HOMILY FOR THE …

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST.

By Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D

 

Today we have another special celebration in the Church. We are celebrating the solemnity of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the most important treasure of the Church, the most precious of the gifts we received from our Lord Jesus Christ. We are today celebrating the summit of the Church’s life and ministry.

On Holy Thursday evening we marked the institution of the most wondrous sacrament of the Holy Eucharist but today we celebrate it with joy and appreciation.

Without much involvement in the historical development of the solemnity, we shall settle on making explications as well as drawing out its implications to our Christian life.

THE HOLY EUCHARIST AS A SACRAMENT

The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ known as the Holy Eucharist is actually a sacrament. As a sacrament it is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ together with his soul and divinity, substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine.

Like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, we are again faced with a mystery which human reason alone unaided by faith cannot grasp. The puzzle here is how the bread and wine we perceive with the senses can at the same time be REALLY (not like) the true body and blood soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Chris

THE BIBLICAL INSTITUTION

The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ during the last supper with the apostles. The references to the institution can be found in the following passages

  1. Matt. 26:26-30
  2. Mk. 14:22-26
  3. Luke 22: 14-20
  4. I Cor. 11:23-25

Before the institution as found in the above mentioned passages, our Lord gave an extensive teaching on the nature and importance of the Eucharist in the gospel of John (6:33-58). Among other things our Lord said: “I tell you the truth if you do not eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you will not have life in you.”

On the institution proper we are told that on that night before he was betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, gave thanks to God and breaking it, he gave it to his disciples and said: “Take and eat this is my body” and taking the cup filled with wine he gave it to them saying: “take and drink this is my blood”. Concluding he said: “Do this in remembrance of me”.

THE SUBSTANTIAL CHANGE (TRANSUBSTANTIATION)

The puzzle or better put, the mystery of “the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” under the appearances of bread and wine is embedded in the doctrine of TRANSUBSTANTIATION.

In metaphysics the substance of any reality is said to be that which lies beneath the reality in question and makes it what it actually is. The substance of a reality is not actually what is perceived by the senses physically. (It is not what you see, touch, feel, smell, or taste). It goes beyond these. The substance of a tree for instance is beyond the size, leaves, branches, colour and texture. The substance is “treeness” which exists substantially not physically.

Now during consecration undertaken by a validly ordained Catholic Priest there occurs what is called substantial change (transubstantiation) of the bread and wine. The bread will lose its “breadness” and becomes the body of Jesus Christ and the wine will as well lose its “wineness” and becomes the blood of Jesus Christ. In any case all these will still retain their physical attributes like tastes, colours, texture and so on.

This is actually another mystery which human reason cannot easily grasp unaided by sublime faith. It is important to note that once there is a substantial change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, they will remain even after the Eucharistic celebration. This is actually why the sacred specie of Christ’s body is preserved in the tabernacle and (or) exposed for adoration.

Transubstantiation which is creedal to the Catholic faith is distinguishable and opposed to the following:

  1. Consubstantiation (an error which says that at the words of consecration the bread and wine exist together with the body and blood of Christ).
  2. Transignification (an error which says that at the words of consecration there is a change in the significance or meaning of the bread and wine to symbolize the body and blood of Christ).
  3. Transfinalization (an error which says that the purpose and end of the bread and wine is changed at the words of consecration).

Many people have found this doctrine a lot puzzling and difficult to contain. In response to this, some miraculous events had taken place to convince doubting minds; these are called the Eucharistic miracles.

  • At Lanciano Italy about the 8th Century AD, a Basilian Monk was in doubt about the substantial change and real presence of Jesus Christ. One day while celebrating mass, after the twofold consecration the bread physically turned into real flesh and the wine turned into real blood. After many years of scientific examination involving pathological histology and clinical microscopy, it was discovered that the flesh is real flesh (muscular tissue of the heart) and the blood is real blood; blood type AB, The same that was found at the Holy Shroud of Turin. (The clothing that was used to wrap the body of Jesus at the burial). The flesh and blood are still preserved till date.
  • Consecrated hosts have been found preserved for 250 years in Sienna Italy. (August 17, 1730).
  • In Holland in 1345 the Holy Eucharist was found untouched within a fierce fire outbreak.
  • The sacred host that felled from the mouth of a woman turns into blood in Blanot France (March 13th 1331).

 

THE EFFECTS OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST IN OUR LIVES.

 

We can use the analogy of what food does to our body to understand what the Holy Eucharist does for us. Food helps in our body metabolism just as the Holy Eucharist assists in our soul metabolism.

  1. UNITY: When we eat ordinary food it is assimilated into our body and blood stream. In the reception of the Holy Eucharist, we are assimilated into Christ and become one with him. For this reason in John 6:56 Jesus said:”Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood abides in me and I abide in him”. Our unity with Christ in the Holy Eucharist also brings about our unity with one another. That is why it is called Holy Communion. In the Holy Eucharist we see a fulfillment of the words and promise of Christ: “I will be with you till the end of time”. (Matt.28:20).

 

  1. Spiritual Growth and Development: As the ordinary food we eat helps us in physical growth and development, the Holy Eucharist assists us in our spiritual growth and development.

 

  1. 3.      Spiritual Strength: Spiritual strength is given to us by our reception of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We ingest ordinary food in view of various nutrients to assist us in our daily lives. The Holy Eucharist helps us to gain spiritual vigour and energy.

 

  1. 4.      Eternal Life: Eternal life is set in motion by our steadfast reception of the Holy Eucharist. In John 6: 54 our Lord said: “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.

 

  1. Safeguard against sin especially mortal sin: Ordinary food helps us to build antibodies and physical immunity. The Holy Eucharist received worthily continuously helps us to build immunity against sin. By becoming one with Christ, it becomes difficult for us to relapse into sin which is actually estrangement from God. It solidly builds a wall around us from the poisonous sting of sin.

These special attributes of the Holy Eucharist can only come to fruition in our lives if we are spiritually and inwardly ready to participate without the consciousness of any sin. Judas received and the devil entered into him. When you receive, do you experience something positive or do you relapse into further sin. What comes over you after partaking? Do you receive because other people are receiving or because you are in a state of grace? When last did you receive the Holy Eucharist in absolute state of innocence? It is called the sacrament of Holy Communion; do you experience by your reception a Holy Communion with Jesus Christ and with the members of the worshipping community? Will Jesus Christ be glad to dwell in you as you come along today to receive him?

There is a story about a group of Americans and Russians undertaking a joint exploration in the high sea. During lunch they usually bring along their respective country’s delicacies to share among themselves. One day a Russian came along with the Russian bread which is black, hard and sweet. An American took interest in the bread and taking a slice, he took a bite and instantly he snapped a tooth. In desperation he said: “What a lousy communist bread” and threw the piece over board. The Russian who brought the bread said: “No it is rather your rotten capitalist tooth that made you snap a tooth”. The Holy Eucharist is powerful itself as the true body and blood, soul and soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence if you do not get the spiritual effect from its reception then you must check your life very well. May the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist help us to be more resolved and committed in its reception and adoration.

9 Comments on “HOMILY FOR THE …

  1. Read the article; its comprehensive yet clear and concise. However, contemporary theologians have stressed the nexus between mystery, faith and reason: if for instance we say the dogma of the Trinity is a mystery, and yet offer “seemingly” final explanations on the matter, and yet end by retorting that its a mystery, then there is a problem with that. In the same vein therefore, the essay claims that with faith and reason will we “GRASP” the mystery of the eucharist- this tantamounts to contradiction in terms(see thr holy Eucharist as a sacrament, par 2). It could be modified; in that the issue be rather put thus: through faith, aided with reason can we gain some insight on the revealed reality of this august sacrament, which is a mystery-a divine reality, located in human categories. Similarly, the essay’s exposition on transubstantiation, which borrows conceptual clarification from western (Aristotelian formal) metaphysics is somewhat vague: a better explanation of substance could be given for the sake of the “amateur” Nice work with the website!
    On the final analysis however, I recommend this homily for an easy grasp for catholics and even non-catholics, for a better assimilation, appreciation, and relish of this most precious gift of God-that of His very self as food for mere mortals.

    • Austin I appreciate your comment. There is an ardent representation of a critical overview which shows your dexterity in philosophy. In any case you are stepping into theology hence reason will be giving space for faith. I thought you understood the GRASP as indicated. A mystery can be understood on the platform of faith. The understanding here cannot be reduced “some insight” because it comes through the irreprehensible volition of God and given to people not on the basis of amateur or professional as you said but on account of the depth of faith. I recommend to you for further reading “Fides et Ratio” of Pope John Paul II. Next you should also know the dividing wall between what theologians are discussing and what the Church teaches as a dogma of faith. Thanks a lot.

  2. It’s truly nice to have heard this sermon once again. It brings to bare the love of Christ for the entire human race. I pray the grace of God to provoke an indept understanding of the Most Holy Eucharist, a mystery and sacrament of the Church; may God bless your ministry Fr.

  3. Thanks for this insight into the eucharist,it is absolutely faith building.God bless his words in our hearts.

  4. True. However, we may be circumspect here so as not to fall into the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem. Understanding, which you hav formulated GRASP(as not so explained and absent in ure former exposition) to mean, could be characterized or taged “complete” or partial undertsanding. You may want to consider this. Holy Mother the church doesn’t teach that we have full understanding of sacred mysteries. “Fides supplementum, sensum defectui”. As aquinas would put it, rather faith which is a supernatural gift from God, shares a ‘cordial’ relationship in essense, with sacred revelation, thus making it better appreciated.revelation is ongoing as the second vatican fathers point out and as such, “some insight” is no reduction given human limitation: not the “irreprehensible will of God”
    There is of course a dicotomy between fides qua and fides quae-that I’m well aware of. The theologians make up the magisterium: the magisterium is an authority of the church, therefore, they re important as they offer consensus that re organically in tandem with the faith entrusted to the bride of christ. The faith needs to be explained as lucidly as possible: though bedeviled by frustratingly imperfect human language, It is only in faithfulness to the pure teachings of the catholic faith that they be explained as distinctly as possible.on the final analysis, faith and reason though seemingly different, work hand in hand given the unique nature of what they seek to accomplish.
    Lastly, with regard to the amateur, I was refering to your example of “treeness” and d likes..not the faith. Thanks a billion!!!

    • This evidently could lead to an unending “war” of theological gymnastics. In any case
      the Church has a position, actually a doctrinal position on the mystery of the Holy
      Trinity. Why I do not pretend to have exhaustively elucidated the entire structure, my
      reflection still stands here as an effort to reproduce insightfully what I have learnt all
      these years. Your polemical appeal to theological jargon will evidently put your “amateurs”
      in further cross-road. I really did not intent to initiate theological debate on a mystery
      which human mind scores zero in understanding. Furthermore we really have to be humble and
      awe-stricken in elucidating issues concerning the Trinity. In fact we have so far ascertained
      that it remains a MYSTERY.

      • Hahaha “an unending war of theological gymnastics” good one father! The homily is indeed good; it musnt be perfect of course. Well.. More power to your elbows.

  5. Pingback: Eternal Life or mortal symbol « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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