Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ: June 10
Ex 24:3-8, Heb 9:11-15, Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
When the church first permitted Catholics to take the Sacred Host in their hands at Communion back in the late 1960s, I, for one was delighted. Many Catholics, who had been taught great reverence for the Host, found it difficult to change their way of receiving. They simply felt that their hands were unworthy to hold the Lord.
Some Catholics still think that way. I tried to help people feel comfortable with the new practice by telling them about my father.
He had been a common laborer all his life; and he specialized in using what was called the “Irish banjo,” his digging spade; he had a reputation among his peers as being one of the fastest and most accurate diggers in the business. Though he had been dead for several years by the time the Communion in hand was permitted, I still had an image of him coming forward for Communion.
Those hands, hard and callused with years of hard work, had taken care of me, changed my diapers, disciplined me and made it possible for me to study for the priesthood. It would have given me such great pleasure to place Jesus Christ in my father’s worn hands. I imagined that the Lord would have been delighted to rest, even if only momentarily, in the sturdy hands of a man like his own father, Joseph, the carpenter.
That’s a very personal take on the sacrament of the Eucharist, I know. But it’s a viewpoint that always helps me understand what the Eucharist is in our lives.
Christ comes to us under the appearance of bread and wine not as an object to be held at arm’s length with little application to our everyday lives. Christ comes to us with incredible intimacy.
We eat his body and drink his blood, even as we acknowledge that those words are so open to misinterpretation.
The Lord wishes to be part of us, body and soul, down to the core of our being. And he wants us to be part of him, body and soul, down to the core of his divine being. We become one with Jesus Christ when we partake of the Host and drink the Blood.
I can hear some readers saying, “Oh, here we go again, one more sweetly pious explanation of Christ’s presence in the bread and wine.” No, the Body and Blood of Christ are as real and as tough and as hard-earned as my father’s hands were.
Jesus suffered and died in order that we might have a proper share in his life. He gave up his human life for all of us. That’s real; that’s life on the human stage. On this feast when we celebrate “Corpus Christi” — the Body and Blood of Christ — I pray that the reality of Christ’s presence will once again fuel your sense of gratitude to God.
A lay friend of mine has told me about his feelings for people who have fallen away from the practice of their faith. He expresses sorrow for them since they no longer have the Eucharist. In his mind, and I concur, Christ is the greatest gift of all.
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time: June 17
Ez 17:22-24, 2 Cor 5:6-10, Mk 4:26-34
There’s an environmental disaster brewing in the Colorado Rockies. In and around one of my favorite towns, Winter Park, thousands of acres of lodge pole pines are dead or dying. The calamity is not confined to there.
The mountain sides along the roads are littered with stark brown lifeless pines where there used to be a blanket of green trees for all to see and appreciate. Causes for the disaster are said to be rising temperatures, ongoing drought and a bark beetle that eats everything in sight.
It is sad to see, especially in light of the Ezekiel reading and the Gospel reading today. In Ezekiel, God reminds us that he is the creator of the mountains and the stately trees that top those majestic peaks.
It is said: “And all the trees shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree and make the withered tree bloom.”
In God’s balanced creation, the healthy trees are not only beautiful to see, they also serve to remove carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere; they are literally lifesavers. God is in control, but nature also takes its course, sometimes with the unthinking aid of all of us humans as we pollute the very air we breathe.
In the Gospel parable, the Lord Jesus speaks of seeds and plants, of growth and the kingdom. Jesus concentrates on the details, not on the big picture.
When seed is sown, he reminds us that it grows in secret, and it grows even when we are fast asleep and oblivious to nature’s processes. He speaks of a tiny mustard seed that develops into a healthy bush (not “the largest of plants” as Mark would have it).
The kingdom of God, God’s reign in our midst, is sometimes invisible, sometimes tiny and relatively insignificant. That is an important lesson for all of us to acknowledge as we move into summer, the traditional time of growth here in the Midwest.
Good things are happening in nature — and some not so good things. God’s creative presence embraces this entire world we call home. So must we.
Jesus’ use of parables to illustrate the kingdom is unique in the Scriptures. His description of his Father’s role in our lives was never a pure intellectual exercise. Look around, he cried out, God is everywhere, even when we are absolutely unaware.
We call this time of the year “Ordinary Time.” I think Jesus would have seconded that designation. Ordinary Time is never really “ordinary” however. Not when it is resplendent with the presence of our Creator.
Take some time to look around, to appreciate the beauty of nature. Take some time to reflect on how you can help to keep all of this creation intact.
Happy Father’s Day to all those great men who make our lives possible.
O’Malley is a faculty member of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, former vicar for priests and pastor emeritus of St. Celestine Parish.