Corpus Christi, June 10, 2012, Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
CORPUS CHRISTI — BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
June 10, 2012
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
On Saturday, May 19, three weeks ago, forty-one children of this parish received their First Holy Communion. It reminded us that a hundred years ago, in 1903, Pope Saint Pius X encouraged all of us to receive the Eucharist. Children who had reached the Age of Reason ought to receive the Eucharist; children, even as young as seven years old, ought begin receiving the Lord. The Pope wrote this: “the true Christian Spirit has its first and indispensable source in the active participation in the sacrosanct mysteries and in public and solemn prayer of the Church” (Moto proprio, “Tra le sollecitudini).
Each of us reacts differently. The Eucharist gives rise to many ways of reacting.
For instance, at the time of Holy Communion, we each have a moment in which we speak to the Lord. Although each receives the host as a consecrated bread wafer, we individuals react differently from the usual mode of eating. At table, we enjoy eating as others eat; we converse and we smile and we tell of the day’s events, or perhaps compare some moment from memory to the scene that transpired today at work or at home or at school. And we ask our table mate to pass the meat or the carrots. But when receiving the Eucharist, we are outwardly silent, even though inwardly throbbing, exteriorly restrained and privately most excited.
Each receives the Eucharist in an individual mode. For example, an individual in receiving Christ might be newly astonished that God speaks to him or her. Perhaps the recipient feels surprise as the words of Moses echo in the mind: The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all here alive today. The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the fire…. And he said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me” (Deuteronomy 5:1-6).
While the host remains on my tongue, I might wonder and thrill that this same Lord who spoke through Moses still speaks to me, still conjures in me his words: “I will place my dwelling in your midst, and I shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Leviticus 26:11-12).
On another occasion, we recall the Lord’s promise I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty….. This is the bread that came down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die…. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (John 6:35, 48-51).
Again, when the consecrated host and the Lord come to me, humility may rule my thinking and my feeling. St. Paul’s warning rings: “The one who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily is answerable for the body and blood of the Lord…. For the one who eats and drinks, not recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment upon him- or herself” (I Cor. 11: 27-29). How is it, I ask, that I find myself worthy to receive the Lord? Yet Jesus Christ, you established the Eucharist for the likes of me. Before you, Lord, my arrogance empties itself.
In another way, too, communion affects me, for faith subdues my vision and my taste. My ears have heard “this is my body…this is my blood.” The weatherman’s predictions try my faith, and the stock market’s zigzagging often disappoints; but You, hidden Lord, have created the universe and each atom in it. In you, O God, I place full belief. You lurk in this host, and my whole-self commits to your being here. Even if my sense of touch and of seeing fail, still faith awakes me to your dwelling here. Thomas Aquinas marvels in writing his hymn, “Hidden God,devoutly I adore you,” “Adoro te devote, latens Deitas.”
At another season, we might ask God at communion time. In the same hymn, Aquinas petitions Jesus that he might receive increase in spiritual life from this bread of life. As Jesus died on the cross and so restored my life, so may I now grow in life from this life-giving Lord. Besides, this would be the instant to seek some favor or need. I recall the former president of Seattle University, making an appointment to speak with the head of the Boeing Corporation. Fr. Sullivan had just fifteen minutes; he wanted a financial grant to Seattle University; although he had signed all the requisite papers, Fr. Sullivan judged that a personal appeal would be the clincher. He succeeded. It is natural that in receiving the Eucharist, we bring our petition to Jesus Christ.
Nearness, closeness to Christ might also grip us at communion time. Perhaps that well-known prayer, the Anima Christi or Soul of Christ enters my thinking when receiving the Eucharist. St. Ignatius of Loyola included this prayer in his Spiritual Exercises; it leads us to pray that we be always close to Christ; O good Jesus, hear me. Within thy wounds hide me. Permit me not to be separated from Thee.
On this day as we especially honor the Eucharist, we recognize the many emotions that sweep a person in receiving Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. And we marvel that the God-Man remains with each of us so intimately. Amen.