Homily by Richard Leonard SJ
In the mid 1980s in churches in Paris I saw for the first time reconciliation rooms that had ceiling to floor glass. The priest sat at a candle-lit table and the penitent knelt behind the priest or sat with him at the table. Restoring the public dimension to the Sacrament increased its power and witness.
Last year in our
community we renovated our chapel. One of several things we did was put
glass doors on the tabernacle, install a diffused light inside and
reserve the chalice.
The overall effect was startling.
For the first time in my life I could see at all times the elements
toward which I direct my devotion.
The reaction of
others was interesting too. One person protested that ‘you can see the
Blessed Sacrament and the chalice looks ready to drink’, another felt
that ‘the wafers we reserved should not be broken, but be one complete
host’ and still a third objected that it ‘looks like real food’.
were curious reactions given what we celebrate today, the feast of
Corpus Christi. The devotion we as Catholics have to Christ's presence
in the Eucharist is precisely caught up in the meal he left us.
Therefore it is right that the food we share and venerate should be on
display, should look inviting and be broken, for this is what Jesus did
at his final supper and what he offers us as gifts – himself, broken and
poured out in love.
Each time I pray in front of our
new tabernacle I have been struck by the power of these elements as the
definitive symbol of Jesus' presence in our world. Not only in grand
cathedrals or libraries of words does God visit us. Not only in
prophets' speeches or laws set in stone. But in simple gifts of broken
bread and poured wine. And at these times I recall that the action of
being broken and poured out is the core of what we believe: our God
poured himself out in love for us in Christ; Jesus was broken unto death
for us so that we might be made whole; the Spirit gives us strength and
courage to face the daily breakings and pourings that make up our lives
and every time anyone, anywhere shares bread or passes a cup with those
in need, our God is really present.
also reminds me that following the Trinity's example, this pattern is
repeated in all faithful Christian lives too. The martyrs, the saints
and all of those we know who have gone before us, having led lives of
selfless devotion, continue to embody the Body and Blood of Christ we
And so to us. When we come forward, when we say ‘Amen’ and receive into our hands the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation we too take on to ourselves the invitation to become what we receive: a body broken in love, blood poured out in hope that the world may be saved from itself and find life to the full in Christ.
© Richard Leonard SJ.