Sunday, June 14, 2020

Jesus’ Words—‘This is my body’—and How Those Words Apply to Us

(Corpus Christi 2020 (A): This homily was given on June 14, 2020 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; Psalm 147:12-20; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; John 6:51-58.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Corpus Christi 2020]

In one of his newsletters, Fr. Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, wrote the following:
Did you ever realize that the same four words that were used by the Lord Jesus to save the world are also used by some to promote abortion?  “This is my body.”  The same simple words are spoken from opposite ends of the universe, with meanings that are directly contrary to each other.
That’s a very perceptive insight—but it doesn’t just apply to abortion.  Think, for example, of the terrorists of 9/11—or the terrorists who’ve blown themselves up in other locations of the world, and who’ve taken a lot of innocent people with them.  This has been their attitude, has it not?  They say, “This is my body, and if I want to use it to fly a passenger plane into a skyscraper in New York City, I’ll do that.”  “This is my body, and if I make the choice to blow it up (and kill some of my enemies in the process) that’s my business.”

Or how about those who want to end their lives because of a serious illness, or old age, or just because they’re tired of this earthly existence?  These people also say, “This is my body.”  They say, “This is my body, and I’ll kill it if I want to—or I’ll call some progressive ‘doctor’ to help me do it.” 

Or how about those who engage in pre-marital sex, or extra-marital sex, or homosexual activity?  How about those who use artificial contraception?  When these sins are pointed out to people who are committing them, what do they often say?  They say, “Hey, this is my body, and I’ll do whatever I want with it.  Who are you to impose your morality on me?” 

Or how about those who live selfish, materialistic lives—who don’t care at all about the poor and the less fortunate?  They also say, “This is my body.”  They say, “This is my body—and my number one priority.  My biggest concern in life is to take care of myself and my personal needs.  Let those others worry about themselves.” 

Sadly we’ve also seen this evil, self-centered attitude rear its ugly head a number of times in our nation just in the past couple of weeks—especially in the riots that have taken place in the wake of George Floyd’s death.  There have been peaceful protests around the country, of course, and those have been fine.  They’re an expression of the freedom of speech that we enjoy as Americans.  But some of these events, as we all know, have ended up being riots, not protests.  That’s because some of the participants have accepted the idea that they can legitimately do whatever they want to do with their bodies!  “It’s my body, and if I want to use it to burn police cars, and destroy businesses, and break windows and loot stores, I will do that.”

These rioters should know better!  They have no excuse.  They should know better because this is precisely the evil attitude that they’re supposedly so upset about!  You see, this was the attitude—the mindset—that the police officer, Derek Chauvin, had when his knee was firmly planted on George Floyd’s neck: “This is my body, Mr. Floyd, and if I want to use it to asphyxiate you and beat you and maybe even kill you, then I will do that.”

And he did.  What a disgrace!  Thank God most of our law enforcement personnel are not like that.

All of these examples should make it clear, my brothers and sisters: we are living right now in what I would call an “anti-eucharistic society”.  You see, when Jesus said those words at the Last Supper—“This is my body”—he was speaking in a spirit of self-giving love and selfless obedience: “This is my body, which is given for you.” 

In all those examples I gave a few moments ago, people are saying “This is my body,” not in selfless obedience, but rather in selfish disobedience!  In other words they’re saying the very same sentence that Jesus said, but with an anti-eucharistic attitude—in a vain attempt to justify their disobedience to the Lord.  In today’s gospel text from John, chapter 6, Jesus says, “The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world…. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”  Our Lord offered his Body—his life—on the cross, not for himself, but so that you and I might receive forgiveness for our sins and live forever! 

And he gives us his Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament to sustain us on our journey to his eternal kingdom.  This means that, if we want to receive the Eucharist fruitfully and worthily, we need to come to Holy Communion with the very same attitude in our hearts that Jesus had in his.  At the consecration of the Mass the priest repeats the words of Jesus: “This is my body, which is given for you.”  When communion time comes and we walk up the aisle to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, our attitude is supposed to be, “Jesus, yes, I believe this is your body.  But now, Lord, I bring to you my body.  This is my body and I give it to you, Jesus.  And I ask you to fill me with your presence today through this Eucharist, so that I will live, not in selfish disobedience, but so that I will live as you lived Lord—in selfless and in loving obedience to the heavenly Father.”  My brothers and sisters, if every Catholic received the Eucharist with that disposition of heart every single Sunday and holy day, we would soon change the world.  May the change begin today—and may it start with us.