June 22, 2014

CORPUS CHRISTI (A)

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. Ė John 6: 54

   When Tom Brokaw interviewed a survivor of the battle on Okinawa, he was told this story. His company had taken heavy casualties. Their captain had been killed, leaving him in command. He remembered crouching in a shell hole & he was so stressed that he contemplated just standing up & letting a bullet end it all. Seemingly out of nowhere a catholic chaplain came zig-zaging across the field distributing communion to the frightened soldiers. When the priest gave it to him, he suddenly felt able to lead, & that made all the difference.

   The Mass is such a routine thing for us in peacetime that it is easy for us to take it for granted. We forget how much trouble God has gone to & continues to go to in order to see to it that that we are nourished at the center of our being, not just in the tummy. Of all the ways that God feeds us, there is this unique, supreme way we call the Eucharist.

   We need to be nourished into wholeness of life at each moment of our lives. We tend to be aware of this, to some degree, when there is a crisis. But when things are going well we too easily forget that we need this kind of nourishment just as much. The bread of life is a remedy for the emptiness & uneasiness we feel even when things are going well. That is why it is the most priceless, the most valuable gift we can ever share with another person.

   If we genuinely care about our family & friends, there are many things we can offer them to help them enrich their lives, but nothing as much as this bread, which is to say, Jesus Christ. The disciples of Jesus in the New Testament are sharers of bread. They break the bread & share it with the world, & our discipleship is not complete if we are not sharing Him also. He is ours both to partake of & to share.

   Philippe Vernier, a man devoted to Christ, was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II. Although he was subjected to many forms of indignity, he kept the faith, & he survived. After the war, an American officer who visited him reported that the experience was the greatest inspiration of his life. Later, Vernier wrote the officer a letter in which he said,

   If you are a disciple of the Master, it is up to you to illumine the earth. You do not have to groan over what it lacks, you are there to bring it what it needs: the bread of Life. Where hatred, malice & discord reign in the world, you will put pardon & peace. For lying, you will bring truth. For despair, hope. For doubt, faith. For sadness you will bring joy.

   If you are in the smallest degree the servant of God, all these virtues of the Bread of Life you will carry with you. Do not be frightened by a mission so vast. You are only the torch-bearer. The fire within you, even if it burns you, is never lit by you. It uses you like it uses the oil of a lamp. You hold it, you carry it around, but it is the fire of Christ that gives light to the world & to you yourself, at the same time.

   Whenever we get depressed about how fouled-up our own lives are, not to mention the world around us, we need only remember that Godís remedy for soul-sickness is ready to hand in the Mass. The cure may not be swift or dramatic, but with time it helps us to show forth a ray of light where there would only be doom & gloom otherwise. How much the world needs to see the fire of Godís love flaming up in Christís followers! How much we need to see it within our own parish family!  AMEN!