I want to take a moment to wish all of the dads present today a very happy Father’s day! Selfless Fatherhood is becoming increasingly rare in our world today but for all of you who have loved, guided, protected, and provided for your families as dads, thank you and God bless you!
Humans have a natural appreciation for things we believe are valuable or precious. When we encounter someone or something of great value, we are cautious, careful, taking whatever precautions are necessary. Consider a few examples: before a doctor goes in for surgery, what does he do? He changes out of his street clothes into clean scrubs, his arms and hands are thoroughly washed, special covers go over his shoes, and a mask goes over his face. The instruments to be used are sterilized, gloves are put on, and only then is the procedure begun.
Or what about the case of a newborn baby? Have you noticed how carefully people prepare to hold the newest bundle of joy? How they make sure their hands are clean and that they are not sick? How they cradle the child securely against their body and support the weight of the baby’s head?
And how about a fine painting in a museum or private collection? No one in their right mind would walk up to a priceless masterpiece and drag their hands across it, or poke their finger through the canvas. And when you take your nice new car in to a good shop for maintenance or repairs, if the mechanic is considerate, he might put those protective mats on the floor to prevent the oil on his shoes from staining the inside of the car.
I could give more examples but you get the point; when we are around precious and delicate things, we are careful, thoughtful, and deliberate. We pay attention to every detail of what what we are doing and how we will proceed out of respect for the beauty or value of what what we are encountering. Keep this principle in mind as we reflect on today’s beautiful feast of Corpus Christi, which is Latin for the “Body of Christ”. The Church gives us this feast as an opportunity to remember what a gift we have in the Eucharist.
In the Eucharist, we are given the greatest privilege and honor we could imagine. Every time we come to Mass and receive Holy Communion, God says to us: “here is my precious Child, my only begotten Son, I am going to let you hold him, touch him, receive him so that you can become my child too and have the strength to follow me and love your neighbor.” In the Eucharist, God becomes vulnerable for us. How do we respond? Do we have the same care and concern for the Body and Blood of Christ as we do for a newborn infant? Can people see in us that same tenderness, awe, and attention to detail? Is it fair to say that we are at least as careful, diligent, respectful, and awestruck to the Body and Blood of Christ as we might be to an artistic masterpiece, celebrity, or exotic sports car?
Fortunately for us, the Catholic Church gives us many traditions and procedures to help us maintain our piety and love for Jesus in Eucharist. For example, that is why we are asked to fast from all food or drink, except water or medicine, one hour before we take holy Communion. Our respect for the Eucharist is why we genuflect towards the tabernacle when we come into church. The same is true when we come forward to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus; we should bow as the person before us is receiving: when it is our turn we raise our hands before us, one on top of the other as a throne for the King of Kings. We should also feel comfortable receiving the Eucharist on our tongue, as this is still the normative way to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. If we choose to receive the Precious Blood, the same reverence applies as we take a small sip of the Blood that was shed for us on Calvary. If we are aware of some serious sin that we have committed since our last confession, we should not receive the Eucharist until we have gone to confession. We should also pay attention to other details, like taking some time to prepare to receive the Lord, perhaps as we are driving or walking here to church, or even getting here a few minutes early so that we can set aside any distractions or worries that we brought with us. Finally, we should make sure that we never do things that appear disrespectful or careless when it comes to the Body and Blood of Jesus. We should never be chewing gum in church, playing on our phone, or taking Holy Communion without consuming it immediately.
Speaking again to our dads here in church, I believe the Eucharist, which we highlight today, is the perfect inspiration for all fathers. At every Mass, our spiritual father, the priest, repeats the words of Jesus at the last supper: “this is my body, given up for you”, “this is the chalice of my blood, poured out for you”. When I think of the fathers, both spiritual and natural who have impressed and inspired me, they have all imitated Jesus’ example of giving up and pouring out for the good of others. They did not focus on getting what they wanted or being the center of attention. Instead, they made and make tremendous sacrifices so that the ones they love and care for have what they need to be safe and flourish. What Jesus does in the Eucharist, every father is called to emulate. It’s certainly not easy but imagine the blessings that will come to our church and world as more and more men live out their fatherhood inspired by the Eucharist!
In just a few minutes, we will be entrusted with God’s Son in the Eucharist. Let us be careful, let us be filled with awe, let our piety radiate as we receive this precious gift. May the Body and Blood of Jesus transform our lives and help us to grow even more in love with him!