The Gospel for today is Jesus’ powerful Eucharistic teaching from John 6. “The bread that I will give is my flesh….” Jesus doesn’t just give us a part of himself, as we might give some of our time, talent, or treasure. He gives us his flesh, his blood sacrifice, his entire person “for the life of the world.” Priests all over the world are striving to convey the impact of this doctrine today. God is not a god who finds humanity amusing but won’t get too involved in our personal welfare. God saves humanity by giving himself in sacrifice. That should make us pause. Without the Eucharist, we are dead men walking. “How can I repay the Lord for all that he has done for me?” the priest asks himself in the older form of the Mass, just before receiving the Blood. How indeed? Well, we can begin by handling the Eucharist with the utmost respect, as if what we handled were really the Body and Blood of God – because it is. Thus my homily.
How can anyone be expected to believe in the Real Presence when the Church treats the Body of Christ like this? What madness brought the Church to encourage, even to force, these devout old ladies to take Christ in their hands rather receive Him on their tongues? What carelessness brings ecclesiastical supply houses to make hosts that disintegrate to the touch, and what thoughtlessness brings bishops and priests to buy these hosts? Most of the older folks approached with hands limply outstretched and mouths open, as if instinctively knowing the proper place to receive Jesus but shamed into taking Him on their hands. They have been taught to “own” the Mass, to “take hold” of Jesus, rather than letting Jesus and his Mass take hold of us.
I am convinced that we should receive the Sacred Eucharist on our tongues, kneeling. Pope Benedict was right to return to this practice in his diocese, as have some other archbishops. I encourage this in my own parish, but confusion reigns, as we have all been taught for the last 40 years that only slaves kneel and only the ignorant receive on the tongue. It took 50 years to convince the poor old ladies of Mata de Ferfán to “take hold of Jesus,” and I suppose that it will take another 50 years to convince them to let Jesus take hold of them in Holy Communion. Ah, Santa Paciencia!