The Solemnity of Corpus Christi and Our Experince of Death

06-10-2018Weekly Bulletin LetterFr. Robert Seraph Aliunzi, AJ

When my parents died it hurt but not so much at the time because I was too young to comprehend fully the implications of death. But when subsequently some of my brothers, sisters, nieces, cousins, relatives, and friends began to die when I came of age, it hurt very badly. Last Sunday morning, a close friend of mine in Uganda just collapsed and instantly died. A week before that, within a span of that week, two other young men I grew up with also died. Incidentally, it was around the same time that even here in our parish several of our parishioners also died. Therefore, when I heard of all this news, it hurt even more.

I know this is the experience of all of us when we lose someone dear to us in death. Even though our faith informs us that our beloved ones live on in a  transformed existence with God after death, this reality continues to challenge our belief. Part of the problem I think is that we no longer see their physical body, their “corpus.” This explains why perhaps the most painful part of every death is at the burial when the “corpus” of our beloved ones are lowered in the grave and are eventually swallowed by the earth. Oftentimes it is at this moment that, especially in Africa, we wail loudly and openly to manifest our grief at our loss.

As I reflected on this in the context of the great Solemnity of Corpus Christi which we celebrated last weekend, it reminded me of our own experience of death albeit at a deeper spiritual level. That is why I felt compelled to reflect about this wondrous feast although in retrospect. To appreciate even better, this solemnity of Corpus Christi, it is important to recall the experience of Christ’s suffering death, resurrection and His ascent into heaven on which we reflected the last several weeks of April and May. Christ’s physical death, particularly the manner of that death and burial, had a profound impact on His disciples because they physically experienced His innocence and the great miracles He performed for others. Even though He repeatedly tried to convince them that His death would be followed by His resurrection, they still could not believe. Even after His resurrection, it took a while and indeed, it took the intervention of the Holy Spirit for them to finally get it! All this is because of clinging to their human experience of physical loss of a beloved one after death.

Aware of these challenges posed by death to our human experience, Christ, whose own death is the apex of His sacrificial love for us decided to leave His own transformed body among us in the form of the Holy Eucharist not as a symbol but as a reality. He is indeed really present in the Holy Eucharist, body, spirit, soul and divinity as I always point out. What an epitome of love! Unfortunately, the appreciation of this great gift has continued to lose its meaning among many of us Catholics. We have today lost the wonder and awe, the respect and reverence the Eucharist rightly deserves. Tragically, consider the number of Catholics in our diocese alone who will not attend Church in summer because it is hot in Arizona!

During this past spring, in our diocese, over twenty thousand young people were Confirmed and received their First Holy Communion among them, close to two hundred from our own parish. Where are most of their families and the crowds that accompanied them now? Some might surely be in Church this weekend; others are probably away on vacation hopefully attending Church somewhere else. But my guess is that perhaps over half simply do not value the Eucharist enough to attend Mass regularly. There is simply no place for God’s greatest gift, the Eucharist in their lives.

However, let us not look at others only and ignore ourselves. I suspect that there are times also in our lives when the reverence for the Eucharist is not what it should be. Too often when we join the line to receive Christ in the Holy Communion we do not give enough time to consider what we are doing and most importantly, whom we are receiving. That explains why some of us continue talking in that line or hugging up to the time we reach to receive the body and blood of Christ or even worse head for the doors soon after receiving Christ in order to beat the traffic or be on time for a meal somewhere else! The worst scenario I addressed in my homily at the 11:00am Mass last weekend is the tragic desecration of the Eucharist that I, and some parishioners witnessed in our Church a couple of weeks ago. On two occasions, parishioners picked up consecrated hosts dumped in between the pews and on the floor! This is not only a grave sin but sacrilegious if done intentionally! I earnestly invite you all therefore, to consume the Holy Communion as soon as you receive Him and be vigilant in order to prevent people with devious intentions from desecrating our Lord.

Remember, the solemnity of Corpus Christi was established in the thirteenth century to promote respect and reverence for the Eucharist. This is what we have been doing during our 40-hour adorations we had here in our parish and it is what we do every Wednesday when we have the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for adoration. I ask you today to stop, consider and be reverent as you receive Christ, present in the Holy Communion. Ask God to rekindle in you and in all of us the awe and reverence that is so fundamental to understanding the reality of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist.

In Christ,

Fr. Robert