The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – June 18, 2022
St. Paul — Lyons, KS
Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:1-4; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17
Our Misconceptions of the Mass
If I were to go around the church today and ask what the Mass is, how you understand the Mass, I am pretty confident of the majority of the answers that I would get. Mostly because I have lived them! I have lived through a lot of different ideas of what the Mass is.
A classic is that the Mass is a time for the community to be together, to catch up with each other, to gather as one; a time when we prayed a little together, maybe got some good advice about being a nice person, and then moving on with our life. Another one is that the Mass is like a gym membership: we walk in, sit down, don’t acknowledge any one, and “get our Mass on.” This is me and Jesus time; this is spiritual training, time to become holier by receiving the “magic vitamin for the soul,” the Eucharist. And to top it off is the most common one in the book: Mass is an obligation; avoiding guilt, something we have to do, keeping ourself out of hell.
But if this is what it is…I think we’re missing it. The Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our Faith, it is at the core of everything we do. But why? What is the big deal? And the easy answer is that the Eucharist isn’t just a thing, the Eucharist is an action, it is something we participate in, it is being immersed into the very life and mission of Jesus Christ himself. The Eucharist is an invitation, and involves a response.
An Invitation: To Participate In Mission
So first the invitation. And the invitation is from God (and I can’t stress that enough!) The invitation is not from me, or my desire that I’m pretending is from God, or my vision or my plan or any of that. I’m here, unworthy and sinful as I am, on God’s behalf, like a herald. The image in my mind is John the Baptist; my prayer like John is that “I would decrease and he would increase,” that you would hear God’s voice, not mine, speaking through the broken vessel that is Fr. Michael Brungardt.
And the invitation is this: God is inviting you and me (I’m convinced) to take part in the greatest and the most exciting adventure that there is in life: to offer another person a life-changing encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. That is why we exist, that is our mission: so that every person in our community (not just us, but every person in our community) can have that life changing encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. There isn’t some “Catholic Version” of believing in Jesus, like you can choose the Starbucks or Dunkin’ or McDonald’s or Brew or Clive’s or Casey’s version of getting your coffee! Here, in this Church, is the fullness of the Faith, the fullness of everything Jesus Christ has given to us.
And so we are called to be fishers of men and women; to catch people submerged in meaninglessness and sadness, drowning in their own brokenness and woundedness, suffocating in a life apart from the God who made them and loves them—and to introduce them to the person of Jesus Christ, to offer them a life-changing encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.
The Good News
It is this Jesus that people met and said things like, “Who is this guy? Who is he that says these things? Where does he get this power? Lord, where do you stay? We want to stay with you. Lord, tAo whom else would we go? Only you, only you have the words that correspond to everything in my heart. Only you have the words of eternal life. Lord, you have changed everything in my life. We have left behind family and jobs and house to follow you. Lord, to whom else would we go?”
When people encountered this Jesus, everything changed! (Go watch the Chosen if you need a new show to binge watch. The Chosen depicts this well. When people encountered him, everything changed.) The sick, the blind, the broken and sad, the lost, those trapped in meaninglessness and confusion—their encounter with this Jesus healed them, changed them, transformed them; their encounter with Him was always a life-changing response to their need.
And this same Jesus didn’t just come to teach or perform miracles, but to go to battle for us, to fight for us, to give everything for us. By dying on the cross and rising from the dead, he defeated our greatest enemy: Sin and Death itself. Not even Death has power over us anymore.
The invitation is to offer another person, every person in our community a life-changing encounter with this person, with the person of Jesus Christ. And in order for this to happen, there must be a response. Jesus didn’t come and do all of this and then say to his disciples as he was ascending, “Well goodbye! Make sure you go to Mass on Sunday’s or I’m going to send you to hell! Go hang out with each other on Sunday mornings and talk about being a nice person!” No!
Jesus invites us to respond, and to respond in a bold and courageous way! Jesus invites us to an urgent response! Urgent, because it has to do with the salvation, the life, the hearts of everyone in our community. Jesus commands his disciples—that’s us, that’s you, that’s me—he commands the disciples, “Go. Go, make disciples.”
If the vision that God has for His Church is that it offer every person in our community a life-changing encounter with His Son, with the person of Jesus Christ—if this vision is to become a reality, it demands a response. We have to respond, and respond in real, concrete and tangible ways. In our first reading today, Abraham responds by offering a tithe, one tenth of everything he owns. In our Gospel today, the disciples respond by offering five loaves and two fish, all they have. God is not just asking us to put our butt in a pew. We’re not in maintenance mode here any more, we’re not just trying to pay the bills and make sure we have Mass for people that would like to attend Mass. We are in full mission mode! We are beginning to direct everything towards responding to the invitation we have from God: to offer every person in our community a life-changing encounter with this person, with the person of Jesus Christ.
Our response, and the response I would ask you to prayerfully consider—as we begin, I would ask you to prayerfully consider this: “How can I put Him first?” How do I thank this God for all He has done? When I recognize all of the gifts I have received from Him, the beautiful things He does for me—my life, my family, my children, the meaning and purpose He gives, the talents and abilities He gave me, the healing and forgiveness He gives me for the 10th or 100th or 10,000th time—when I recognize the unconditional and overflowing love that the God of the universe (which is 92 billion lightyears across) has bestowed on me—how can I gratefully respond? How can I put Him first?
A Eucharistic Life
It must begin with gratitude. It must. Jesus, on the night that he was betrayed, took bread, and gave thanks. Gratefully, while giving thanks he offered his life, offered himself up to death. So confident was He in the Father, in the infinite love of the Father, that even with the full knowledge of His coming betrayal, torture, condemnation, and execution—even with this still to come, He gratefully responded to the Father’s invitation, and he responded with everything. And that response wasn’t betrayed! The Father did not abandon Him, but raised Him from the dead.
We, our response is meant to be the same. We gratefully offer everything, and we offer everything in real, concrete and tangible ways. We live a Eucharistic life—a life of thanksgiving. We unapologetically proclaim Christ. We leave here confident of our urgent mission. (In our Eucharistic procession, in a very concrete and tangible way, we literally carry Christ out onto the streets.)
Yes, Jesus asks us to be bold and courageous, to an urgent response, but he doesn’t abandon us to our own devices! “Go, make disciples!” Yes. But then he adds, “And behold, I am with you always.” Jesus doesn’t send us out empty handed, relying on ourselves, our own strength. He gives us himself. In the Eucharist, we have food for the journey. He simply asks us to offer what we have—broken, frail, sinners that we are. We are confident that He can transform us, even in our brokenness. He can transform the little that we offer.
And with that confidence, with that source of strength, our response must begin with the prayerful consideration of the question: “How can I put Him first? How can I gratefully respond to all that the Lord has done for me and promises to do for me?” People are submerged, suffocating, drowning—and we have been sent to rescue them. Not by our own power or plans or self-help solutions, but by offering them a life-changing encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.