Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Gift of the Eucharist

The Gift of the Eucharist
Homily for May 29, 2016  
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) – C
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

    Try to imagine what it must have been like to be an Apostle the day that Jesus fed the 5,000.  I mean, things had been going so well for you.  According to Luke, you had just returned yesterday from your successful mission trip of preaching and healing, and you’re probably looking forward to a well-earned rest – a day off. (Maybe like what some of us are looking forward to tomorrow?)
    But wait! - here come the people. Jesus takes over, speaking to the crowds and doing the healing.  So, what are you going to do?  Provide crowd control, maybe?  Hey! You’ve just returned from doing missionary work – maybe you can help heal some of the sick?  By the end of the day, over 5,000 men had gathered around you, not to mention the number of women and children who have tagged along, drawn by the presence of Jesus.  He has touched them all, with your help, of course.
    The end of another successful day.
    You’re ready for a little down time, maybe a glass of wine and something to eat.  You might even feel a little smug that everything went so well.  But there are still over 5,000 people out there, and most of them have been there all day.  Some have come from quite a distance, and it is a bit isolated where you’re at.  No fast-food joints nearby.  And you do have compassion for them – after all, you are an Apostle.  It’s time to send everyone home so they can take care of themselves.  You tell Jesus to send them away – they might not listen to you, but surely they’ll listen to him.
    Then Jesus says to you, “You’re not done yet – you feed them.
    With what?!
    If I was one of the Twelve, I’d be in panic-mode.  There’s nothing quite as scary as planning a party and not knowing if you’ll have enough food for those who show up.  It reminds me of all of the requests I see for food for ACTS receptions.  And the Apostles didn’t have the Internet or Sign-up Genius to beg for help.
    You don’t have that much for your own dinner – some bread and fish.  And it’s your dinner.  You and the others are willing to share, but with so many in need out there, you worry if there will there be anything left for you?  A little reluctantly, you give Jesus what you have.
    But then again, we forget that it is Jesus who feeds us.  He takes what you have, says the blessing and – voila’!  When the crowds finish eating, there’s enough left over for a BASKET of food for each of you!  More than enough.
    Isn’t that one of our greatest fears?  That what we have won’t be enough for us if we have to share what we have?
    Today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  The Body of Christ is more than the precious Eucharist which we are about to receive, for we become what we eat – we become – we are – the Body of Christ.  And today’s Gospel should remind us that no matter how little we think we have, it all comes from God and with God it is sufficient for His needs – and ours.
    But we tend to be selfish with what God has given us, don’t we?  I mean, it’s OK to share with others, as long as I keep enough for myself?  I thought about this the other day as I was driving into work.  I like to keep a gap between me and the car in front of me – those of you who’ve been rear-ended in an accident know what I mean – and another car slid into the gap and took it from me.
    Now, you might be thinking, “what’s that got to do with food?”  But if we think about it, everything we have is from God – our food, our money, our time – even our gaps.  And we are called to share everything we have with the rest of the body – our body – in Christ.  After all, it isn’t really ours, is it?
    On my way to Mass today I turned on the Catholic radio channel and picked up in the middle of an interview with an author who had just written a book on sports and faith.  He was talking about a certain baseball player who even thanked God whenever he dropped a fly ball.  His reasoning was that even in those times when something happens to us that we consider bad, we should look to God for the blessings it may contain for us.  He said that attitude allowed him to feel blessed and to experience joy even in times of adversity.
    “Taking the loaves and fish, Jesus said THE blessing over them…”  Not “A” blessing, but “the” blessing.  I wondered what kind of blessing Jesus would say.  So, I turned once again to the trusty Internet. Did you know that there are specific Jewish blessing prayers for each different kind of food?  In the case of bread, for example, Jesus would have prayed something like, “Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”  He would then have offered the fish, saying, “Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, by Whose word all things came to be.” In fact, there are Jewish blessing prayers for just about everything we have or do.
    We too, pray before a meal, although we probably, blast through the traditional, “Bless us O Lord and these, thy gifts…” without much thought about what we’re blessing.  But do we offer a blessing before we receive or use any of the other gifts that God has given us?  Again, Jewish teaching holds that "one should not derive benefit from this world without first reciting a blessing." Making a blessing before using any gift is tantamount to "asking permission" from G-d, acknowledging that "the world, and everything in it, is G-d's (Psalms 24:1) and G-d is the true source of all the gifts of life. In the case of food, it imbues the mundane act of eating with a spiritual awareness – awareness of the true Source of our sustenance, and of the purpose of eating.”  And we need to realize that there is a spiritual dimension to every gift that we have.
    Which brings us back to our celebration today.  Not just the feast of Corpus Christi, but the heart of our weekly celebration – the Eucharist itself.  St. Paul in our second reading reminds us that in celebrating the Eucharist we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes, and we do so with the very body and blood of Christ present in the bread and wine we consume. 
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Eucharist "the source and summit of the Christian life.” (1324)  It represents not only the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, but the very act of receiving it is “an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein [139] and eulogein [140] recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim - especially during a meal - God's works: creation, redemption, and sanctification." (1328)
    In the Lord’s Prayer, which we say (or should say) every day, we ask the Lord to “give us each day, our Daily Bread.”  Daily.  Bread.  We shouldn’t be thinking that what we are asking for is just another meal.  We should be asking for the presence of Christ within us.  In the Gospel of St. John, chapter 6, verse 57 Jesus tells us, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood/ remains in me and I in him, says the Lord.” It is that real presence that makes us holy and part of the Body of Christ.
    One final thought.  Pope Francis, in his recent apostolic exhortation on the family, The Joy of Love, said that “…the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”.  Here we are, in our heads, worrying about having enough food or money or time to do things we enjoy.  Why don’t we worry about getting enough of Jesus?  He’s the medicine we need to face the illnesses of society.  He’s the strength we need to face the daily challenges of our life.
    Today, as you approach the altar to receive Jesus, thank Him for all you do have.  And then thank God every day, every time you use any of the gifts He’s given you.  Then you will be Eucharist to all that you meet.“

Monday, May 2, 2016

You Also Testify to Me ... (StVdP)

You Also Testify to Me ...
Reflection for St. Vincent de Paul Meeting, May 2, 2016
Dcn. Bob Bonomi

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” In today’s Gospel passage Jesus continues: … “When the Advocate comes … he will testify to me. And you also testify …

You also testify…”  Think about that.  Whether we realize it or not, because we profess to be Christians, others will come to know Jesus through us.  Everything we do during our life testifies to our relationship with Jesus.  It is in how we handle the successes and failures of the challenges we face that we testify to others our belief or lack of belief in Jesus and the love and mercy of God acting in our own lives.

What does our own life teach others about Jesus?  As Vincentians, we minister to the physical needs of the poor as Jesus commanded us, but do we allow the Holy Spirit to minister through us to those who are not materially disadvantaged as well? In our daily conversations, do we spend more time disparaging others than praising them?  In our inevitable discussions about the events in our country and around the world, do we spend more time discussing the evils we see than the joys?  Do others see a loving, merciful God through us, or do they see only judgment and condemnation?

It can be a challenge for us to call upon the Holy Spirit to teach us how to deal with ALL of the situations we face in our daily lives, and not just in our ministry.  In every encounter that we have, we must reflect the love and mercy of Jesus has for others. If we are not sure what to say, or if the conversation is headed in what we think is the wrong direction, we should be ready to say a little prayer for guidance; a prayer from our heart, not just a lengthy formula that we have memorized.

And sometimes the simplest of prayers is the most effective:  “Jesus, I trust in you.”  If we trust in Jesus, if we let the Holy Spirit guide us, then the message that we testify to will become clear to others as well.

Jesus, I trust in you.