By Deacon Jerry Franzen at the Cathedral
Exodus 24: 3-8 Hebrews 9: 11-15 Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
Today’s first reading might just make us a little squeamish:
Moses collecting blood in bowls,
splashing it around on the altar, splashing it on people.
In these days of concern for the transmission of diseases,
an athlete cannot have even a small spot of blood on his uniform,
for fear that it might be transferred to another athlete.
The Israelites realized the importance of blood,
and that is why they used it in their rituals.
They recognized blood as the source of life.
If a part of the body is deprived of blood, it dies.
The more we learn about blood,
the more I am in awe of the One who created it.
Just my incomplete understanding of how hemoglobin in blood
captures oxygen in the lungs
and transports it all the way down to my toes,
makes me think, “Wow, isn’t that amazing?”
The full story on blood has not been written; we continue to learn.
The more we learn, the greater is our sense of wonder,
wonder about how marvelous blood and its Creator are.
But whatever the full story on blood might be,
the capstone of that story is the fact that
Jesus shed his Blood for us.
The wonder of it all – we are washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb.
*Today, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ
provides for us a splendid moment to reflect
on one of God’s most striking gifts to us: the gift of wonder.
There are three stages for our reflection:
The feast itself,
our Christian response to the feast
and our response to Christian living.
This feast seems to come out of nowhere,
and yet it seems to come out of everywhere.
Why do we celebrate this feast now?
Didn’t we celebrate the Eucharist on Holy Thursday?
Don’t we celebrate this feast each time we gather for Mass?
In the early 1200’s an Augustinian nun,
Juliana of Liege reported a vision.
She had seen a full moon with a dark area to one side,
probably one of the so-called lunar “seas.”
Her interpretation was that the moon was the Church
and the dark area represented the fact
that in the church, at that time,
there was no feast of the Blessed Sacrament.
Juliana must have been one persuasive woman;
fifty-five years later there began this feast of the Eucharist.
The feast came about because of Juliana’s sense of wonder,
wonder that God has built into all of his creation
Though from very humble beginnings, this is a very welcome feast.
We can too easily take the Eucharist for granted,
especially if we are regular guests at the Lord’s Supper.
Repetition dulls excitement; routine creates a rut.
There is a sameness that surrounds our Eucharist;
you always know what is coming:
same consecration, same communion, same real presence,
often the same words, much the same gestures,
stand, sit, kneel, answer “Amen,”
exchange the sign of peace.
True, we do have the recently introduced new words
of the Roman Missal,
but by now they may be becoming routine.
The place where imagination interrupts the routine at each Mass
is in the Word of God.
Here Christ speaks to us in a way unique to this feast.
Today Christ, in the Word, reminds us
that God made a covenant with the Israelites.
God would take care of them, lead them through dangers
feed them and provide them with water.
Today Christ, in the Word, reminds us
that the covenant was consummated “not by the blood of bulls and goats
…. but by His own Blood” on the cross.
Today Christ, in the Word, reminds us
that the covenant is renewed at every Mass:
what was bread truly becomes His Body
and what was wine truly becomes His Blood.
All well and good, we are reminded.
But what should our reaction be?
Our act of faith, our response, must be the foundation;
we believe that what we eat and drink here today
is truly of the Body and Blood of Christ.
But it must go beyond that.
Listen to a stanza from a hymn of Thomas Aquinas:
translated by Gerrard Manley Hopkins:
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low here lies a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
“All lost in wonder…….” “All lost in wonder…….”
“Wonder”; that is our response
Not curiosity like “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”
Not doubt like “I wonder if life is really worth living.”
Not uncertainty like
"I wonder when our troops will leave Afghanistan.”
No, “all lost in wonder” means in the grasp of wonder.
I’m surprised, I’m amazed, I marvel, I’m delighted,
I’m enraptured, I’m in awe.
It’s the Israelites being surprised at getting drink from a rock
and food from the heavens.
It’s Mary, the bearer of God’s Son saying,
“My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.”
It’s Galileo looking at the heavens through his telescope.
It’s Teresa of Avila struck by the beauty of a rose,
or Mother Teresa seeing the face of Christ in the poor,
A child sending his kite up into the wind.
It’s the light bulb of understanding seen in the face of a student.
It’s a clever magic trick.
It’s a mother looking with love on her newborn infant.
It’s the wonder of a first kiss.
This should be our reaction to the Body and Blood of Jesus.
I‘m surprised, amazed, delighted, enraptured. I marvel, I’m in awe.
Because something surprising, amazing, delightful, marvelous
and awesome has broken into our commonplace world.
God in the second Person of the Blessed Trinity
gives to us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.”
I don’t understand how God is in me and I am in him any more
than I understand three persons in one God
or the two natures of Jesus.
I simply welcome this hidden God in me and I in him
with awe and delight.
How do we live lost in wonder? How does this play out in our lives?
Fr. Walter Burghardt says that we are born
with our sense of wonder it, and as we age we may tend to lose it.
We become blazé, worldly-wise and sophisticated.
We don’t marvel that ice floats, though we should;
or that leaves seem to magically change colors in the fall;
or that we can put a space shuttle in orbit and bring it back,
or that Saturn has rings and Jupiter has several moons.
New things can amaze us, but only until some tomorrow,
when yesterday’s wonder is discarded and taken for granted.
This feast reminds us
that we must not take the Eucharist for granted.
It is the same Body and Blood of Christ each time we receive it.
But just receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is not enough.
When we first realize what we receive,
we may be amazed, surprised, delighted, awed.
We may be truly lost in wonder.
But the sense of wonder must continue.
The continuing wonder,
the sense of continually being lost in wonder
at what God has provided for us in the Eucharist,
comes in how it affects our lives.
It comes in how we participate in the Body and Blood of Christ.
St. Paul says, “The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ;
the bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?”
We must be continually lost in the wonder of how
we each become the Body and Blood of Christ,
of how we each, through our reception of this sacrament,
share in the three-fold mission of Christ
to sanctify, to teach and to serve.
Are we not always surprised that even though we are sinners,
we are able to assist in making our children, our parents,
our spouses and our friends more holy?
Are we not amazed that we are able to teach others about God
through our seemingly feeble words and actions?
Are we not daily in awe of the countless ways
we are able to serve others and thus serve God?
As we cradle the Body of Christ in our hand and on our tongues,
and as we sip from the cup of Christ’s Blood
we might ask God for the grace of wonder,
wonder at the fact that the reception of this sacrament today
will play out in our lives all this week.
*Based on a homily “I Asked for Wonder” by Fr. Walter Burghardt in “Still Proclaiming Your Wonders”, Paulist Press, New York 1984 pp 168-173