Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi Year B 2021 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
Readings: Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-26
6 June 2021
Becoming what we’ve received for the life of the world
There are events described as watershed or threshold moments that change our life forever. My appointment as a Bishop was one of those. Sometimes when the going gets tough, I wished I could return to the past. But the future beckons.
In many ways, we the human family are also at the watershed moment that can either launch us into a hope-filled future or leave us mired in a shrinking whirlpool. The COVID crisis has exposed the myth of individualism and self-sufficiency that lies at the heart of our cultural assumptions. We are so oriented towards individual success and prosperity that there is little room for social conscience and the common good. Poverty, inequality, environmental exploitation et cetera become the collateral damage of a profit-driven, grab-what-you-can and survival of the fittest society.
The Feast of Corpus Christi reminds us of our call to follow the way of Jesus, who came that everyone might have a dignified life. We are called to be His body broken and His blood poured out for others. The Eucharist strengthens us and sustains us as we follow the way of Jesus in transforming lives and relationships and thus bringing about God’s plan for all humanity.
We are challenged to reclaim our identity as Eucharistic people. St Augustine put it like this: “Receive what you already are and become fully what you have received”. Corpus Christi is to become what we eat, to be another Christ for others, to be Eucharistic in our self-giving love, in our reaching out and in our embrace of all people in the manner Jesus showed us.
Scriptures today highlight the sacrificial significance of the Eucharist through the symbolism of blood. In the first reading, Moses sprinkles the people with the blood of the sacrifices and in this way seals the covenant between God and Israel. The ritual, repeated yearly, is called the Day of Atonement whereby the sins of the people are washed away.
Through this ritual, Moses reminded the people of the meaning of the Exodus which was to usher them into a new era of freedom and responsibility. They were no longer under the bondage of Pharaoh. In the land of promise, they were meant to form a society different to the one they had experienced in Egypt, one in which true freedom, justice and human dignity would flourish.
In the Gospel, Jesus anticipates the sacrifice of the cross with the Eucharistic words and actions: “This is my body” and “this is my blood which is to be poured out for many”.
To eat his flesh and to drink his blood is to participate in his life-giving death and resurrection. The Eucharist commits us to be Christ’s transforming presence in the world. For like Him, we must suffer with others, be vulnerable with the vulnerable, be last with the least and be powerless with those without power. We are reminded of the many meals Jesus shared with the poor, the hungry, the sinner, the disenfranchised and the marginalised.
This is not something we do alone, but as a community, in communion with Christ and with our brothers and sisters who form His body on earth. So let us become more fully what we already are: Christ’s body broken for others and his blood poured out for many. Let us embrace Jesus’ way of being the transformative force for the world, so that it may truly mirror the kingdom of peace, justice and love for all.
Corpus Christi highlights for us what it means to be a disciple and what it means to be a body of Christ. In the world which is deeply suspicious of institutional religions, we need to be purified of all that is the antithesis of the Gospel spirit. We need to convert to the humble and servant Christ. Christianity or specifically Catholicism need to regain not so much its former influence in an increasing secular society, but the quality of its witness by the depth of our integrity and our commitment to be servants of the world. Given that we are likely to be a minority in the future, our call is not to batten down the hatches and circle the wagons but to cast out into the deep in active and intentional discipleship.
Today, we give thanks for this gift of Christ’s body and blood, which strengthens us for our mission in the world. May we grow daily into the Eucharistic Christ who reaches out to all people and leads them to the heart of God. May we together act as agents for the Gospel, galvanising the human family to respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. May we model our lives on the one who came to that all have life and have it to the full.