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Bishop's Homily for the Most Holy Body & Blood of Jesus Christ

June 18, 2017

[St. Anthony Church, Reedley, California]

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Jesus could touch our loved ones who are suffering from cancer or some other life-threatening disease and heal them? Wouldn’t we rejoice if Jesus could come and bring hope to all people who are despairing and who in their despair turn instead to drugs, alcohol or pornography in a desperate attempt to fill the gaping hole in their hearts? Wouldn’t it be so beautiful if Jesus could come to heal and strengthen families so that they could stay together and flourish, despite all their hardships and hurts? Wouldn’t it be a great blessing if Jesus could turn all violence, whether domestic or international, into peace and reconciliation? Wouldn’t it be tremendous if Jesus could eliminate all poverty from the world, so that everyone could live, not as rich people, but with the basic human dignity that everyone deserves?

Yes, these are things we pray for, wish for, and desire with all our hearts. But today’s feast of the Body and Blood of Christ takes us beyond wishful thinking to a celebration of the current fulfillment of these desires and the well founded hope that even more will be fulfilled in the future. This is because Jesus is not a long-ago, far-away, once-upon-a-time person who died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. He is this, of course, but he is also the “living bread come down from heaven,” in the Eucharist. He is truly present with us here, though in a different form, as he was during the times we hear about in the Gospels. And he is not only present here in this church as bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, but through us who participate in his Body and Blood by our communion with him and with one another, he is present in the world. The healing and reconciling ministries he began two thousand years ago, he continues through his living Body, the Church. We who partake of the one bread and the one cup become what we eat and drink, so that the risen Jesus, speaking every language through us, can touch the world with his healing love.

I am sure you are aware, as I am, of people who have been healed of dread diseases and who know for certain that their healing is attributed to the power of prayer and the support of the Christian community, the Body of Christ. The lives of many people are turned from despair to hope when they hear the Word of God preached to them effectively, or more precisely, witnessed to them, in such a way that the freedom and joy experienced by the followers of Jesus becomes contagious in their healing power. Because people in this communion, this Body of Christ, accompany others in their struggles, many bonds have been broken and many demons cast out from the lives of people. Many married couples, despite their imperfections, stay faithful to their vocation to witness the permanent, faithful, and fruitful commitment of Christ to his beloved Bride, the Church, and thus enable many to nurture beautiful families, where all can learn in a loving environment that only God is the center of the universe, but that we are all loved by him and by one another. Many people, with the Blood of the living Jesus flowing in their veins, reach out to the poor to bring them hope, not only by feeding and housing them, but by using their gifts and talents to change the cultural, economic, and political realities that are the root causes of the poverty that robs people of their human dignity. It is because of what we do here that we, who are such weak sinners, have the ability to work miracles in the world in the name of the risen Jesus, the living bread come down from heaven.

So often we participate so routinely in the Mass that we may begin to take it for granted, thinking that it is only a gathering with good people to hear nice things, to sing beautiful songs, and to be personally enriched in our spiritual lives. While all these things are good, none of them is always compelling enough to keep us coming back Sunday after Sunday, year after year, which is why so many of our Catholic brothers and sisters do not join us every week. But if we realize that this is an encounter with the risen Christ, so intimate that we not only hear his Word but eat his flesh and drink his blood, we will realize, too, that this gathering is for the life of the world. The very healing of this war-torn, weary world depends upon it to be healed. And our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ enables us to accomplish a mission we might not otherwise imagine possible, the mission of being the presence of the risen Jesus wherever we go. This Eucharist we celebrate is God’s ingenious way of making Jesus Christ present for all time and in all places, so that his healing and life-giving love can fill the world and subdue it – and ultimately transform this finite world into a world where there is everlasting joy and love in the presence of God.