Homily: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus
As most of you know, I grew up near Chicago, in Joliet, Illinois. This was (and still is) close enough that “Chicago” culture permeates Joliet, too. I’m always a little surprised when I go home to visit at some of the stark contrasts between “Chicago” culture and our more rural “Indiana” culture. One of those aspects that usually sticks out is the “I know a guy…” syndrome. You see, in Chicago culture, one establishes his or her authority on a subject by proclaiming to “know a guy” that says something authoritative about it or who can do something in regards to it. For example: “I know a guy who says that the bishop keeps forty or fifty gold bars buried under the Cathedral in case of emergency.” Or (and this is more common), in the case that you need something done: “That storm ripped some siding off? I know a guy who can fix that up for you. He’ll do a great job and it won’t cost that much. Let me call him right now for you…”
This could be a great asset, if you were looking for someone and were hoping to find a good reference. It could also be very annoying. Perhaps you already had your own “guy” for the job, but now you have to talk to this other “guy”. Nevertheless, in its own weird way, this aspect of the “Chicago” culture is very “priestly”. In other words, the guy who knows a guy that can get you what you need and is willing to get it from him for you is actually acting—again in a weird analogical sense—like a priest. Let me try to explain, taking a look at today’s Scriptures.
You see, the role of the priest is to mediate between God and man. The primary way that he does this is by offering sacrifices to God on behalf of man. This is evidenced throughout history: one brings his or her offering to God and hands it to the priest who then offers it to God according to the ritual ascribed for it. The other way that the priest mediates between God and man is to bring God’s blessings down to man. That could be in sharing the physical offerings from the altar of sacrifice (such as when a portion of the sacrifice was returned to the one who offered it as a sign that his offering was received positively by God) or simply by imparting the blessings of God on the people. Case in point: the priest Melchizedek.
In our first reading today, we hear the short episode of when Abram returned victorious from a battle against an enemy attacker. On his return he is met by the priest-king Melchizedek who brings out bread and wine for a thanksgiving offering to “God Most High”. Melchizedek makes the offering and also imparts a blessing from “God Most High” onto Abram. Then Abram gives a tenth of everything to Melchizedek in thanksgiving for the many spoils he brought back from his victory. As a mediator for God, Melchizedek will make the appropriate offering on Abram’s behalf. Through these actions, we see that the priest is a mediator between God and man: a mediation that goes in both directions.
In the Gospel, we also see a model of priesthood. After Jesus had been teaching the crowds all day, his disciples approach him on behalf of the people to ask that they be dismissed so they can go find food and lodging for the night. After instructing them to “give them some food yourselves”, to which they object since they have so little food, Jesus works a miracle so that they can provide them all with food. In other words, Jesus, who is God, pours out blessings upon the people (the multiplication of loaves and fish) through the hands of his disciples, which makes them “priests”. Thus we see that, in a sense, the priest is a “guy who knows a guy” who can take care of what we need.
Jesus, however, is the Eternal High Priest—that is, the priest above all other priests—who eternally intercedes on our behalf before God our Father, offering all of our prayers and praises to him while sending down to us grace for every need in our lives. We know that this is true because of two things that Jesus did before he ascended into heaven: 1) he instituted the ministerial priesthood and 2) he instituted the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, he made sure that his Body and Blood—which he told us is the very substance of life when he said: “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you do not have life within you”—would be available to all. And in the ministerial priesthood, he made sure that his Body and Blood would always be available to all, down through the generations, until he returned on the day of judgment.
To make present his Body and Blood was a task that was given to a select few—not because of their exceptional worthiness, but simply because they were chosen. It continues to this day to be given to those whom God has chosen for this task so that his divine life may continually be poured out for his faithful people to consume. This is the role of the priest today, to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God on your behalf and to be generous distributors of God’s many blessings through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist: in which the Body and Blood of Jesus is made really present to us in the form of bread and wine. In other words, the priest is to be the “guy who knows a guy” who can bring God’s divine life to us.
In a special way today we honor the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus as a way of honoring Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, who made of himself a sacrifice to God on our behalf and who continually pours out God’s blessings to us through this most holy sacrament; and as a reminder to honor him always in his real presence that remains with us in the tabernacle. This truly is both the source and the summit of our faith.
Let us, then, honor him worthily today by pouring ourselves out in praise and thanksgiving for this great gift; and by embracing the share in Christ’s priesthood that we all have received in baptism and go forth from here to be that “guy who knows a guy” who can intercede before God on behalf of others and bring others to the abundant blessings that God pours out for all when the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus is made present here in this Holy Eucharist.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 29th, 2016