Corpus Christi 2022
Today is Corpus Christi—Body of Christ—Sunday,
the Body of Christ experienced in a special way in the Eucharist.
Sure, “the Eucharist is celebrated solemnly every Sunday,”
as notes Pope Urban IV, who, however, declared, in 1264,
we deem it fitting that at least once per year
it be celebrated with greater honor and a solemn commemoration.
Voila: Corpus Christi Sunday, which highlights our raison d’etre.
The Eucharist is the reason that we are here.
Sure, fellowship and formation and fearless service.
At the heart of, feeding this, however…
We are most deeply here because God took a human body, was made flesh,
and that body (inseparable from His whole Person, of course,
and from the other Divine Persons, the Father and the Holy Spirit!)
is shared, is communicated, in a special way, in the Eucharist, Communion.
The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world, today’s gospel.
The Eucharist, the gift we cannot give to ourselves at home,
communicates the love that makes of us Sisters and Brothers.
As Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber, the heavily tattooed Lutheran minister, says,
What unites us isn’t a doctrine, it’s a table — a table open to all, in which we receive this Bread of Life come down from heaven. The Body and Blood of Christ is what unites us and makes us a church. Hopefully not in a prideful see-how-inclusive-we-are way, but in a Lord-to-whom-shall-we-go? way, in as You-have-the-words-of eternal-life way.
As you know, this does not necessarily resonate with all Christians.
I’ve previously mentioned a visit, 4-5 years ago,
to a very large church, across the river, in Virginia.
Power music. Power preaching. Power coffee shop!
In its own way, inspiring—until, with the best of intentions,
so to keep the Christian life simple for everyone,
the preacher said, “the sacraments are a perversion of the gospel”.
Ouch! My heart sank.
And I left, discreetly—not shaking the dust from my feet.
A statement, however, understandable—to a point.
“The Jews disputed among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
So it seems—outside of love, the Resurrection, and a little theology!
Jesus’ own disciples will say, two verses (60) after this passage,
This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?
Symbol? sure. Real Presence? not so much.
Jesus responds powerfully and clearly:
Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you. (verse 53)
Why would Jesus venture such a controversial gift?
Because He is adamant about loving us
and there is something uniquely loving about this gift
—such that He prefers to risk it not being understood or even welcomed.
Jesus is adamant because God is love, and God, although complete
and perfectly fine unto Himself, wants us with Him forever.
The one who eats this bread will live forever. (John 6:58)
What more could we want?
Is there anything better to do on a Sunday morning
than to receive sacred bread that communicates eternal life?!?
[We need to spread the word!]
Jesus invents this tangible and accessible food for the journey,
whereby He gives us, in silence, His heart.
Unleavened, tasteless bread, designed to help us
to be childlike, unafraid (really, bread is usually harmless!).
The unconditional gift of his Resurrected (spiritualized but real) body
(which, by the way, means not cannibalism!),
no longer bound by time and place,
which is why we can celebrate the Eucharist here
as it is being celebrated all around the world.
In the early 5th century, St. John Chrysostom, said:
“How many of you say: I wish I could see his face. You do see him. You do touch him. You eat him. He gives himself to you, that you may see him, and that he may be your food.”
But, there is something different about consuming this food.
St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) tells us,
“Material food changes into the one who eats it (your breakfast is becoming you…). Spiritual food, on the other hand, changes the person who eats it into itself. Thus the effect proper to this Sacrament is the conversion of a person into Christ, so that Christ live in him.” (Commentary on Book IV of the Sentences, d.12, q.2, a.11)
Saint Augustine, 5th century like John Chrysostom, says,
No one partakes of this Flesh before he or she has adored it.
Before we partake, we shall adore.
We will have an extended pause before receiving Communion, quiet,
to enjoy the Real Presence and to ask that we be readied for encounter.
A consecrated host will be displayed in what we call a monstrance
(from the Latin verb monstrare, “to show”).
Your time to say, “This teaching is difficult”, “I believe, help my unbelief”
“Lord, to whom shall we go?”, “I love you” or…
Your time to abide.
Then, we shall partake.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
John 14:8-17 (25-27)
I recently heard a definition of a good sermon: it should have a good
beginning. It should have a good ending. And they should be as close together as
possible! This relatively short sermon is entitled, Don’t Worry, Be Happy,
because today, we celebrate Pentecost. The term “pentecost” was adopted from Greek-speaking Jews, a term which means “fiftieth”—understood day, the fiftieth day. In Jewish territory, it designates the close of harvest, fifty days after Passover. In Christian territory, it designates the descent of the Holy Spirit in manifest fashion, which occurred, interestingly, on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection. We do not simply commemorate that unusual day, as we read in Acts, chapter 2, “when…the disciples were all together in one place and suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, that filled the entire house and divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them We are, of course, thankful for that blessed day, for, because of it, we, Church, are here. This event is often considered the birth of the Church, for the Holy Spirit binds us to one another. Our good intentions and/or our common values are not enough to bind us such that we be the Body of Christ. What binds us is a Who that binds us, a Divine Person, the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, we engage the Holy Spirit.
But who is this Holy Spirit, the seemingly faceless Third Person of the
Trinity, Who alone makes us Church?
As abstract as “He” may seem, “He” is indeed a Divine Person, not simply a force or an energy, a Person Who, as we profess in the Nicene Creed, “proceeds from the Father and the Son”, is given to us by the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is referred to, amongst many names in the well-known 4 th -century litany, as the Comforter, the Sanctifier and Consuming Fire. In our reading, Saint Paul makes an incredibly liberating statement: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:14) A child of God shares in the life of God.
A child of God has thus found his or her place, is at home in and with God.
This is why Jesus says to the disciples,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
Peace follows right order.
Peace follows everything being in its right place
The Holy Spirit takes our hearts and places them in God, Home, our
Child of God, I am.
Child of God Lena will become much more deeply in a few minutes,
with a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the gratuitous gift of grace.
And, it will be the responsibility of her parents, godparents, and faith
community, to help her to know that, as says Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Italian Jesuit,
died in 1591, at age 23, caring for persons stricken with the pandemic of that time,
“It is better to be a child of God than king of the whole world.”
Saint Paul’s statement is also incredibly demanding because he makes it
clear that we are to be led by the Holy Spirit
in order for this liberating spiritual childhood to be real for us.
Being led implies willing cooperation, which is not always easy.
I know that it’s not for me!
My stubbornness, my fear, my fatigue, my selfish indifference get in the
Yet, I am somehow always free to express willingness…
We express our willingness in simply calling upon the Holy Spirit,
without Whom it is not possible truly to live as a friend and disciple of
And so, if I may ask, do you really call upon the Holy Spirit, the powerful, yet quiet inner
guest do you really believe that you are indwelt by,
and thus a temple of, the Holy Spirit?
How often do you cry out with your heart, “Come Holy Spirit!”?
This should be the leitmotif of your day: “Come Holy Spirit!”.
When you wake,
“Come Holy Spirit!”.
When you are about to begin an important business meeting,
or about to visit someone who sends you over the edge,
“Come Holy Spirit!”.
When you are about to express your love to someone dear,
or you feel overwhelmed or fearful or sad or hopeful,
“Come Holy Spirit”.
As the famous Belgian Archbishop during World War I, Joseph Mercier,
“Surrender to the Holy Spirit is the secret to sanctity and
The Holy Spirit is the happiness of God in person, indwelling our hearts.
Let us surrender today.
Don’t worry, be happy.
“Up Through the Atmosphere, Up Where the Air is Clear”
Ascension of Jesus 2022
Luke 24: 46-53
London. 1910. George Banks returns home, 17 Cherry Tree Lane, to learn from his wife, Winifred, that the nanny has resigned. The children, Jane and Michael, have run away, once more. Although soon returned by Constable Jones, who found them chasing a kite, it’s the final straw for the nanny. The next day, Mr. Banks advertises for a serious, no-nonsense nanny. Jane and Michael insist that she be sweet.
Later in the week, several somewhat sour-faced women gather outside the Banks' home for interview, but a strong gust of wind blows them all away. Jane and Michael then witness a lovely woman, a sweet nanny, descending from the sky with umbrella. Mary Poppins. The rest is history. With her magical manner, Mary Poppins renews the Banks’ home-life. In the final song, her work done and time to depart, we hear “up through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear” as Mary Poppins ascends into the sky—with umbrella.
Up through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear…
Is this the Ascension of Jesus?
The scriptures sure seem to suggest so.In (Acts 1 (1-11), we read thatJesus was “lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight”and in our gospel, Luke 24 (44-53), Jesus was “carried up into heaven.” Our mural represents this!The seraphs, described in Isaiah 6 as nearest the throne of God,
with their flame-coloured wings surrounding Jesus’ body, carry him to heaven.
Scripture and Christian art describe a local movement, away from earth. Jesus now “up there.”
Now, each Sunday, we proclaim, as the Church has done for almost 1700 years
in the words of the Nicene Creed, the fact of the Ascension:
“He ascended into heaven (without umbrella!)
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
To say “ascended”, however, does not necessarily mean local movement,
i.e., going from here to “there”.
There is local movement described in the event of the Ascension.
But there is more.
Now, before we consider how the Ascension impacts our lives,
let us ask two questions:
the transcendent Source beyond all things.
Let me “explain”.
Jesus’ body, after the Resurrection, is no longer of this world.
This is why no one initially recognizes Him and why He can walk through walls.
His body was transformed from within by divine love and light.
It is, as we say, a “glorified” body.
The fitting “place” for His body, therefore, is the mystery of God
who “is love” (I John 4:16) and “is light” (I John 1:5).
The fitting “place” is the Father, heaven
--without any of the distance of his earthly pilgrimage.
And why the apparent prejudice against left-handedness?
And why does Jesus need a chair?
Once again: symbolic language rooted in human experience.
One reading of this, taken from my favorite: Saint Thomas Aquinas, 13th century:
The word "sitting" may mean "abiding"… it belongs to Christ to sit at the Father's right hand…inasmuch as He abides eternally unchangeable in the Father's bliss, which is termed His right hand, according to Psalm 15:11, “At Thy right hand are delights even to the end.” Christ dwells at the right hand of the Father: for He is happy and the Father's right hand is the name for His bliss.
We are talking about the happiness of Christ, including in his flesh,
happiness which He shares with us!
In the Ascension, therefore, strange as it may initially sound,
we discover how loved we are, in all that we are.
St. Leo, Bishop of Rome, died in 461, says, regarding the Ascension:
“Not only is the immortality of the soul proclaimed, but also that of the flesh.” Although who I truly am as human being and as child of God
is deeper than that which is bodily,
my body—with its limitations, it skin color, its corpulence or its lankiness, its capacity for reproduction, its pain—is destined for immortality, for glory in Christ.
And so our bodies really matter to God.
I am loved in every corporeal fiber of who I am.
Nothing, therefore, is outside this relationship with our Risen and Ascended Lord.
Jesus is thus not gone, not “way up there”.
Unlike Elvis, Jesus has not left the building.
As the same St. Leo says:
“By ascending, Jesus did not abandon His friends.
Indeed, although His bodily presence is withdrawn,
still, as God, He is ever-present.”
After the Ascension, Jesus is ever-present, more present.
After the Ascension, there is more God in our midst.
Once Jesus is with the Father in His body in this perfect way,
He sends the promise of the Father.
He sends the Holy Spirit, “power from on high.”
Our Triune God is a class act: intensifying presence, increasing love.
Knowing what we do in faith, thanks to the Ascension, we can,
as Saint Augustine invites in a sermon in the early 400s for this special day,
“strive to find rest with Christ in heaven even now,
through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him.”