CORPUS CHRISTI – 2009

Fr. Charles Irvin

Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-26, 22-26
 
One of the lesser-known tragedies of WWII was that thousands of orphaned European children were left after the war with no one to care for them. They roamed the streets of Europe heaped with rubble while slowly and surely starving to death. Many were gathered up, provided with clothes along with shelter and food, but their sheer numbers overwhelmed the caregivers. These poor lost children could not be held, talked with, and loved. They continued to die by the hundreds. Food alone could not keep them alive. They desperately needed kind and loving words; warm and tender embraces, and without them they died.
 
NOT BY BREAD ALONE DOES MAN LIVE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT COMES FORTH FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD.
 
One of the lesser known tragedies of the Korean War involved young American soldiers, who were imprisoned Communist Chinese prison camps and kept isolated in solitary confinement without any human contact. What little food they had was silently shoved under their prison doors. They had no human contact. These young men in their late teens and early twenties died one by one for the same reason that those WWII children died.
 
NOT BY BREAD ALONE DOES MAN LIVE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT COMES FORTH FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD.
 
Give a dog a bone with a little meat on it, pat him on the head for a moment and you will have fairly well met his needs. Give a man or a woman a bone and the process has only just begun. We’ll boil it, put some potatoes in the pot, add some vegetables and salt, invite in some friends to savor it with us, adding perhaps a candle on the table, maybe a fresh flower too, along with some soft music in the background and then we will begin to receive our real nourishment, that which we really need.
 
Here we are pondering the mystery of our humanity, a humanity made in the image and likeness of God. Animals cannot be self-reflective; they don’t have souls. We must do that because we have souls, souls made to belong. Without nourishing our souls we begin to die… oh, very slowly of course, but surely.
 
Because of light, the human eye is fashioned as it is. Our eyes were made for light. Because of food, our digestive systems are fashioned as they are. Our internal systems were made for food. Because of air, our pulmonary systems are fashioned as they are. Our lungs were made for air. Likewise that part of our human nature that we call the soul exists for something for which it was made.
 
Moses understood that; he even personally encountered that reality, that ultimate reality we call God. Said Moses: NOT BY BREAD ALONE DOES MAN LIVE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT COMES FORTH FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD. It was a theme that Jesus Christ was to later forcefully repeat, telling us that without responding to that ultimate reality we would live in hell …. hell on earth and hell in the condition our souls exists in when we depart this earth. To live in isolation is to live in hell.
 
Did you ever think of that? Did it ever occur to you that we shall live forever in heaven or in hell depending upon the state our souls are in when we die? If we subsist in a hell of our own making (or out of our own neglect) then that is the condition in which our souls will exist for all eternity. To live only for self is to cause our souls to die. To enter into the next life in that condition is to live that way eternally.
 
We need love – we cannot live without it.
We need beauty – we cannot be fully alive without it.
We need truth – we’ll live in ignorance and misery without
We need the things of the spirit – without them we slowly surely begin to die; we begin to taste what hell would be like.
 
Today we, as Christians, celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. We do so because Jesus told us, emphatically told us, “Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
 
Furthermore Jesus gave us a work, a task, a mission. Without work we begin to wither and die. All of the things that can be done by others for us do not satisfy; they do not satisfy because those things, having been done FOR us, do not engage our souls. The drive to be creative, to accomplish, to work, is a part of our souls, being made as we are in the image and likeness of God. If we have nothing to do we begin to go nuts.
 
It is good here to recall what Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote: “Get work, and be sure it is better than what you work to get.” Wise words, indeed – words reflecting what Jesus told us:
 
 NOT BY BREAD ALONE DOES MAN LIVE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT COMES FORTH FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD.
 
Which leads us to the final thing that makes us different from the animals. We need to worship. Why? Because it directs us toward that reality toward which our souls tend, toward which our lives tend, toward which our work tends. Oh, yes, our souls hunger for truth, beauty, love, and work. But no food ultimately satisfies except that Bread of Life that comes down from heaven. For the Bread of Life contains within it the very life for God. It is the expression of God, the self-gift of God, God made human flesh and human blood.
 
Without this Bread that we are about to receive, our souls will begin to starve. Oh, to be sure, some people make it through life without this Bread that we are about to receive, but they make it through life missing what their souls were made for. And only God knows the state in which their souls will be living in the next life.
 
But for us, while we live in the Body of Christ not only here at Mass but as well as in all the other days in which we receive Holy Communion throughout the remainder of our lives, we should remember what God’s Holy Word tells us as well as what our souls tell us (if, indeed, we are listening to our souls):
 
NOT BY BREAD ALONE DOES MAN LIVE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT COMES FORTH FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD.