On this solemnity, meaning the highest and most important of feasts, of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, what do St. Faustina, Lady Gaga, Pope Francis, Flannery O’Connor and this bag of Doritos have in common? Hopefully by the end of the homily you’ll know.
Before we go there, a quick look at the uniqueness of Luke’s gospel in regards to the gift of holy Eucharist.
Luke’s account of the multiplication of the loaves and fish is the first of three narratives in his gospel that share a Eucharistic motif.
The Last Supper itself and the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus share similar features that offer insight into the sacred mystery.
The evening setting, “when the day was drawing to a close,” besides being the ordinary time for the main meal, connects the three accounts, creating a solemn atmosphere as the disciples long for Jesus to remain with them.
Jesus teaches and heals those who are with him before sharing in the meal.
Jesus’ actions over the bread, identical in all three scenes, add to the solemnity of Eucharistic overtones: he took the bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them.
Today’s account foreshadows the Last Supper even as it hints about the lasting significance for the Church. Jesus teaches and heals. The Eucharist in the Liturgy of the Word teaches and in the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, heals the sinner.
Because Jesus provides for the multitudes in abundance, even when the provisions are meager, we understand that the Church will not be left without the bread that sustains it.
When Jesus’ disciples and those who come after them are obedient to his instructions they will feed the crowds with food that truly satisfies. That is what we celebrate at this very moment.
With this in mind, a prayer of St. Faustina: “I adore you, Lord and Creator, hidden in the most Blessed Sacrament. I adore you for all the works of your hands, that reveal to me so much wisdom, goodness, and mercy, O Lord.
“You have spread so much beauty over the earth, and it tells me about your beauty, even though these beautiful things are but a faint reflection of you, O incomprehensible beauty. And although you have hidden yourself and concealed your beauty, my eye, enlightened by faith, reaches you, and my soul recognizes its Creator, its highest good, and my heart is completely immersed in prayer of adoration of You.”
Eyes of faith see more deeply and comprehend more fully this precious gift.
I do not have an Instagram account nor am I a fan of Lady Gaga. Fr. Phil Bloom, Pastor of our Lady of the Valley parish in Monroe pointed this out to me at Priest’s Days.
There is a picture on Instagram of Lady Gaga standing next to an elderly priest. He is wearing a Roman collar, looking toward the camera with a happy expression.
Next to him Lady Gaga, not wearing some outlandish dress, but what looks like a flannel shirt buttoned to the top, has her arm draped over the priest’s shoulder. Below the picture is this quote: “Thank you Fr. Duffel for a beautiful homily… I was so moved today when you said, ‘the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but food that God gives us.’”
She got it. Let’s pray that she may one day live it.
In his homily last year on this solemnity, Pope Francis preached these words: “Jesus prepares a place for us here below, because the Eucharist is the beating heart of the Church. (Wow, what a beautiful image!) It gives her birth and rebirth; it gathers her together and gives her strength.
“But the Eucharist also prepares for us a place on high, in eternity, for it is the bread of heaven. It comes down from heaven – it is the only matter on earth that savors of eternity.
“It is the bread of things to come; even now, it grants us the foretaste of a future infinitely greater than all we can hope for or imagine. It is the bread that sates our greatest expectations and feeds our finest dreams.
“It is, in a word, the pledge of eternal life—not simply a promise but a pledge, a concrete anticipation of what awaits us there. The Eucharist is our ‘reservation’ for the heavenly banquet, it is Jesus himself, as food for our journey towards eternal life and happiness.
“In the consecrated host and chalice of wine, Jesus prepares for us food for our spiritual nourishment. The Eucharist is simple food, yet it is the only food that satisfies. There we encounter Jesus truly. We share his life and feel his love. There you can realize that his death and resurrection are for you.
“When you worship Jesus in the Eucharist, you receive from him the Holy Spirit and you find peace and joy. Let us choose this food of life! Let us make Mass our priority! Let us rediscover Eucharistic Adoration in our communities! Let us implore the grace to hunger for God with an insatiable desire to receive what Jesus has prepared for us.”
At this Mass, let us implore the grace to “hunger for God.”
Flannery O’Connor, Catholic writer, sent a letter to a friend describing a now famous literary gathering in the late 1940s, where Mary McCarthy, a well-known writer and essayist was in attendance. The two spar a bit over the Eucharist.
She writes: “Well, toward morning the conversation turned to the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. [Mary McCarthy] said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one.
“I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of, but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”
It is the center of existence; all the rest of life is expendable.
“They all ate and were satisfied.” Luke only uses the word satisfied two other times in his gospel. Each time he is referring to that deep longing of our hearts that only God can fill. Jesus, and only Jesus is able to satisfy our deepest hunger in the gift of the Eucharist.
St. Augustine spoke of it so well when he wrote, “you have formed us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Our hearts are made for God and we will always be frustrated and dissatisfied when we try to fill them with other things, with the junk food of life.
The Eucharist, holy Mass is Jesus’ utmost gift to us, his very self, his body and blood, soul and divinity – nothing held back, all sacrificed for us on the cross, made present and real in all its fullness here and now.
Let us M. A. S. S. – Make All Sundays Sacred as we celebrate together at this earthly, yet heavenly banquet.