We humans are embodied spirits

Homily for Corpus Christi

Readings: Gen. 14.18-20; Ps. 110; 1 Cor. 11.23-26; Lk. 9.11-17

We humans are embodied spirits. We consist of and communicate with our body and soul. It's not good enough for a husband to sit in his lazy boy lounge chair, and just think about how much he loves his wife; he better say it and show it. It is not good enough for a child to think how much he/she loves mom and dad, and do nothing to communicate that love. They better say it and show it. Similarly, if someone says and does all the right things in giving hugs and kisses, flowers, and chocolate candy; or obeying in all things, but lacks genuine love and affection; all those things don't matter if the soul is absent from actions.

Notice how God relates and communicates with us. God has made us body and soul. God has created us with five senses which enable us to hear, see, smell, taste and touch. Look at the beauty of creation about which God has said, "It is good." God has made us male and female, and has said "it is good." We are a physical and spiritual people. Throughout salvation history God has called and sent leaders to instruct and/or to inspire his people: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Moses, Aaron and Miriam; Elijah, Eliza and other prophets; Kings David and Solomon; the women Ruth and Esther, and finally his Son Jesus: God became Man, body and soul, to be God's Word, i.e., God's communication in our midst.

People's five senses were active in their interacting with Jesus. John the Baptist used water to baptize Jesus by immersing him in the Jordan River. Jesus physically touched people in ways that healed them, and showed forgiveness of their sins. When our Lord spoke, people listened to him. Jesus participated in the wedding feast of Cana which demonstrates his support for this God-given institution of marriage; I suspect that Jesus drank the wine and danced too. At the Last Supper, Jesus fed the apostles and disciples physically and spiritually, and he empowered his apostles to continue his sacred meal by instructing them, "Do this in memory of me." God has created us body and soul, therefore, he communicates with his people in physical and spiritual ways.

Communication is a two-way street. God wants us to communicate with him in words and deeds also. Jesus warns us not to use long prayers as do the Pharisees, but to pray in this manner: "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name " Jesus requires that we show our love for God by demonstrating our love for each other: "If you say that you love God but hate your neighbor, you are a liar." The criterion for entering into heaven is simply, "When I was hungry, did you give me to eat; when I was thirsty, did you give me to drink; when I was sick or in prison, did you visit me?" Because we are body and soul, we relate and communicate with God and all people in words and deeds, in spirit and in actions. We praise God and serve others in physical and spiritual ways.

On this feast of Corpus Christi, we celebrate that at the Last Supper, Jesus took ordinary gifts of bread and wine, prayed to his Father in heaven, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said, "Take this all of you and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you." When supper was ended, Jesus took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples and said, "Take this all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant."

For two thousand years since that Last Supper night, we Christians have re-enacted, re-peated, re-presented what Jesus had done for us. By the power of God, we take Jesus at his word and believe that this bread and wine is transformed into his body and blood. It interests me that the early Church debated at great length about the nature of God, Jesus and Mary, but not until 1500 years after Christ's death, did some people, mostly dissident priests, reject Real Presence. In the 9th, 11th, 14th and 16th centuries theologians argued over language to describe Real Presence. Martin Luther, who used the term consubstantiation rather than transubstantiation, adamantly defended Real Presence. Huldrich Zwingli and other contemporaries began using words like symbol and memorial to try to supplant the word sacrament. Now, 500 years later, the Catholic and Protestant Churches are enjoying very fruitful discussions on the Eucharist. Whole still arguing over language, most denominations agree in taking Jesus at his own words: "This is my body. This is my blood."

Today, when you individually receive this sacred bread and wine, thank God for the gift of this mutual communication. In the Eucharist, Jesus' Holy Spirit penetrates and permeates our human spirit. Consequently, we humans experience God's divine life; divine life enters into our human life. One of the early Church Fathers advised priests: "Imitamini quod tractamini," which means, "Imitate what you are holding in your hands." Today, when you receive Communion, pause for a moment, and repeat the classical exhortation: "Imitate what you are holding in your hands." When you leave church, live this divine life, graced life, body and soul in the real world. Let your words and deeds demonstrate that God lives within you. Become what you eat; you have received the most holy Body and Blood of Christ. Regard yourself and others as living temples of the Holy Spirit.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley