Corpus Christi Homily– Year C- Deacon Pat Kearns
I can recall a few years ago being in the small town of San Lucas Tolimán, in Guatemala, during the Feast of Corpus Christi. The Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. I had always heard of how the Catholic people of these small towns in Central and South America had elaborately celebrated their feast days but had never witnessed it first-hand before. The night before the celebration the local priest had asked if I would help him with the procession the next day. Of course, I said, yes. Nervously, I waited to see what would happen next. I had been told very little of what to expect but that the town’s people would be decorating the streets and that we would process through the town carrying Jesus in the Holy Eucharist housed in the monstrance. I had awoken early the next morning, actually at 3 a.m. with the noise of the townsfolk beginning their ritual of making what they call “Alfombras” or carpets, down the middle of the streets. I watched as each family, in front of their home, take pride in laying down upon the ground with great reverence and precision their elaborate designs that resembled mosaics using tropical flowers, colored sawdust, banana leaves, pine needles, fruit and vegetables, and various other items in preparation of the holy procession. These holy carpets ran through the entire town and as we started the procession at 12 noon the families were still frantically making their final touches. Led by two dozen altar boys, many swinging thuribles of burning incense, and shaded by a canopy held over my head by four of the local leaders, we began our journey through the town. The entire town, hundreds of people partook in the procession and followed as we carried Jesus over the most beautiful and heavenly road I had ever traveled. Periodically we would stop the procession to enter a home which inside had prepared an altar to receive Jesus for a brief period of rest. But the most amazing thing was that as we entered the home everyone inside immediately fell to their knees upon the sight of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The encounter was so powerful that many began to weep in Christ’s presence. This not only occurred once but in every house that we entered during the procession. After three hours, and walking many miles, we finally ended the procession in front of the 500-year-old church, and while holding Jesus in my arms, and as I turned to face the crowd, I could see the entire town looking toward Christ and awaiting their blessing. I could barely contain the emotion provoked by the humility and respect exhibited by those Guatemalans. To this day I carry this experience close to my heart and wonder what it was that allowed those Mayan Indians and Ladinos to so clearly see Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
What is their pain and suffering that they had endured in their lives?
Did it have something to do with surrendering their will?
Was it somehow related to sacrifice?
Was it a sign of their humility?
Or was it something else?
Our lives might not have as much difficulty as those in 3rd countries, but many times in our lives God asks us too, to do or endure difficult things. He asks us to give of ourselves by obeying his will when our natural tendency is to do things our own way. He wants us to follow the Church teachings and our well-formed conscience, but that often means giving something up. It means self-sacrifice. In those moments, we sometimes turn away from God because we are afraid that if we give something up for God, we won't have anything left for ourselves. In today’s Gospel, in the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus addresses that fear. The Apostles were no doubt hungry after a long day of ministry. They barely had enough food to feed themselves - only five loaves of bread and two fish for a dozen hearty men. Yet, Jesus asks them to give it all away. Can you picture their sad, hungry, and tired faces as they reluctantly hand over their dinner to Jesus? But Jesus took the loaves, blessed them, broke them, and gave them back to the disciples to distribute to the crowds. And at the end, each disciple had an entire basketful left over for himself. By giving the little they had to Christ, they received much more in return. Christ will never, never be outdone in generosity. The more we give to him, the more we will receive. As St. Luke had described using the words of Christ: "Give, and gifts will be given to you; by good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you." When God asks us to empty ourselves, it's only so he can have room to fill us up with something better. (pause) Well, at this point you might be wondering what does this message have to do with my life? How is it applicable to me? What is it that God asking of me today? These are all great questions and the answers are probably as unique and individual as all of you are. But maybe he is asking some of us to give up a habit of sin or to confess a sin that has been poisoning our lives and the lives of those around us. Maybe he has put on our hearts a desire to support the Church more directly, with some of our time, some of our talents, or even with some of our treasure. Maybe he is simply asking some of us to put our worries and sufferings into his hands and to let go. Maybe he is calling some of us to leave everything behind and set out on the adventure of a vocation to the priesthood or the consecrated life. Whatever it is, however frightening such a sacrifice may appear, in this Mass we can take courage because Jesus is about to show us once again just how marvelous his power is. In a few moments, we are going to offer him ordinary bread and wine. And through the ministry of his priest, he will take those gifts, bless them, and transform them into something extraordinary, more miraculous than even the multiplication of loaves: He will make them become his own presence, his own body, blood, soul, and divinity. If he can do that, if he can transform ordinary bread and wine into heavenly food, surely, he can take whatever he is asking us to give to him, and turn it into something wonderful, much more wonderful than we can imagine. If he's asking us to give him something, it's only because he wants to give us much more in return. (Pause)
In conclusion of God’s message to us here today, I hope and pray that through the power of God’s grace, we will be able to see as the Guatemalan people had seen through their eyes of faith, the truth and reality of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist (Corpus Christi), and that when we see him too, we will be drawn to fall to our knees in awe and joy, that our hearts will burst in love, and that we humbly weep knowing that we are in the presence of God, That we possess docility to respond to his call, to empty ourselves in order to be filled with his grace, and to know without a doubt, that he loves us, that He truly, truly, loves us.