Sunday, June 14, 2020

Feast of Corpus Christi HOC Homily by Reverend Jennifer Marie Marcus, ARCWP, Esquire Heart of Compassion Faith Community, Windsor, ON (13 June 2020)

Because of the Pandemic and resulting lockout we have been denied the opportunity to celebrate Eucharistic liturgies in a sacred space with our sisters and brothers. It also compelled me to reflect on how much I missed the Eucharistic Liturgies, especially during Lent, Holy Week, the Triduum, Easter and Pentecost in a sacred space. While Zoom technology provided us with a tool to remotely pray together it was no substitute to experience the true Body of Christ, the people of God praying and celebrating the Eucharistic Feast together in a church environment.
Through the energy of the Eucharistic prayers of the priest and faithful in their petitioning prayers to the Holy Spirit, we confect the elements into the Body and Blood of Christ. Prior to Vatican II, only an ordained priest could petition the Holy Spirit with his “magic fingers “to confect the elements. In fact, a priest was required to say a daily Mass alone in his apartment because a priest’s main function was to celebrate Mass and confect the elements. A priest was also required to pray his daily office from his breviary. This theology promoted and enhanced the notion that clerics were holy men with a unique and special relationship with God using the special language of Latin. As a consequence, it fostered a privileged sense of entitlement and clericalism with priests and the hierarchy that continues even today.
For a seven year or eight year old Roman Catholic, a First Communion was a milestone and rite of passage in one’s life. At mine, I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was so excited to receive Jesus into my heart. When I made my First Communion we had to “fast " from midnight on before receiving the sacrament on Communion Sunday morning Mass. The girls in their white dresses looked like little brides. The boys were dressed in their blue suits, white ties, white ribbon arm bands with the words "First Communion" on them and their lapel pin symbol of the ciborium and host with a little sprig of artificial Lily of the Valley flowers around it. At that time, we all received our  first prayer books rosaries and cross scapular medals  with Jesus, Mary, and Saints on stamped on them and on the back were the words “I Am A Catholic. Please Call a Priest” to insure we would get the Last Rites if we were close to death so we could go to  heaven. (Actually, I received the Last Rites a year later because I was struck by a car and almost died.) After the liturgy, there were parties, pictures, proud parents, family and friends.                                             
Two weeks prior to the May Communion Sunday we individually had to privately recite the Ten Commandments, Act of Contrition and Apostle Creed in front of a priest, and the Friday before Communion Sunday we had to go to “Confession” as it was called then, now the Sacrament of Reconciliation. At rehearsal Saturday we received the nonsensical irrational instruction to swallow the host after receiving it on our tongues. The myth was we dare not touch or bite the host because we were unworthy and would hurt Jesus and his blood would come out of our mouths. When I was older I still was afraid to touch the vessels: chalice and ciborium because I felt unworthy. I did not have anointed consecrated hands like a priest from the sacrament of Holy Orders. 
As I previously mentioned, we viewed a priest as someone special, a holy man of God. He had magical fingers using a special magical language of Latin that gave him a sacred connection with God. The Laity were viewed as unclean sinners, especially women. They were considered incomplete men no thanks to the Greek philosophers like Aristotle, and our Middle Ages Church Theologians, Augustine and Aquinas. Women were also viewed as unclean because they menstruated. As an aside even up through the Middle Ages women were not allowed in the Sanctuary. Regrettably, the view of priests having a special relationship with God is still something many Catholics still believe and that supports present day Clericalism, the Hierarchy and a Male priesthood; it contributes to clerical elitism, discrimination against women, and inequality with the people of God.
I remember we would participate in Corpus Christi, Holy Thursday, Easter, May Mary processions, 40-Hour Devotions, and Benedictions, where we processed with and venerated the Christ in the Host contained in a Monstrance. Later as an Altar Server, I found myself worthy to touch the vessels. After being commissioned in a post Vatican II church as an Eucharistic Minister, together with some theological training,I felt worthy to touch the consecrated elements with my hands. This led me to realize that what most of the church was previously practicing was a form of devotional IDOLATRY.
In today’s Gospel John narrates Jesus’s words to his Jewish crowd:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;and the bread that I will giveis my flesh for the life of the world."…..
Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”..
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever."
Upon hearing this, Jesus’ Jewish crowd were stunned and appalled. Not only did it sound impossible but disgustingly cannibalistic. That was what pagans did and such a thought or practice would readily defile any good Jew… eating a dead body, how ghastly and disgusting! Please note that in some pagan cultures, a victorious tribal leader in a battle against a strong worthy opponent would sometimes personally kill the strongest opponent hero and would either remove his heart and eat it, or eat most of his body thinking by ingesting it he would acquire the adversary’s strength, power and courage….“You are, or become what you eat!”
In John’s Christological narration, note Jesus’s introductory statement:
"I am,” making his connection with the God of Israel on Sinai when Moses asks God “Who shall I say that sent me?" and God’s reply ‘I Am ,Who Am.’ We also know that subsequently Moses received the Decalogue, the Torah: the Wisdom of God’s law for life for God’s Chosen Priestly People. Later in the Gospel, Jesus’ other Divine connecting reference was to bread and the Manna the Israelites received from God to allay their hunger when they were wandering in the Sinai desert for 40 years.
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;”
“Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever."
Although it is not mentioned in this chapter of John’s gospel, the other reference of Jesus’ Divine connection to the Moses Sinai experience at the reception of the Decalogue to quench the people’s thirst for eternal Wisdom for eternal life is in John 12, v44-50.
44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Holy One who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Holy One has told me to say.”
You will note in a post Vatican II Mass the above outlined pattern of receiving life giving words and the actual confection of the elements and reception of the Body and Blood of Christ for eternal life is present. In sum, we become what we hear and eat. As commanded by Christ, we are charged to be a Holy People, a Priestly People. We are the present day Body of Christ with the responsibility of participating and continuing Christ’s mission of bringing forth the kin-dom of God on earth.
That said, regrettably if we are the Body of Christ, I am afraid that we, the cells of that Body, are infected and ravaged with disease. I am not just speaking about the CODIV -19 Pandemic, but as evidenced by the recent murder of Black persons by police, like in the cases of George Floyd and others like the EMT,Breonna Taylor while sleeping in her own home. Note the evil generated by the oppressive, corrupt, hypocritical demagoguery practices of governmental political leaders like, Putin, Trump, Assad, XI Jinping, Kim Jong-un,etc., the discriminatory, hypocritical oppressive doctrines and practices of Religious Leaders and Traditions like the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in their treatment of Women, Minorities and the LGBTIQ Community, and in protecting and covering up for Clerical Pedophiles. Here is the tragic reality. After more than 2000 years of Christianity the Body of Christ is dying because its cells are being ravaged by the fatal metastasizing malignancy of: Hate, Violence, War, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Self Interest, Bigotry, White Supremacy,Systematic Racism, Slavery, Human Trafficking, Sex Abuse, Child Abuse, Hunger, Poverty, Sexism, Misogyny, Xenophobia, Homophobia, Inequality, Injustice,  Elitism, Air and Water Pollution, Clericalism, Fascism, Dictatorship, Narcissism, Ageism, Unchecked Power, Corruption and disproportioned Wealth, just to name a few of its fatal maladies.
It now becomes incumbent on each one of us, as individual cells of the Body of Christ, to work on healing ourselves and our surrounding cells through acts of love, compassion, justice and empathy. Otherwise, we, as the collective Body of our Christ, will all die along with the planet and Christ’s mission to bring forth the Kin-dom of God on this plane of existence will fail.
In conclusion, it’s time to “BE” what we Hear, and to “BE” what we Eat and are called to BE: A Holy Priestly People and a True Holy Body of Christ

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