June 6, 2021: The Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ - Associate Pastor’s Corner
“Never refuse a gift.”
I am writing this reflection in my room at Saint Dominic’s Priory in Los Angeles, and when I was here last—as a novice—I remember receiving this very practical piece of advice from an elderly friar. “Never refuse a gift.” He went on to say that, certainly, when it comes to cash, that ought to be turned into the local superior. And for the most part, the material gifts are for the good of the local community. Else, if there is excess or a lack of need, the local Dominicans can then disperse these treasures to the poor, as we remember in the Acts of the Apostles.
This is what makes this Feast Day so amazingly unique, odd, and in a way, tragic. Never refuse a gift. Today, we celebrate Corpus Christi Sunday, we contemplate the very Flesh and Blood of Christ Jesus Himself, the very gift and presence of God among us. Father Michael, a couple of weeks ago, reminded us that an astounding 71% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are merely symbols of Jesus’s presence among us. To be clear: Catholics are called to believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ amongst us here and now. Maybe this is why so many are confused why the Catholic Church is so adamant about in-person worship during the pandemic—what we do at Mass isn’t “virtual” or a “maybe” or a “possibly”. What we contemplate today is the most substantial and real thing we can ever, and will ever, encounter. What the priest raises is not what he puts back down—what he raises are mere wafers and wine, what he places back down is the essence of God.
And to disbelieve this, or to be indifferent to the Lord’s actual, and real, and true presence among us—this a refusal of a gift. Today, we are called to reaffirm and assent to Jesus’ presence among us. Jesus was and is real. His presence was and is true. And He marches with us still. Here is our God, calling us to deep, sacrificial friendship, present in every sanctuary in every single Catholic Church around the world.
As we come forward at the end of Mass to receive Him, as He enters into our bodies and souls, how can we—not refuse the gift—but how can we live His gift?
First, say AMEN, truly, wholeheartedly, devotedly. Amen means, I believe. If you truly believe that the Eucharist is truly your God, say AMEN like you mean it!
Secondly, allow the Eucharist to transform you. When you sit back down in your pew, allow one of your prayers be to ask the Lord to deepen your love for the Eucharist and to heal you.
Thirdly (you know we love working in 3s!), know that the Eucharist comes with a mission. Jesus did not give us His very self just so we can go back to bed. Just as we are called to allow the Eucharist to make us the greatest versions of ourselves, Jesus does so in order that you can be an instrument of transformation for others.
The best way we can accept the gift of the Eucharist is by believing in the gift, being transformed by this gift, and passing on this gift to others.
And in the same way, I go forth to pass the gift of myself to others. Tomorrow morning, June 7, I take a one-way drive down the 5 to Saint Dominic’s Church, in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. A few weeks ago, I announced here that I had been elected as the local superior (Prior) of the Dominicans of that community. I go forth filled with every emotion humanly possible. This is a great opportunity to grow and learn from amazing and joyful men. But I also leave a place and area I have given my heart to, a place that I have considered home, for 7 years. To all of the ministries I have touched, I am grateful for allowing me to be part of the party. I also apologize for any miscues or missteps along the way (probably a lot more than I could count!). To every baptism family, to every marriage couple, thank you for allowing me to be part of your adventure. To those whom I have had a special honor to walk with during these last few years, well, you know. The gift of you, Saint Dominic’s community, is a treasure that sits well within my mind and heart, memories of wonderful treasure. The gift of you is a gift I refuse to refuse. So I go forth with a heavy heart, but also with eyes cast onwards, towards a great adventure ahead.
People of God, become the saints you are called to be!
~ Fr. Isaiah Mary