Non-Catholics sometimes express astonishment regarding our worship of the Sacred Host and the chalice. “Those Catholics actually believe that it’s the Body and Blood of Jesus! They kneel down in front of the consecrated bread! They fastidiously clean all the plates and cups and never let a crumb fall—or a drop get washed down into the sewer. They keep the hosts they have left over in a special box, where they burn a candle 24 hours a day!”
Let’s reflect briefly on the two categories of people who think we are nuts about this.
The first would be the people who don’t believe that Jesus is God. If Jesus is not God, then our Catholic worship of the Blessed Sacrament of the altar makes no sense. We hold Christ’s words to be divine; that’s why we worship the Sacrament which we consecrate with those words. But if Christ is not divine, then He could not possibly accomplish the miracle of transubstantiation.
Okay. Fair enough, doubting people. But how about this? If Jesus is not God, how did He manage to get Himself conceived without a human father? And how did He know so much that He could impress the scribes in the Temple when He was twelve years old? And how did He feed 5,000 men and their families with five loaves and two fishes? And how did He calm storms on the Sea of Galilee and walk on the water? And cure lepers and hemorrhaging women, and raise people from the dead? And how did He walk out of His own tomb under His own power, appear to His disciples, and then ascend by His own power into heaven, before the eyes of His Apostles?
The man the gospels present us certainly appears to have divine power. Which means He can turn bread and wine into His Body and Blood, without breaking a sweat.
Now, some doubters would dispute that the gospels are not trustworthy accounts. That’s another argument, of course. But a short summary of the argument might be: Who wrote the gospels? Men who claimed access to eyewitness accounts—either their own eyewitness experience, or that of others they knew. Now, either these putative eyewitnesses lied about what happened, or they told the truth. If they lied, what was their motive? What did they gain by making it all up? They got beaten, tortured, and cruelly killed. Is this a motive for lying? Hardly. At least not for any sane individual. Were the Apostles insane then? If so, how can we explain the fact that they established the most successful organization in the history of mankind?
No. It makes more sense to believe the gospels. It makes more sense to believe that Jesus is God, which means He can change bread and wine into His Body and Blood. He could do it while He was on earth, like He did at the Last Supper. And He can do it now that He is in heaven, which He does when we obey Him and celebrate Mass as He commanded.
Which brings us to the second category of people who think we Catholics are crazy to worship the Blessed Sacrament. Namely, people who, like us, believe that Jesus is divine. Our brother- and sister-Christians. We love them; we admire them. They have impressive churches; their preachers give learned sermons; they do good works that make people stand up and take notice.
But we humbly have to ask: Which part of “This is my Body” got too complicated to understand? Or: “This is the chalice of my Blood–” which word of this sentence led to little thimble-cups of grape juice? Don’t our Lord’s words make clear enough sense? And, dear brother- and sister-Christians, isn’t Jesus the holy prophet that we believe to be the Messiah and the Son of God? Don’t we trust every word that He says—believe all of it, as divine truth, and then, after believing, ask ourselves how best to understand?
Everybody heard the phrase “hocus pocus?” It comes from Protestant mockery of the Holy Mass. English people took the Latin words that Catholic priests used to consecrate the Host and twisted the phrase to mean “magic trick.”
The irony is: There is no magic here. No tricks. We don’t believe in magic. We just believe the words of the Son of God. Nothing fancy. Just simple faith.
Actually, it takes a lot more fanciness to explain how someone can worship Christ as God and yet not believe in the sacrament that He instituted on the night before He died. It takes a lot more fanciness to explain how Christ intended this only as a symbol. Or a communal meal. Or an occasion for remembrance. Or purely a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving by us.
I mean, the Mass is a communal meal. And it is an occasion for remembrance. And it is our pre-eminent sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. It is all these things for one solid reason: Because it is the Body and Blood of Christ, like He said.
Not magic. Just obedience. Just faith. Not complicated.
The Son of God says something. We believe it. And we pray like crazy that we will never desecrate this consummate gift by receiving it with anything less than loving faith and worthy lives.
4 thoughts on “Crazy Catholics X 2 (Corpus Christi)”
Thank you Father White for sharing another beautiful homily especially on Corpus Christi 🙂 The very heart of our faith!
When Christ first taught that we must eat His Body and drink His Blood, there was a certain group present who did not listen to the entire message because they became alarmed and left early. Afterward, whenever that misinformed group taught the “gospel” their teachings were error filled. Stinginess and drunkenness led to 1/8 teaspoon sized cups of grape juice. ( After all, if one drop is a “drink” why spend cash to give people more? I learned that at STEP, Inc. and Helping Hands. :0\\ )
When groups do not consider the entire Holy Bible in context many denominational groups, comprised of individual souls, go far astray. Our Good Shepard searches for those who become lost. He hears us bleat.
At one time in our history there were people who thought reading was a magic trick. They thought the person had memorized things and then pretended to read the little doohickeys printed on the paper. I encourage everyone to read the entire Holy Bible even if you think it is too difficult. Simply start at page one and read every Word. If it seems to make no sense to you, keep reading anyway. Our Great and Compassionate God will lead you along regardless of your reading skills.
Amen, Father Mark!
Aside the issue of “belief vs. incredulity”, there is another facet to the matter at hand, “Corpus Christi”. The mindset of the person considering the Mass speaks volumes about their general approach to life (alluded to in the second comment to your posting).
The mindset of disbelief is demonstrated to me constantly in Welcome Home, the Archdiocese of Washington’s program for parish-based release of people from the prison system into the community. Unless one is able to get one’s mind to accept something (almost anything) outside one’s own self-will, recidivism is almost certain. And, the most astounding aspect of this phenomenon is that one might readily perceive the willfulness-flying-in-the-face-of-reality in others, while being incapable of seeing it in themselves.
For the one displaying a mindset of belief, getting out and not coming back into the prison system becomes possible – but far from assured.
The parallel between the Mass, and belief and unbelief, is striking. Mercy is present in the Justice System (not divine, and frequently misdirected).
Fortunately, for us as Christians, the Criminal Justice System (and life in general) is lacking in the principal thing that God offers which prison does not, salvation. However, the cynical quip, “God must live in prison, so many find Him in there.” is not without salvific meaning. Those who’s need is most manifest, who are seeking Him most desperately, find Him there (and, hopefully, here).
How like Life in general: only those desperately seeking Him, find Him.
In God we trust.