Delivered at St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church, Antioch, California
Today, I am going to talk about Racism and the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Body, the Latin word, “Corpus” has also become an English word that signifies a large collection of ideas and writings.
You have just heard St. Paul’s words: “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
I do not think that most Catholics have reflected deeply about those words and their implications. I want to invite you to think, and to sort out the implications of those words, today.
I want to remind you also of the awesome, often repeated words of the mid-fourth century of St. Augustine of Hippo about our receiving Holy Communion: “Receive what you are and be what you receive.” We live in God, and God lives in us. Very simply, we have not yet become our truest self.
I believe that each one of us needs to pray for salvation from racism because racism is not about a color; it is about the respect and reverence that we give to each human being.
We are not the truest followers of Jesus if we do not recognize each person as a human being.
That was the fallacy of the Confederacy and the cause of the Civil War — and what the Union fought to protect– “That all men and women were created and gifted equally…” but it was not and has not been applied to all.
It is our ignorance about each other, our fears about each other’s difference, the tribalism of opportunity, languages, skin colors and lack of education that boils over in demonizing others.
Have we forgotten the very first chapter of the Book of Genesis where God said that He has created us in his image and likeness. The first commandment God decreed is to be and to live like the living God. Please re-read about the Tower of Babel, chapter 11, which we continue to create down to this day.
The Holy Eucharist cannot change our DNA but a genuine participation in the Body and Blood of Christ can draw us ever more deeply into being who we were created to be. The Holy Eucharist is much more than a good luck charm.
I believe strongly in the comment of this spiritual writer: “We can have union with God, only if we have union with others. Too simple and too demanding,” she wrote.
Today, I want you to think about the consequences of following Jesus. Please don’t fall for following Catholic history, Catholic culture, and a God who is a thing or an emblem or a badge.
More than ever before, each Catholic, in order to live a full Catholic life, must know what it means and what it implies, to be and to live in the image and likeness of God, which is to be human.
Racism is not a problem to be solved as if resolutions and procedures and new laws can correct it. It has been a part of history from its very beginning whether it appeared in the chosen people of Israel, in the Roman Catholic Church, in Nazi Germany, in the practice of slavery, or in today’s human trafficking.
We need to get into each other’s hearts. We need to talk and to listen to one another. And I am aware today, as never before, that I have never sat down with my Black American friends and fellow parishioners to ask them to share with me their discomfort with me or their personal experiences of not being accepted or demeaned as persons.
And while we may have never uttered anything that would have been impolite, we certainly may have thought it. It is not enough to greet, hug and kiss, and go our separate ways, letting each other live our own lives.
Until we can sit and talk and be aware of where each other is during the week, the community we may feel at the Eucharist is incomplete and may be superficial and artificial.
The conversation about Racism and Respect needs to happen here– in every parish.
How dare you say these things to us, you may say to me. How dare I not say them, Jesus says to me.
What do you possibly think that Jesus meant when he says today:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven and whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
What are we missing in our lives? What bread are we eating? The Eucharist is not my favorite candy bar, nor is it a magical charm or amulet.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him,” Jesus says. “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” John 6:57
How can we leave these powerful words of Jesus in the dust of our lives? What is it that we do not understand?
We have no life, no love, no soul, no compassion, no comprehension if we do [not] let the Father and the Son grow in and on us. Only the living God can change our hearts, our minds, our words, our racism, our separation from anyone.
I want to challenge all of us today to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and to become the Body and the Blood of Christ.
The Solemnity of today’s feast is more than a procession of a consecrated host. Today, we remember who we are supposed to be, and that we cannot become who we are supposed to be until and always, we invite Jesus who is the Bread of life to fill our souls, our lives, so that they really matter.
All life matters. All human beings matter. Jesus came to live in all human beings. It matters to Jesus that we matter to others and that others matter to us.