Kathy Reddig is a Roman Catholic Womanpriest
who serves a Catholic Community in Minnesota. She gave permission to share the homily she preached on Corpus Christi Sunday, June 14, 2009.
Over the years, since the time of Jesus, when he first made the Passover Meal something new by proclaiming the profound words, “This is my body, this is my blood, the whole notion of the Body and Blood of Jesus—or
Jesus, in the form of bread and wine was so sacred then that there were special things everyone had to remember about even how to receive this gift that was originally intended as a way for our God in Jesus to be closer to us. In those days, as many of you recall, we didn’t even receive the wine—the most precious blood was simply too precious for us to receive. And we received the host, the most precious body on our tongues as we weren’t worthy to touch it and we were never to chew it. This puts a great deal of stress on a young child like myself who was also very reverent and would never think of desecrating the host in any way.
Today things have changed. With Vatican II, we were encouraged by John XXIII to open some windows, let some fresh air in—think again about the original intention of this special gift. Jesus took common elements—the stuff of the Passover Meal—
flat bread—matzos—remembering the time of their forebears’ fleeing captivity in
Today, as a result of Vatican II, I see there being much more emphasis on the body of Christ, which is all of us, than on the body of Christ which is represented by the bread and wine on the table that we will soon together make sign and symbol of Jesus present among us.
Another aspect of those pre-Vatican II times, as I described earlier was the over-emphasis on worshipping the body and blood of Jesus in the form of bread and wine. It spawned practices of Eucharistic devotion and perpetual adoration—practices the Church is trying desperately today to reinstate, which will further keep Jesus away—untouchable as in earlier times.
The word “transubstantiation” –a word we second graders in the 50’s could barely pronounce and even less understood, was the talk of the day whenever the Eucharist was mentioned. The doctrine, as most of you know, states that one must believe that the bread and wine, with the words of consecration, have become “flesh” and “blood” even though they still appear to be bread and wine—taste like bread and wine.
The question perhaps to ask is—can the bread and wine—looking like bread and wine, tasting like bread and wine, still be Jesus-with-us? How about this? When we eat the bread and drink the wine, sign and symbol of Jesus-with-us, it becomes, actually, flesh and blood in our bodies. Again, I believe this is an instance of us taking Jesus’ words too literally and spending undo time and energy trying to get our heads around something that is not intelligible. I believe what Jesus intended is that he would remain with us, a part of us, body and blood, by incorporating all that he taught us and making it literally, a part of us. That’s what we mean when we say we are now Jesus’ body for our world. Hopefully, we become a bit more transformed into the body and blood of Jesus each day. People should be able to see Jesus in our actions.
Jesus’ task on this earth was to show us the way—he said, you will do greater things than I. He wasn’t going to be the one staying around—that would be our task. He knew we would need to feel his presence and thus he gave us the Eucharist—as a way to remember him, as a way to receive the strength needed to be his body in our world.
You might have wondered why we all say the words of institution unlike in the traditional Church. Many inclusive communities have been doing this for several years now and it is reflective of taking ownership for Jesus present-among-us.
We all together say the words that in effect make it so and it is again a mystery we can only see around the edges—dimly, as through a glass, to use Paul’s words. If we can grasp the fact that our God has loved us from all time, and that is proven by the sending of Jesus to be one with us, we have gotten the core message. Then, because Jesus couldn’t remain with us in physical form, he left us a way—a sacrament that when we share it, we become cognizant of his presence with us in a special way. We live in our respective worlds—in our own life situations and we are Jesus’ body and blood for the world, if we so choose.
For me, if it is a choice between reverencing Jesus’ body in the host and in the cup or reverencing Jesus’ body in our world and its people, my choice is clear—the world and its people.
So, am I saying that the sacrament of the altar is not important to me? No, on the contrary—it continues to be a very important ritual and a starting place for me. Jesus’ gift to each of us—his body, his blood, his loving, his dying, his rising—all instill within me a great sense of responsibility because if I believe he is here present, then I am called to make his gift my own—and not only my own, but a gift I am obligated to share with my world.
Earlier, I spoke about Vatican II bringing fresh air into the Church. In this homily, I have spent the most of my time trying to help us see the importance of putting the stress in the right place. As a child, I had a great reverence for the Eucharist—I went to Catholic schools and on special days when there was 40 hours devotion—the Eucharist was displayed outside the tabernacle.
I thought it so wonderful to go into the Cathedral on my lunch break and worship Jesus there. Those were the thoughts of a child. As an adult, I believe Jesus meant so much more than that.
I remember God’s words to the 1st Testament people—I don’t want your offerings of bullocks and lambs—we might add—I don’t need you to worship me in the bread and the wine, but in the flesh and blood of my people. There was a time when we worried about dropping the host and desecrating it on the floor—I believe Jesus is more concerned about the desecration that happens when we fail to recognize him in the sufferings and needs of others. Our God simply wants us to have clean hearts that show our love by the way we live our lives.
So my friends, I invite us to have great reverence for the Eucharistic
meal—something we make our own each time we celebrate together, each time we say the words that make Jesus present here in our lives in a special way. We remember Jesus’ words to us—where two or three are gathered in my name—I am there. We become a family when we share this meal—we become vulnerable to each other as we eat together and we promise as a community, with Jesus’ help to continue to share his life among us. That is why anyone who wants to be part of our celebration and partake of the meal is welcome here, because Jesus has 1st welcomed us. Partaking of the bread and wine as sign and symbol of Jesus with us only makes sense if we then go out and share the gift of Jesus’ love with all we meet. Worshipping or reverencing Jesus in the bread and wine only makes sense if we likewise reverence him in each person who comes into our lives.