Fr David McGladdery’s Sermon for Corpus Christi Sunday
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”
Last week, we celebrated the ministry of our lay ministers of Communion. Today, on this Corpus Christi Sunday, we give thanks to God for the great gift of Holy Communion. The Body and Blood of Christ. The Holy Communion, The Mass, the Eucharist, is why we are here week after week in this holy place to do what Jesus commanded us to do…to break bread; to pour wine and to share his body and blood in memory of Him. And we haven’t forgotten.
One of the privileges of ministry is bringing Holy Communion to those who are housebound at home or in hospital because of illness or in one of our nursing homes. There are two main purposes of a communion visit, and which of these purposes is more prominent varies depending on the person and the situation.
The first purpose is, of course, to bring the Holy Sacrament to people who cannot come to church on Sunday to receive Holy Communion. It confers blessing, grace and healing. To receive Holy Communion is to receive God’s Love, and to be transformed within by its power. On any given Sunday, when we gather in this holy place and present ourselves to the Father – what happens? God, the Father presents himself to us as the Word made flesh. But only I know how small and weak and sinful I am…how inadequate is the gift of myself:
“We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table…”
And yet in return for me… I receive into my soul the all holy, all pure, all loving God, before whom the angels veil their faces.
The great theologian, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman said, “it only takes one Holy Communion to make a saint.”
When the Lord comes to you and to me, through the bread and wine – the body and blood of Jesus the Christ of God – he communicates all of his loveliness to us – so we may use it, and become a witness for Him in the darkness of this world. Our God descends to our level, in order to lift him up to His. So that we will become what he is – and he is: Love. So that we are to be changed into Love.
Love is not something vague, something theoretical – St Paul analysed the nature of love when he wrote in the 13th Chapter of 1st Corinthians that “love is patient, love is kind; it feels no envy, it is never perverse or proud; it does not brood over an injury, it takes no pleasure in misfortune, but rejoices in the victory of truth. It sustains, it hopes, it endures all things.” This is a description of Jesus, our Lord, who is the very image of God in human shape. It is a description of you and me.
When the housebound and those in hospital receive Holy Communion, they also enjoy seeing another person, chatting for awhile, feeling connected with the community, feeling cared about and included, and receiving the latest news from church. After all, sick and old people are often quite lonely. For some, the grace and blessing is found in fellowship, and it is the community (the holy communion of love) that they miss most when they can’t come to Church. But often, I feel that the person who I give Holy Communion to, is actually ministering to me – by their patience, their courage, their faith.
Whatever someone is longing to receive, whether it be the sacramental blessing of the Body and Blood or simply companionship and relationship, the benefit is real and is healing. Either way, the visit and its “purpose” is Sacramental. Remember “companion” means, “the one who shares bread”. Either way, the person is receiving love, blessing and strength from the Body of Christ, the People of Christ – that’s you and me – who have become like Christ by being nourished by Christ’s flesh and blood. We become what we eat.
When we visit someone; when we spend time with one another; when we give of ourselves to one another, we bring the presence of the Body of Christ to one another in the same way as the presence of Christ is infused into our lives when we receive Holy Communion. And the sacrament of fellowship, of relationship, the sacrament of being part of a community, is no less holy, mysterious, and profound than the sacrament of consecrated bread and wine. They both transform a person. They both heal. They both bring blessing and strength of faith. They are both about the reality of love. They are both a foretaste of what Heaven is like.
If we gaze at the Lord long enough and lovingly enough, in the eyes and faces of all we meet from day to day; if we gaze upon God’s beauty in each other, we will, without a doubt, come to see the face of the Lord.
May this be our prayer, as we stretch out our hands and raise our lips to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood, given for us, “ let us feed on Him in our hearts, by faith with thanksgiving”… and know, deep down in the very depths of our being – that we are changed to become like the God, whose name is: Love. Amen.