Saturday, June 1, 2013

Holy Communion on Corpus Christi


Today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christ, the Body and Blood of the Lord.  We sometimes say we are going to Mass or to the Eucharist, or, more often, I'm going to Communion.

But why do we call it Communion?  With whom do we commune?  

As any first communion candidate could tell you, it is Jesus who comes to live in us whenever we say Amen and receive his Body and Blood.

Our Holy Communion is with Jesus in heaven, on earth, and in our hearts.

1. Now Communion with Jesus in heaven is pretty easy to figure out.   The Mass is a participation in the heavenly banquet, a communion with the Church in heaven.  As Pope John Paul II tells us in his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “in celebrating the sacrifice of the Lamb, we are united to the heavenly ‘liturgy’ and become part of that great multitude which cries out: ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!’ (Rev 7:10) The Eucharist is truly a glimpse of heaven appearing on earth. It is a glorious ray of the heavenly Jerusalem which pierces the clouds of our history and lights up our journey (EE, no. 19).”

If we look all around us, we should be able to imagine what is really there, though unseen.  Angels and Saints rejoicing and sharing in communion with Jesus.   Look around you and you will see them: Grandmothers who have gone before us in faith, ancestors who intercede for us from the place of the blessed.  This Church, like every celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, is crowded with our invisible friends.

We will get a glimpse of that in just a few minutes when I raise the consecrated Bread and Wine before you and declare: “Behold the Lamb of God...How Blessed are they who are called to the Supper of the Lamb!”  Not just this supper, but the heavenly supper and the supper in the upper room…for in the Holy Eucharist all time and space disappear and we are made one with Christ upon the cross and Christ in glory and Christ as he comes to us on that altar.

2. But our Holy Communion is not just with Jesus in heaven.  This Communion is also here on earth.The account of the Last Supper in Matthew, Mark, and Luke centers, of course, on the Lord’s gift of the Holy Eucharist.  But in the Gospel of John, this Communion is described in the washing of the feet.  

To be in communion with the Lord Jesus is not just to eat his body, but to wash the feet of the members of his body, to serve him in the least, the littlest, and the most forgotten.  If it is true that whatever we do to the least of them we do to him, then if we are in communion with him, we must be in holy communion with them as well. That’s why Saint Paul says that it is "unworthy" of a parish community to receive Holy Communion and at the same time to ignore the poor (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-22, 27-34, cf. EE, no. 34).

3. And if we are in communion with Jesus in heaven and in the poor man who lives out there on the street, we will also come to recognize him living in our hearts.

For in Holy Communion I came to know Jesus, who was like me in every way but sin---Jesus who understands the pains of my heart, the sorrows that bring tears, and the worries that ache deep inside.  In Holy Communion I come to know Jesus, who promises me eternal happiness with him at the heavenly banquet of the Lamb at the end of all time.  In Holy Communion I come to know Jesus, who gives me the grace to love, to wash feet, to seek out lost sheep, to pray for those who hate me, to forgive those who hurt me and to love others as he loved me from the wood of the cross.

And that is our Holy Communion, with Jesus who comes down from heaven upon that altar, who makes us like himself in loving all who need us, and who dwells in our hearts.

And how blessed are we who are called to the Supper of the Lamb!