Body and Blood of Christ
Deuteronomy 8:2-2, 14-16; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58
Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen June 11, 2023
Last week, as most everyone knows, after I was ordained on a Saturday, June 4th, 1983, I celebrated being a priest for 40 years. My first Mass was celebrated on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Now here we are 40 years later celebrating this Feast once again. Celebrating Mass has always been, for me, the most wonderful part of my being a priest. But when I was a little boy, I loved playing baseball with the kids in the neighborhood. You could not watch baseball on television because there were no TVs. When I was just 10 years old, my father took me to my first major league baseball game, and I saw the Boston Red Sox play the New York Yankees. I saw Ted Williams hit a home run for Boston, and I saw Mickey Mantle strike out for the Yankees. I cheered when Mantle struck out, but the Boston crowd booed, and I asked my father why. “Mickey Mantle is a great player,” my father said, “everyone wants to see him hit the ball.”
After that, I tried playing baseball in high school but was not very good at it. But I used to go and watch all our high school ball games, and when I got older, I made the journey to Boston to watch the Red Sox play. Over the years, I have attended numerous games, always rooting for the home team. Charlotte, North Carolina has a baseball team called the Charlotte Knights, and I went to hundreds of their games. So, you may conclude that I’m a really big baseball fan. The truth is that I’m really not; in fact, there are many rules of the game that I still do not understand. I can’t tell you much about baseball statistics or who the players are, my knowledge of America’s pastime is elementary at best, but I like to watch. So, why is it that I and many others like me love going to baseball games? I would say that perhaps we go to the game for something other than the game. There are millions of people involved in baseball, from those who build and care for the ballparks, the players, trainers, workers selling overpriced hot dogs and drinks, and the fans. So, clearly there’s a lot of hands involved in a baseball game; everyone has a role. And I would say that everyone finds meaning, purpose, and joy in their role, and that’s why I like to go to games.
I find great joy simply being with other people who like the game, and it makes me happy seeing how happy they are. It’s fun to support them and the home team, even though I don’t care who wins. Yet when you get right down to it, the entire game known as baseball would not be possible if one simple object was not in the stadium, and that’s the ball itself. The ball enables everything else to take place; you would not have baseball without the ball.
Today our Church celebrates the Body and Blood of Christ, a unique feast, for this is the way we Catholics celebrate our faith. So, what exactly is going on here, why are we in Church? I would say that much like that small round ball which gives meaning and activity to everything in the baseball game, so too does the small round host give purpose, meaning and activity to, well, everything. Without the Eucharist, you and I would not be here. Like all the people in a ballpark, everyone in this Church is looking for something out of life. Everyone here is struggling with something. Some might enjoy their experience at Mass, like when your team wins the game, others might be disappointed. Yet keeping our eye on the ball is what enables us to function as a body, the body of Christ. Because looking at the Lamb of God and then consuming him is more than what a baseball could ever do.
At this game we call Church, we all win, because we all know what it means to lose. We are all currently enduring, in some sort of way, something that’s very painful or trying. Yet for an hour, we hold space with those around us by our very presence. It is the simpleness of our presence, like the simpleness of a baseball and the simpleness of a small piece of bread, which we call and know to be the Body of Christ. It is that presence with each other that reveals that there is something that truly unites us. Our real presence at this place, at this time, is enough. No words even need to be spoken to the people around us because we all are the body of Christ simply because of our real presence. Today we receive perhaps the least significant physical thing here today, a small host, the Body of Christ. There is nothing more real than that.