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Bishop's Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

June 11, 2023

[Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Wahiawa (Confirmation & First Holy Communion); Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu]

I was very touched when I heard the now-retired Bishop of Sacramento tell about his long struggle with liver disease, which resulted in progressive weakening of his body.  This all changed very dramatically when a Sacramento fireman decided that he would donate a part of his liver to the bishop.  The fireman suffered for a while, but the part of his liver he donated has now grown back, he is in fine health, and he is very happy that he was able to share a vital organ with the bishop.  This happened about twenty years ago, and the bishop is still in amazingly good health, even though he thought he was going to die young.  As you might imagine, a tremendous bond was established between this firefighter and the bishop, and now they are like brothers to one another.  Moreover, the fireman feels a great sense of pride when the bishop preaches or ministers, knowing that his giving up a part of his body made that ministry possible.

Today we celebrate the wonderful gift that Jesus Christ has made to all of us who believe in him.  His own body, which he offered for us on the cross, and his own blood, which he poured out for us in that great sacrifice of love, are given to us as food and drink, to transform our bodies and souls, to take away the disease of sin, and to give us life.  How fitting it is that we come together every Sunday, indeed every day, to worship and praise the God who has given us such a life-giving gift.

Sometimes, however, we can take a gift for granted or not realize its value.  So it is that Sunday is set aside as a special day to remember this greatest gift of life we are given, the gift of God himself in flesh and blood, given to us as nourishment and our healing.

A survey taken a few years ago indicated that at least 70% of practicing Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  This indicates how much we fail to understand this gift.  Some of our Protestant brothers and sisters say that they follow the Bible, and at the same time, they say that the Eucharist is only a symbolic presence of Christ.  I do not understand how one can follow the Bible and still hold that this is only a symbolic presence.  Does not Jesus say, “This IS my Body,” “This IS my blood?”  Does he not say that he is the living bread come down from heaven?  Does he not say that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink?

The truth is that the Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, who ministered in the towns of Galilee, who died and rose from the dead in Jerusalem, is the very same Jesus who is present here with us in this Eucharist.  True, his form is hidden, just as he was unrecognized by many who saw him after his resurrection.  But it is the same person who gives himself to us.

Perhaps one of the reasons we may resist such a notion is that it has profound implications for us.  Just as the bishop and the fireman are bonded for life, even more are we bonded with Jesus when we eat his Body and drink his Blood.  And if we are so intimately bonded with Jesus, then much is demanded us of in terms of the way we live.  But there is more!  If Jesus thus bonds himself to each of us, then we are bonded in an intimate way with one another.  If we truly realized this profound communion we share with one another in Jesus, our lives would be filled with greater love, greater forgiveness, greater compassion.  But there is even more!  If we are so intimately bonded to Jesus, then the ministry of Jesus is meant to continue through us, who are truly members of his own Body, with his own Blood flowing through our veins.  So Jesus wants to be present today to bring peace to the world, to the nations, to our communities.  Jesus wants to be present today to touch and heal the sick with his loving kindness.  Jesus wants to be present today to bring good news to the poor when we feed them or clothe them, or house them, and especially when we work for greater justice for them.

Jesus did not just give a part of himself to us; he gave us his all, his own flesh and blood.  We come together today and every Sunday to lift our voices in praise of the God who gives us this wonderful, intimate gift of his love.  And then we go forth to be the living presence of the Body and Blood of Christ to the world in which we live.