The Bishops Homily – Feast of Corpus Christi 2017

Feast Of Corpus Christi
Cycle A | 18 June 2017
Deut. 8: 2-16
I Cor. 10: 16-17
John 6: 51-58

INTRODUCTION: This Feast signals the distinctiveness of the Christian Religion from all the religions and philosophies of the world. No other religion like Judaism or philosophy like that of Aristotle is called to eat the flesh and drink the blood of its founder or of the very person it reveres. That is just what Jesus tells his followers today: to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

(1) Paul explains this distinctiveness to his Christians in Corinth in our second reading today this way: “The cup of blessing that we drink, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” The word Paul used for “participation” in Greek is “koinonia” meaning communion. Communion resonates with John 15: 1 and 4: “I am the vine; you are the branches. . . Remain in me as I remain in you.” What John and Paul want to say here is that Jesus is not only a teacher we listen to or a leader we follow but the field of force in which we share.

(2) Nowhere is this communion clearer than the Gospel in John 6: 51 where Jesus says plainly: “I am the living bread come down from heaven: whoever eats this bread will live forever and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Jesus wants to live in his followers and his followers to live in him. Jesus’ listeners react very strongly as he lays down the foundation of his Eucharistic Mysticism” that is part and parcel of Christianity. “How can this man give his flesh to eat?” Jewish Laws prohibit eating the flesh of animals! How much more the eating of human flesh? Jesus drives his point more emphatically: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” The word Jesus used for the verb “eat” is not “fogein” but “trogein” meaning to gnaw like a goat. What then is the effect of this eating? “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remain in me and I in him.” The word used for “remain” here in John 6: 56 as well as in John 15: 4-5 is “manein” meaning “to stay” as in the incident with the two disciples of the Baptist at the beginning of John’s Gospel in John 1: 38-39 who were following Jesus and wanted to know where he was staying. The one who eats the body of Jesus is drawn into the Divine Life.

(3) How is this possible? Our first Reading from Deuteronomy gives an interpretative key to the Theology of Transubstantiation: “He, therefore, let you be afflicted with hunger and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and to your fathers, to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” God’s Word at the beginning of Creation and at the beginning of the new Creation is not only descriptive but also creative. “Let there be light!” and light was created! “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus ties his teaching about his flesh as food to the Manna from heaven of the Old Testament. Just as in the Old Testament, so now in the New, Jesus is the new Manna come down from heaven as we the Church journey away from the slavery of sin on the way to our salvation. When we eat the body of Christ, not only is our body nourished but something changes in us in the realm of the Divine!

CONCLUSION: Christ wants us his People to be fed by his Body and Blood. Receiving Communion is a positive sign of the vitality of his People!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches