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Sunday, June 18, 2017

The body of Christ is special food

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of the Lord).  My reflection for this week looks at these special gifts from the Lord, given so that his beloved children will have food for our journey of faith.

Food for eternal life

A few years ago, there was an afternoon show on television in which the host – a psychologist – would offer advice to guests to help them get their lives back on track.  Many of the issues that were addressed involved communication between spouses or siblings – or lack thereof – and other situations that made life difficult for the guests who were being interviewed.  On more than one occasion, especially when the solution to the challenge being portrayed involved a need for support, the host would use a particular catch phrase.  He would say: Home (should always be) a soft place to fall.  By this, he meant that we should all have a place where we can be comfortable with our imperfections, a place where people will accept us and support us and help us to recover from the trauma of life so that we can rest and then carry on.

I think the ideal for every one of our parish communities is that they aim to be soft places for us to fall.  Each one of us needs a place where we can come, a place where we know that we are accepted for who we are, a place where we will always be loved and supported ... and the most perfect example of this boundless love is found in the person of Jesus.  He will always welcome us, encourage us and hold us when our souls are tired , when we are wounded and need a place to heal.

In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks poetically about the gift he offers us in order to heal and strengthen us when we are weakened.  He says: I am the living bread that came down from heaven ... (Jn 6:51).  We believe that the bread we break at this altar truly does become the body of Christ and that the wine we consecrate really does become his blood.  They don’t taste any different, but we believe through faith that these are the gifts the Lord offers us in order to nourish our bodies and our souls.

Jesus goes on to tell us that receiving this gift is not a one-time thing.  Like a modern-day physician who might tell us that we must eat our vegetables in order to feed our bodies with the vitamins and nourishment they need, Jesus says that whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them (Jn 6:56).  The Eucharist is one of the Sacraments of the Church – the outward, visible signs of the gifts that God offers to his children in order to strengthen and support us.  Like many of the other Sacraments, what we see with human eyes is small and appears insignificant, but the nourishment it provides for our souls is infinite.

Today is also the day that we celebrate Father's Day in this part of the world.  Every father tries to provide a soft place for his children to fall.  Let us give thanks to God for the gift that our fathers have been to us.  Let us also remember in prayer all the men we know who are expectant fathers: may God bless them with the joy of looking forward to the arrival of their children and help them to care lovingly for their wives.  We also remember all those men who are grieving because they have known the pain of losing a child, and those who have acted in the role of fathers for children who are part of their lives.  May the Lord reward them for the many ways in which they share the joy of their faith with those who are entrusted to their care.

This weekend, 35 children in our parish will receive the gift of the Eucharist for the very first time.  Since the day of their baptism, they have been learning about the community of the Church.  Over the past number of years, they have been coming to this parish and discovering for themselves how this is a soft place for them to fall when they need our help.  Today for the first time, they will receive special manna, the bread of angels that nourished God’s people in the desert (Deut 8:2-3, 14-16), the bread with which Jesus feeds all his children.  This gift has been transformed into the body and the blood of Christ (cf 1 Cor 10:16-17).  Pray for them, today and every day.  Together with them, may we always grow in our appreciation for the gift of the Eucharist.
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