Food For Your Journey
For the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year C, Father Hanly’s homily is addressed to the children celebrating their First Holy Communion.
Readings for the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year C
- First Reading: Genesis 14:18-20
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
- Second Reading: First Corinthians 11:23-26
- Gospel: Luke 9:11-17
Note: Father Hanly is addressing this homily to the children celebrating their First Holy Communion. When we can hear the children’s answers, we transcribe them, but even when the children cannot be heard, it is easy to get the gist of what they are saying from Father Hanly’s response to them.
Thank you for inviting us to your party. This was intended once as a great party, you know.
What we’re going to talk about now is when Jesus invited his disciples to the great party of the time that he was going to leave them. He invited them to a supper, a wonderful supper that the Jewish people still celebrate today.
And when they came to the supper, the first thing he did was wash their feet. Do you remember that? Jesus washes their feet.
And what do we call that supper? Does anybody remember what we call that supper? The Last Supper.
And why is it called the Last Supper? It was Jesus’ last supper, yes?
A little louder? Yes, it was the last night that Jesus would live, so it wasn’t altogether a very happy supper was it?
But it was a happy supper. And it began with Jesus saying: “I love you.” That’s what he did. He said to his disciples, “It is with great love that I bring you all together this evening.”
And then everyone became a little sad because they knew this was his last supper. He was going to leave the supper that night and go into the garden and he would be arrested, because his friend Judas betrayed him to his enemies and they were waiting for him.
And they took him and they brought him on trial and the next day they put him before Pilate and they condemned him to death. Do you remember this now?
What do we call the day that Jesus died? Good what? Wow, that’s very good, the pesah.
Do you know what pesah means? Pesah is the Hebrew word going from death to life. On Good Friday Jesus dies, but he pesah, pass over into new life on Easter Sunday, right?
Now here he is back at the Last Supper. And what does he want?
He says to his disciples, “I love you.” What does he want most of all? What do you think? “I’m leaving you. I am going to a place that you cannot go.”
What he wants is for all his disciples to remember him, right?
“Remember me. Remember me.
“Remember me when I was with you in this way, when we walked through the streets and I told you wonderful things about God and heaven.
“Remember me when I multiplied the loaves and fishes so that thousands could eat.
“Remember me when I came to cure and heal.
“And remember me now when I am about to give up my life for you, for all of you, for I lay it down, no one takes it from me, but I lay it down that you might understand this: that you will live forever because I do this.”
Now…What would you like to say?
A child answers Father, saying: So why did Judas betray him?
Judas hoped that he would be a Messiah today, give everybody three squares a day, no heavy lifting, and he would create a world down here that we could all continue the way we always have and we’d never have to worry about anything at all, you see.
And what Judas wanted him to be was a great leader, you know, like Adolf Hitler or all the other great leaders that we tend to worship, you see.
Now, Jesus said he would be a king, but of the heart.
And the first thing he does now is he is going to show them what they really need, what they really hunger for.
And what is the food that will be greater than any kingdom that he could make in this world? Okay? You understand? Not entirely.
So Jesus stepped back from the table, and they were all sitting there, and he says, “How will these disciples of mine remember me?”
And then he saw what on the table? He saw the bread, right? And he saw the wine, right? And what did he do?
He took the bread and he said, “Now I know how I will live always in their hearts and in their minds and in their lives,” because he takes the bread and he says to his disciples what? “Take this and eat it, because this is my body.”
But what “my body” means in Hebrew is: “This is me. When you take this bread into your mouth and it becomes part of your body, you are one with me, because I am with the bread.” This is a very great mystery, yes?
And then he takes the wine and he blesses it and he says to them what? “Take this and drink, because this is my blood.”
Blood is the symbol of life. The wine poured out is red like blood being poured out.
And then he says, “Whenever you come together, do these things in my memory.” Okay?
Alright now, we’re all here together, right? And we’re all going to eat the bread and I’m going to drink the wine. Is that right?
And what does this mean?
It means that when you come up to Holy Communion, Jesus, who is now risen from the dead, is one with you in your heart and one with you in your mind and one with you when you grow up and will never leave you and be always with you because he has said, “This way I will be with you until the end of time.”
Now this seems very deep, but it’s very easy to understand, why?
Because what is going to make us happy: money or love? Thank you. People don’t believe that, but it is.
What is going to make you feel always wanted, always loved, always cared for? What is it going to be?
When you feel very bad and all your friends leave you and your parents don’t understand you and you hate it and everybody is making your life miserable, who is left to take care of you and watch over you and love you and guide you and never leave you?
Jesus, the Risen Lord. And that’s why he came.
He’s not going to be two thousand years ago. What good is that? That doesn’t mean today.
But if I say Jesus loves me, Jesus cares for me, Jesus watches over me…
You know we have machines in the other room around the place and they watch you, do you know these cameras?
They watch and see if you’re going to do anything naughty or whether you’re going to do anything terrible and they’re going to catch you. But that’s being watched. Nobody likes to be watched, right?
But to be watched over, that’s what God does. It means no matter what happens, He is watching over you and taking care of you and loving you and working within you.
And not only you individually, but everybody that comes together shares this great love of God, this great love of being one with the Lord, one with Jesus, one in joy, one in happiness, one in sorrow, one in tears.
Does Jesus know pain? Does he know what it is to suffer?
Of course he does. They nailed him to a cross. And never again could we say, “God is way up in His heaven,” because wherever tears flow Jesus is there.
He understands when we suffer because he has suffered, when we’re rejected because he’s been rejected. He cares.
And so we become one with Jesus.
Now this is very simple. First Communion means one with Jesus in a special way. You will come up here and you will see Jesus as he wants to be remembered.
The night before he dies, his friends betray him. All those negative things.
But he wants you to know that that is not the end.
The end is he rises to new life and that is what he says to us: “Do not be afraid. I am with you all days even to the end of the world. You will never be alone again. You will always have someone, a friend, someone watching over you, walking with you, caring for you.”
And no matter how hard it gets, he is there to help you and give you support.
Now, it’s all about love.
The one thing you need to know about love is this: you have to give your love and when you give your love you receive this love, you see?
So, today, before you go to Communion, you say, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for always being with me. Now teach me how to love.”
And he will teach you how to love, how to forgive, how to bring yourself together once everything seems going in other directions.
Do you understand this? Are you ready to do this? You promise? Well then we’ll give you your First Holy Communion.
And that’s why you’ll always remember your First Holy Communion, because Jesus comes, he loves you and cares for you, and God comes with him, his Father, and the Holy Spirit fills you with his power, and this is God’s gift.
And the only way, as the Chinese say, the only way to receive a gift like this is put out your hand and thank God for it.
This time when you come up to receive Communion, you put out your hand and I put bread into your hand. But it’s no longer bread, because Jesus took that bread and says, “This is me. Take it and eat. It is food for your journey.”
Which journey? Your journey through life. And always remember, “I am with you all days even to the end of the world.”
Is that okay now? Are we ready? It’s great happiness.
Are you frightened to go? I was a little frightened when I received my First Communion. We had a very stern Sister and she said, “You be very careful!”
But it’s easy now.
In the old days you had to open your mouth and receive it. It’s very hard for the priest, when some just opened a little bit and others way big and sometimes it falls on the ground.
But now in recent years I think God is speaking to the Pope. He said, “Let them put their hand out like an altar and receive the sacred Eucharist and then they can lift it up in their fingers and put it into their mouth and then be one with the Lord.
Okay? You remember all that now? So don’t be afraid. If anything happens we’ll fix it.
I am fifty years ordained and I am seventy years receiving Communion. I received my Communion when I was seven years old like you and for seventy years I’ve received Holy Communion in every place in the whole world.
And I’ve given Holy Communion to people who are Chinese, people who are Americans, people who are Eskimos, people of every kind: deaf people, well people, blind people, seeing people, every nation, every country in the world.
And the one thing you learn, when you say, “Take this and eat, this is my body,” you know that Jesus means not only us but the whole world some day will come together as brother and sister.
The Chinese have a very good expression for this. They say (Father says something in Chinese). It means some day it is in God’s will that all people will come to be one family.
So welcome to this family and welcome to the larger family.
Are we ready now?