Homily, Corpus Christi C
When I was growing up at home, I used to hate having visitors. And it wasn’t just because I was shy. It was also because I was lazy. You see, every time we knew someone was coming to visit, we’d have to clean up around the house. I tried to convince my mom many times that we really shouldn’t clean up for visitors. It was deceitful. Instead of welcoming them into our home, we would be welcoming them into an artificially-tidied-up version, really just the shell of our house that would then lack so much of that lived-in feeling. But with nine kids in the house, there was no escaping the strong sense that the house was definitely lived-in. And our small efforts at cleaning up were a sign of the respect we had for our visitors.
As we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Most Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, it’s good for us to consider what sort of preparations, what efforts at tidying up do we make to receive such a guest as Jesus in the Eucharist? Jesus is the King of the Universe, of all that exists. He’s more important than the pope or the president of the United States, and He comes to visit us at every Mass. Jesus visits us humbly, under the appearances of bread and wine, and He wants to work in us and help us to clean up our lives by the power of His grace. What He needs most of all is an open door. There are probably parts of our houses that we don’t normally bring visitors into, maybe a utility room that’s kind of dungy or an unfinished basement. But there should never be any part of our lives that is kept off-limits to Jesus. We shouldn’t be afraid to let Jesus into the mess and into the darkest places of our hearts, because it is His presence that transforms darkness into light.
At the same time, we should know that mortal sins lock Jesus out and make us incapable of welcoming Him into our hearts. When we receive Holy Communion while conscious of grave sin on our souls, Jesus is not able to enter in. Instead, we insult our Guest further by greeting Him only with a locked door. To open the door to Him again, we need to meet with His great mercy in the Sacrament of Confession, where the priest, as God’s instrument, exercises the power of the keys and opens the way of Christ that we had shut, and brings new life to a soul that was dead in sin. Are there still areas of our lives that we refuse to open to God’s grace? Places in which we’re unwilling to give up worldly ways and disordered desires to live instead according to God’s Revelation and the teachings of His Catholic Church? What are the cluttered closets and unfinished basements where Jesus is not quite welcome?
The other question for us to consider this morning is how we conduct ourselves as guests in God’s house. At all times, Jesus, the Master of this house, is here in the Tabernacle. When we come in to the Cathedral, are we attentive to the Presence of Christ? Do we silence not only our cell phones, but even more importantly, do we silence our minds and hearts? Do we arrive early enough to give ourselves the time we need to put aside our distractions and plans and worries, so that we can really focus, and welcome Jesus with joy?
Another priest shared with me his amazement that so many people would never think of arriving late to the movies, after the show had already begun, and then how so many people are willing to wait at the end through the entire credit sequence to see if there’s just one last scene. And yet, so many of us think very little of arriving late to Mass or of leaving before the final blessing and dismissal. What do we really value in life, and how do our concrete actions show to God what we really think is important? One of the practices that I grew up with in Elk Point and in Jefferson was that after the final hymn, everyone in the church would kneel down in silence to give everyone a chance to say a prayer of thanksgiving for the great gift that we had just received, to speak with Jesus, still dwelling within us.
Do we silence our conversations as we enter this worship area, before and after Mass, to give one another the opportunity to speak with Jesus? Think how strange it would be to go to someone’s house and to speak to other visitors who are there, but to largely ignore the very master of the house who is hosting you. I hope we care enough about our relationship with Jesus, and our neighbor’s relationship with Jesus, to be more disciplined about treating this area of the church as a sacred space of prayer.
Over a hundred years ago, an Angel appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima and taught them a prayer that I’ve always found very striking. We’ll conclude with that prayer, as we continue to ask for a deeper appreciation and reverence for the great gift of Christ’s Body and Blood in this Eucharist. “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners. Amen.”