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

June 2, 2024

[St. Joseph Church, Makawao (Confirmation & First Communion); St. Anthony Church, Wailuku (followed by Eucharistic Procession to Christ the King Church, Kahului); St. Theresa Church, Kihei (Confirmation & First Communion)]

Can you remember when someone told you something that was shocking?  Maybe it was the news of the sudden death of a family member; or the news we heard over twenty years ago that airplanes had been intentionally flown into buildings as a act of terrorism; or being told that one has cancer.  Our hearts stop for a minute.  We almost lose our breath.  We make some kind of exclamation.  These are moments we probably remember forever.

 Today we hear of Jesus saying something shocking to his disciples as he was gathered with them for the Last Supper.  This was the Passover meal that Jews had celebrated for centuries and still celebrate to commemorate God’s liberating them from slavery in Egypt.  They always passed bread and wine, so that was completely expected and normal.  But when Jesus passed the bread saying, “This is my body,” and when he passed the wine saying, “This is my blood,” it must have been terribly shocking to hear.  “What do you mean, ‘This is my body?  This is my blood?’ These are merely bread and wine, and your body we can see, your blood we know is flowing within you because you are alive here before us.”  Maybe some of them remembered Jesus saying that he would give his flesh and blood as food and drink for the life of the world, but really did not grasp fully what he meant by that.  Some were scandalized by what they heard and decided they could no longer follow Jesus.  But some believed, without fully understanding.  In any case, it is important that we reflect upon how shocking those words were the first time they were heard.

 We seem no longer to be shocked by them, since we hear them so often – every time we come to Mass.  Some may even find the words so repetitive that they are boring.  Yet do we allow ourselves to be sufficiently shocked when bread and wine are placed upon the altar and become the Body and Blood of Christ himself?  We can easily overlook the miracle that takes place right before our very eyes.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, is physically present to us and allows himself to be our food and our drink.  He who lived two thousand years ago, who died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, is the “living bread come down from heaven,” just as he promised, and he is here present with us today.  We may be so accustomed to the Eucharist that it no longer shocks us.  This is perhaps why the Church gives us this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, so that we can take a step back and be shocked by how much God loves us that he allows the Son of God himself to be our food.  If we truly grasped this wonderful gift, we would be shocked again and again.

 Today as we form a procession to take Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament out to the streets, we are not just performing a religious act.  Many cultures have religious processions with the cross or a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the center, which is carried and venerated.  But we take not just some sacred object, but a person, the living person of Jesus Christ.  And just as people flocked to Jesus long ago to be forgiven their sins and healed of their infirmities, who knows what miracles of conversion and healing he may perform today?

 But do you want to hear something else that shocking?  Jesus, by means of this holy sacrament of his Body and Blood, makes us sinners members of his living Body, so that in the Church, we can continue Jesus’ ministry of healing the sick, casting out demons, and even raising the dead!  If we allow ourselves to truly understand who we are – by sheer grace and the gift of God – the world would be a different place.  And this is what Jesus intends.  He wants us to shock the world with his continued presence with us, so that what we weak humans do can be accomplished with the power of God himself.

 How sad that we have allowed ourselves to think of the Eucharist as boring, something we have to be obliged to celebrate every Sunday.  If we allow ourselves to be shocked anew by the original shock the disciples experienced that night of the Last Supper, we would flock to be here as often as we can to be in the physical presence of the one who loves us more than we can possibly imagine.  We would shock the world anew as Jesus did two thousand years ago by being his healing and reconciling presence for the life of the world.