love.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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