COMMUNION: TAKING, BREAKING, GIVING
HOMILY – CORPUS CHRISTI – 18 June 2017
Two weeks ago my cell phone died. The same day I discovered my car needed a little panel-beating. Someone said to me, What’ll be the third thing? Yes, I know, bad things happen in threes! – But a combination of three can have a very positive side: as we reflected last Sunday, our one God is a Trinity – Three Persons. This Mass reminds of another 3-fold formula.
Corpus Christi is the day each year when we focus on the Eucharist – the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the bread and wine. There’s a formula associated with this, coming from Jesus’ action at the Last Supper and repeated whenever he was involved in feeding the people: Jesus takes the bread, breaks the bread and gives it to the people. This triple action of taking, breaking, giving, is a key to our understanding not only of what the Mass is about but how our lives as Christians are to be lived.
In today’s Gospel passage, many are unable to accept Jesus’ words about the need to “eat my flesh and drink my blood”: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? they ask. This is not so much a question about cannibalism, but a difficulty in accepting that anyone could give the whole of themselves for the good of someone else. What Jesus is showing is that when you give what you’ve got you will never be without; when you hold back and hoard you will never have enough! When Jesus says, Do this in memory of me, he doesn’t want us to simply repeat his action as a kind of memorial but to give ourselves as he did.
When you love as Jesus loves you will be taken, broken and given, and you’ll never be more whole. The Corpus Christi – the Body of Christ -festival makes the point even stronger.
What exactly is the “Body of Christ”? Is it just the consecrated bread and the cup held out to us by the priest or lay minister? And what is the implication of the “Amen” we say as we receive? As a title, the Body of Christ refers to the whole Church – the People of God – people like us living out our faith in the here and now of each day, as well as those who have died and for whom we pray at every Mass. There are also the saints, our models of Christian living. All of us, past and present, are part of the Communion of Saints – Communion hints at the significance of this body.
A community is a union of people – never a person alone. Communion implies a togetherness which in turn implies some sharing, some giving of one another, some energy from each to keep the community alive. The Body of Christ is the entire grouping of those who follow the way of Jesus. He is present in that Body. When I say AMEN to the Body of Christ, I give my agreement, and therefore my commitment, to the belief that I do not receive Jesus in isolation from all of God’s people.
When I receive the Body of Christ, I receive all of you. In being drawn into the life of Jesus, I am drawn into your life as well. We are one in the Body of Christ. Jesus indicated this when he placed the Eucharist in the context of the washing of his disciples’ feet. Only in so far as we are hospitable and caring of one another, does the life of Jesus embrace us.
The 3-time formula: Jesus took the bread, broke it and gave it, happens in an action of thanksgiving. We give thanks for what we know we have neither created nor achieved on our own. Three: not an omen for bad things, but a formula for a fulfilled life. Pope Francis: “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort.” Your AMEN to your communion can become both an act of faith and a willing self-offering, allowing yourself to be taken, broken and shared.