Homily for the Solemnity of
June 6, 1999
Deut 8: 2-3, 14-16
St. Joseph’s, Passaic, N.J.
O.L. of Pompei, Paterson, N.J.
On June 18, solemnity of Corpus Christi, I'll be traveling to Quebec go represent the Salesians at the SIGNIS conference there, starting on the 19th. Here's an old homily.
“The Lord your God … fed you with manna…” (Deut 8: 3).
During the Easter triduum 2 months ago, we heard how God brought the Hebrews out of Egypt: how the angel of death passed over their homes, whose doorposts were marked by the blood of the paschal lamb, while they were eating that lamb indoors; how God parted the Red Sea and brought them over it, then drowned the Egyptians in it.
Last week we heard how God called Moses up Mt. Sinai a 2d time and renewed the covenant with him and the Hebrew nation; we heard the Lord describe himself as “merciful and gracious, rich in kindness and fidelity”; we heard Moses beseech the Lord to come with them on their journey thru the wilderness (Ex 34:4-9).
Today, at the end of that long journey, at the end of 40 years of wandering thru the Sinai desert, Moses reminds the people how God has indeed accompanied them, especially by feeding them every day with the mysterious food called manna, which neither they nor their ancestors had known when they were slaves in Egypt.
Why does the Church have us read this passage from Deuteronomy today, on the feast of Corpus Christi? To remind us of how God has acted to save us also and to remain with us—all symbolized in the wondrous sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood.
For the Eucharist is the blood of the paschal lamb marking our doorposts—our lips, which figuratively open the way to our souls. The destroying angel must pass over all those signed by Christ as belonging to him. The waters of death cannot drown those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb.
The Eucharist is the new covenant between God and us, a lasting sign of God’s mercy and fidelity, the sign of his body nailed to the cross and his blood shed to redeem us, his body risen and ascended to heaven for us. As we make our journey thru the wilderness of life, assaulted by the world, the flesh, and the devil, our God who died and rose for us comes along with us.
God began to accompany us in a very personal way when his only Son was begotten in the womb of the Virgin Mary when she said “Yes” to the angel Gabriel, “Yes” to God’s plan. The Son of God continues to accompany us on our life’s journey as he is begotten, so to speak, under the form of bread and wine at every Mass when the priest says, “This is my body; this is my blood.”
What the Hebrews ate in the desert for 40 years resembled bread, and so they called it “bread from heaven.” It nourished them for their journey. What we eat each week—perhaps each day if we are especially fortunate —begins as bread but becomes something else, something far more nourishing.
Like the apostles, we all become the companions of Jesus. Companions means, literally, those who share bread together. How true that we share bread with Jesus, who has made of himself for us “the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51).
St. Paul refers to “the bread that we break” and “the cup that we bless” as participation in the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:16). Nutritionists tell us we are what we eat. We are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We participate in his own divine life. What company to have on our way thru the desert! “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood,” he tells us, “remains in me and I in him…and will have life because of me” (John 6:56-57).
If the daily manna sustained the Hebrews until they reached the Promised Land, we may be sure that “the living bread” of Jesus’ body and blood will sustain us until we reach our promised land, the place which Jesus has prepared for us, an eternal dwelling, with him and his Father (John 14:2-3).