Well, I have to confess that I broke a social distancing rule last night. I was at my sister’s house last night, and we were celebrating my niece’s birthday who turned 5 years old. She has a younger son Dominic who is 3 and, without me realizing it, he yelled “Hi, Uncle Mikey!” and ran and jumped into my arms. The next thing you know, I was holding him. I have not held a kid in 4 months. It was so amazing just to have him in my arms and to have that mutual affection – to experience the love I have for him and the love he has for me and to have his presence right there in my arms.
On this day of Corpus Christi, we celebrate the real presence of Christ. Jesus does not want us to have social distancing with him. Jesus wants us to be so close to him that we can feel him, and that we can be held by him, and that we can have him right with us. That’s what we celebrate on this great Feast Day of Corpus Christi. The more that we see Christ in the Eucharist, the more we are going to be able to see Christ in other people.
I am sure you heard about a year ago that they did a survey of Catholics where they asked Catholics how many believed in the real presence in the Eucharist. Over 70% of Catholics did not believe in the real presence of Christ. Isn’t that a shame. This is the source and summit of our faith. The most important thing of our faith is that Christ is here, and Christ is present in the Eucharist. I was thinking about this during the time of the pandemic. During this covid, we have to be socially distant from each other. That is so hard. I think a lot of us are realizing that as we continue to go month after month into this pandemic. We really miss the physical touch and the closeness to be with other people. I think we are discovering that skype, and facetime and zoom are not enough. It is not enough to see somebody on a screen. We want to actually be able to embrace them, and kiss them, and be close to them, and love them.
I think we’ve also experienced some horrible experiences of abuses of the flesh, of the human flesh. We have all seen the images that are so horrible of watching the killing of George Floyd, right there, taped on somebody’s phone. I think the same is true. I wonder if you were to survey Catholics and ask them how many of us believe in the real presence in other people. How many of us believe in the presence of God, the dignity of the human person, in every other person in this world. I wonder what that response would be.
We know racism is a sin because it divides the human family. It blots out, as Saint John Paul II said, the image and likeness of God in different members of our family. We see them as being less than human, less than what we experience here in the Eucharist. Murder is a sin because it destroys the flesh. It makes the flesh out to be something less than human. Now that murder, whether it be a minority or a police officer or an infant in the womb or an elderly person or even ourselves, there’s a dignity in the human flesh and in the human person. You see our bodies are sacred. I believe that the more we come to realize the real presence in the Eucharist, the more we will realize the real presence in each other. I think that goes the other way around too. The more we realize the real presence in each other, we will realize the real presence of Jesus here on the altar. There is probably a direct correlation with that.
In this Eucharist we are able to touch God. And as many of you come forward to receive Jesus in your hands or on your tongue, at that moment there is actually contact with God. We receive Jesus into our hands and then take him into our body. The priest will say, “Take of you, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body which will be given up for you.” There is one other time that a phrase like that happens in scripture – in Genesis. It says that knowing that man will be like one of us, knowing that he will know good and evil, he must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat it, and live forever. Taking from the tree of life, receiving it and eating it forever. That is what happens now in the Eucharist. Jesus knows we have this insatiable need to want to take something and receive it and want that to bring us to eternal life. We do that a lot of ways in our lives. We take too much of something like, food or alcohol or drinking or addiction or sexual, whatever it may be. We take it and grasp it, and we try to fill this void in us that only Jesus can fill. I invite you, just for a moment, to try and get in touch with that void in your life, the hunger in your life and realize that that is what we are receiving, the very body and blood of our Lord.
Saint John Paul II said, “ Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias or discrimination, for human life is sacred and viable at every stage and every situation. It is an indivisible good and we need to show care for all of life and life for everyone.
My dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate this today. We celebrate the real presence of our body and blood of Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and also the reality of His presence in the body and blood of all of us who are gathered here today. Now, as I mentioned before, 70% of Catholics do not believe in the real presence. I imagine that not every Catholic believes that every single person on earth is created in the image and likeness of God. So, what I would invite you to do is ask yourself that question, “Do I believe in the real presence?” If there is any doubt that you are having in believing that he is real today, I just invite you to ask for the Holy Spirit to give you the grace to see and to experience and to believe. Maybe God has been too distant from us, and he wants to be close to us so that we can receive Him. Maybe like my nephew Dominic, God just wants to say, ”Hey, Uncle Mikey!” and run to you and be with you and be in you. We celebrate this wonderful feast today of God with us and his real presence in the Body and Blood of Christ.