Sunday, June 10, 2012

Body and Blood of Jesus...Homily by Fr. Matthias Neuman, OSB

Readings: Ex 24:3-8; Heb 9:11-15; Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

At several of the daily Eucharists this past week we have been remembering and reflecting on some of the meanings inherent in the Eucharist itself. We recalled that the Eucharist looks back to the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples and his gift of himself to the disciples....and to us. We also considered the Eucharist as a public act of thanksgiving and praise, as celebrating the very presence of Jesus among us, and the Eucharist as a statement of hope about the future of human life and all the world ("If we have died with him, we will rise with him."). All of these meanings of the Eucharist were developed beautifully by Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical, "The Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church." (2003)

The Pope’s Encyclical contains an admirable summary of Catholic teaching on the Eucharist as it has developed through the years. But the Holy Father went even further and introduced a brand-new theme in Eucharistic theology. Listen to these words: "Certainly the Christian vision leads to the expectation of new heavens and a new earth, but this increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today. I wish to reaffirm this forcefully at the beginning of the new millenium, so that Christians will feel more obliged than ever not to neglect their duties as citizens of this world. Theirs is the task of contributing with the light of the Gospel to the building of a more human world, a world fully in harmony with God’s plan." (#20) This adds a whole new dimension to Eucharistic theology. Whenever we receive the Eucharist, it should be for us a clear renewal of a commitment to work for building up this world of ours in justice and peace. And there’s a lot to be done in that regard.

That takes the Eucharist in a somewhat different direction than is often held by Christians. There are lots of people who see the reception of the Eucharist as a very private, intimate moment between themselves and the Lord Jesus. It’s why we have that period of quiet time after receiving the Eucharist. That’s all fine and good. But the Holy Father reminds us, ‘forcefully’ as he says, that the purpose of that intimate time is to strengthen our resolve to work for justice and peace in our world. We should come out of that intimate time with Jesus empowered to help others in this world of ours, to help build the Kingdom of God.

In the background of all this is a recognition that one of the major tasks of the Church as a community of the disciples of Jesus Christ is a commitment to the improvement of this world here and now. That was one of the significant achievements of the Second Vatican Council and it was expressed powerfully in the closing section of the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World; that section was entitled: A World to be Built Up and Brought to Fulfillment. It’s a wonderful conclusion to all the achievements of the Second Vatican Council and should serve as an inspiration for all of us.

In just a few moments we will receive the consecrated bread and wine. We will be receiving the presence of Jesus Christ within us; we will be celebrating a public act of praise and thanksgiving as the followers of Jesus Christ. Let’s remember too that this action is also our re-commitment to work for a more just and a more peaceful world.

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