Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) “It’s a Dangerous Business Frodo…” PDF Version
Homily for Corpus Christi (2018)
On the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Holy Eucharist, which we receive during the Holy Mass within the safety of a church building (or a temporary home such as our school gym) and which is kept safe behind the locked doors of a Tabernacle, is taken out into the streets and communities in which we live. Now Bilbo Baggins once taught his nephew Frodo “It’s a dangerous business Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
While the procession we will have as a parish community at the conclusion of our Sunday Mass has no intention of becoming a dangerous affair, there is always a risk involved, as we do not know how people will react to seeing a religious procession pass by. Will it be meet with peace, conflict, support, opposition, indifference, scorn or enthusiasm? All of these reactions and many more can occur, and there can be a temptation then for us as Catholic Christians to forgo this procession or for any external manifestation of our faith, such as simple things like saying grace before meals while at a restaurant or wearing a cross or religious medal that is visible for others to see.
More and more it feels that our progressively more secular society is at peace with people keeping religion to themselves, but averse to seeing it displayed in a public manner. The temptation then is simply to retreat and hide any external signs of our faith so as not to upset anyone and in doing so miss the opportunity to bring Christ to others, many of whom will not come to know Jesus for they have few to teach and show them the love of the Eucharistic Lord.
Feelings of concern and trepidation that a Corpus Christi Procession would become a dangerous affair were on the hearts of many during the Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City in 2008. The planning committee had decided to have a large procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of a city that had once seen countless processions and religious festivals, but in recent years had become more and more hesitant to do so as the Church continued to confront the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution that displaced the Catholic Church from its prominence in Quebecois society.
I was fortunate enough to attend this Eucharistic Congress, which brought around 20,000 Catholics from around the world to take part in lectures and liturgical celebrations in honour of the Blessed Sacrament. Of notable attendance was the little known Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires who rarely left his native Argentina, but who at the request of his friend Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Archbishop of Quebec, came and offered a profound and theologically rich talk on the Eucharist. His name was Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio, though we know him today as Pope Francis…
As the Thursday of the Eucharistic Congress approached, many continued to be concerned how the people of Quebec City would react to the Eucharistic Procession that would go from the large hockey arena where the congress was happening and end at the Cathedral. Would there be protests? Would people try to disrupt the procession? Would people even bother to come or open their windows to see what was taking place in their city streets? Whatever concerns were voiced, the procession took place as planned.
While I cannot account for how others present perceived this event to have unfolded, I for one was struck by the joy and peace that was seen on the faces of those who took part in the procession, and also those who watched from a distant. Many times I saw as people both young and old went to their windows and balconies as the Blessed Sacrament passed by, many making the Sign of the Cross, some even genuflecting, and others simply taking a moment to take in what they saw as Jesus of Nazareth was passing by! I heard of no riots, protests or anger being directed towards the procession, one that had not taken place for many decades in a city that was once said to have been the heart of the Catholic Church in North America.
This experience left a profound impression on me that we as Catholic Christians cannot be afraid to externally share our faith with others. This might come through a more grandiose expression of faith, like a Corpus Christi Procession or a Marian Pilgrimage that we hope will become a beautiful feature of our new shrine church, to the more subtle yet important ways we seek to take advantage of those opportunities to share our faith with others as circumstances present themselves.
Our Lord gave us the gift of Himself in the Holy Eucharist to be shared with others, promising to remain with always until the very end of the world. What began on the Night that He transformed Bread and Wine into His very Body and Flesh, as no mere symbol of His presence, but the miraculous transformation of the simple elements of bread and wine into the living flesh and blood of the Only Begotten Son of God, is a miracle that takes place at each and every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Eucharist, which is Jesus Christ, will remain with us for as long as we have priests to offer the Holy Mass for God’s glory and our salvation. And while we eagerly await our new church to be built and the tabernacle placed within it as the Heart of our new shrine, we must also consider the ways that we currently receive Our Lord and are called to bring the Eucharistic Love of Christ into our community.
May we not be afraid to tell others just how much we love the Eucharist! And if that love has grown cold in our hearts, then let us ask God to rekindle that fire! Pope Benedict XVI once said that “In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women created in God’s image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:27), and becomes our companion along the way. In this sacrament, the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom.”
May we generously seek to bring others to this feast of divine truth and love and know that Jesus Christ is truly in our midst.