For Corpus Christi, Year B, we have a beautiful homily by Father Hanly for First Holy Communion. He also gives the children a very short introduction to the gospel before reading the gospel to them.
First Reading: Exodus 24:3-8
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18
Second Reading: Hebrews 9:11-15
Gospel: Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Gospel for the children
The Last Supper. The Last Supper is the very Last Supper.
Do you know why it’s the Last Supper? You don’t have to answer.
It’s the Last Supper because it’s the last supper Jesus ate in this world. Okay?
After the Last Supper, Jesus goes out with his disciples to Gethsemane, a beautiful little place where people used to go to pray. And Jesus went there to pray. And the next thing you know the guards came and they arrested him and took him away to put him into prison. And the disciples all ran away. And so now we have Jesus all alone in front of his enemies.
Who were his enemies?
Everybody. Everybody except a very few (certainly his mother). But his disciples, they all ran away.
Because they knew that, come hell or high water, his enemies would destroy him, they would crucify him, and they would never see him again.
And that’s what happened: in the middle of the night the guards came from the temple, arrested him, tied him up, brought him in to the chief priest Caiaphas for a trial and they made him guilty.
Guilty of what?
Guilty of blaspheming against God. And Jesus stood silent. And of course you know the next day, the next day they brought him up the hill of Calvary, nailed him to a cross, and then, at the end, pierced him with a lance, and he died.
And this wonderful Jesus, this wonderful hope that everybody had deep in their hearts: someone who would come, someone who would touch them, someone who would turn them away from the quietness of their silent despair, their homelessness and helplessness.
So far so good, yeah?
And now comes the good part.
The good part is Jesus on the cross, he says two things.
He looked up at his Father. His Father had asked him to go down and tell the people that the Messiah, the one who would save the world, has come. And he looked up to Heaven at his Father, who must have been bitter, and a terrible feeling of loss at what they were doing to the gift that he’d sent: his Son.
But then Jesus looked up and, in his torment and pain, what did he say?
He said, “Father you must forgive them, they are your children. You must forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing” And then Jesus died.
Now that sounds like a very sad story and it is, but it’s not.
Because the very last thing Jesus says to his Father is forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive. There’s nothing in God except forgiving.
You know you think God gets mad at you sometimes because you’ve been naughty?
Nonsense. God stands there waiting, waiting, waiting for you to turn back to Him and He has forgiven you even before you’ve even thought it.
And how do we know this?
Because of what Jesus said.
Now, that’s the first part. The second part is this: why are we here today?
Because that Jesus, that Jesus who walked the terrible walk of pain, who gave himself freely to loving and loving and loving and forgiving and caring, and is always, always, always giving new hope to the people who put their faith in him, this Jesus rose from the dead. And that is the Jesus that is with us today, here and now. He said it, he said, “I’m with you all the time, even to the end of the world. I will never leave you. You are my people and I love you.”
And then he had all these thoughts at the Last Supper. And he said, “How will they remember me? How will they remember me?” Because there’s an old saying that when you remember, what you remember will come true. When God remembers, we are all saved. If God forgets you, you’re done.
And so what Jesus wanted to teach his disciples, “Yes, you’re going to be ashamed of me, you’re going to see terrible things, but I want you to remember.”
And he said, “How am I going to do it? I can do it for these twelve, but, for the rest of the world, what am I going to do to let them know that God loves them, that the Messiah is with them, and they can love once again and not be afraid” and all the beautiful things God promised to give and gave through Jesus.
And you know what he looked down at?
He looked at the table. It was a celebration of new life, the Passover, passing from death to new life. That was meaning of the Passover: out of the slavery of Egypt into the freedom of a new world.
And Jesus saw the bread and he took the bread and looked at his disciples who had gathered out of love to celebrate this most beautiful feast which is still celebrated by our Jewish brothers and sisters every year.
And he took the bread and he broke it, just like his body was broken on the cross, and he gave it to them.
And what did he say?
“This is me, this is my body, take it, eat it, and whenever you take it and eat it, know that I am with you all days even to end of the world.”
And then he took the cup, he took the cup filled with wine, and he blessed it and he said, “Take this and drink it because this is me, my blood that is being poured out all over Calvary so that you might have the forgiveness of all sins.”
Now that is why you are sitting here. For the first time you guys in the first row will receive the Holy Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus.
Does that mean Jesus is waiting out there?
No, it means that he’s calling deep in your own heart and when you eat this bread and drink this wine you remember him and why he is in your heart.
And what is in your heart?
To go out and save the world, to heal people, to forgive, to do all the lovely things that Jesus did his whole life right up to the end. And to live like a human being not like a dog crawling on the ground rushing around barking at everybody. And to always know that whenever you get discouraged he is there.
And now I’m going to tell you a nice story, OK?
When I was your age, I was thinking of this today, when I was your age, I got a disease, a very funny disease. The doctors they could name it but they couldn’t do anything. It’s osteomyelitis. It’s a bone disease so I couldn’t move my arm. But in those days, this is about 1939, it was a very serious thing.
So they took me to hospital, a hospital way far away from our little town of Hicksville, and they dumped me there. They wouldn’t let my parents come upstairs, they just took me and dressed me in some kind of a white garment and took me into the hospital and they said to my parents, “Now you can see him once a week for one hour.” And the rest of the time I was in this massive place with crying children and strict nurses and nothing at all.
And I thought I was going to die. And I was just nine, eight, nine years old, you know.
And then I said, “What am I going to do? I’m all alone.”
And then a nurse came up in the evening and she brought a little package. And it was a little bag from my father. There was a comic book — you know comic books — and a candy bar, and an apple, and a little letter that said, “Dear Denis, Your favourite baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, won today, so you should be happy.” And I was.
And every day I was in the hospital that package arrived. Do you how long I was in there? Two months. Imagine, never seeing anybody… But every day, “Dear Denis, Your favourite baseball team won again, 6-0 against the Cardinals, and they’re doing very well, Love Dad.”
You know what I like to think, because for me at that time that was my salvation. Lost, alone, confused, not knowing what to do, and all of a sudden, like out of Heaven, came this light, and it was a little box of candy and a funny book and an apple and a note from my father. And that gave me strength and courage and new life.
That’s what Jesus was trying to say when he said, “I am with you all days even to the end of the world,” and he broke some bread and said, “Take this because this is my gift of myself to you. You will never be alone. You will never be afraid. You will always be ready because whenever you break the bread and drink the wine you will know that I’m always with you.”
Okay now we going to do it.
We’re going to say over the bread the same words that Jesus said that night to his disciples just before he died, “Take and eat, this is my body, this is me.”
And then we’ll put the bread into the wine and give it to you to take. “And this is my blood. I am dying for, I died for you that you might know hope and joy and peace because I am with you all days.”
And that’s why you’re sitting here.
I’m going on 80 years, and yet the love of Jesus, and the Mass that I say, and the love of Jesus, all of these things make me like that seven year old kid in the hospital knowing that all you guys know: my life get messed up but I still have one thing and that is the presence of Jesus himself who will walk with me, take away my loneliness, take away my fears and always be with me even to the end of time.
Are you ready now?