There is a Jewish parable of a mischievous and unruly boy who could not be corrected by his parents, teachers, principal, even by the police. No matter what they told him, threats about punishment, even imprisonment, he would not relent in doing wrong things. So the mother gave up on him but brought him to the village to the rabbi, a holy man. And then the holy man saw the boy, and without saying anything, embraced the boy for a long time. And the boy has never been the same again. He changed—not by the power of the word but by the power of an embrace.
You know it, my dear brothers and sisters, that words have power, words can correct, words can guide, words can also console, but words have limited power. When words cannot change anymore, then we resort to our rituals and gestures. And the most ancient of all rituals is an embrace—it is a kiss. Every human being wants to touch another human being’s skin. We all like to be touched in the skin and we all like to touch one another’s skin by an embrace, by a kiss. And that is what we are celebrating today, my dear brothers and sisters.
Today is called “Corpus et Sanguis Christi Sunday”; it is the Sunday of the body and blood of Christ. I can give you term papers, I can give you dissertations about what the Eucharist is, and then you will go home still asking what the Eucharist is. The Eucharist, my dear brothers and sisters, is God’s kiss. The Eucharist, my dear brothers and sisters, is God’s embrace. And God allows us to embrace Him and God allows Himself to be embraced by us.
A kiss does not need an explanation. An embrace does not need an explanation. You just know it is a kiss. You don’t give me the metaphysics of kissing. You don’t give me the metabolic explanation for kissing. You don’t give me the medical explanation when the adrenaline rises because of an embrace or a kiss. A kiss is a kiss. You understand it. An embrace is an embrace. You understand it. A touch is a touch and you understand it. There is no dissertation, there is no thesis that will be able to explain it. And such is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is God embracing us. God coming into our mouth. God coming into our mouths. God kissing us. Flesh to flesh, embrace to embrace, kiss repaid by a kiss. The Eucharist is presence. That is why we Catholics cannot be satisfied with attending Mass by looking at a cellphone or a laptop.
The laptop and the cellphone on a livestreaming mass can give you words and words and words. But it cannot touch you. It cannot embrace you. You cannot kiss God on the cellphone or the laptop. You need to be present in the Eucharist so that you can receive the Lord in your mouth, into your soul, into your whole person. Remember the Eucharist is presence. A loving presence expressed by the tenderness of skin to skin, human to human, kiss to kiss, embrace by a loving God. And God, who is all powerful, allows us to embrace Him.
What more? Imagine that in front of us is a ruthless dictator who can kill, who can threaten, who can sow terror, and who can make people afraid. And then beside the dictator is an Olympic athlete, gold medalist in the Olympics with toned muscles with the height of an athlete and very imposing figure. And beside the athlete is a rockstar who can dance, who can sing to thousands of people and can make thousands of people dance and sing with him. A dictator, an athlete, a rockstar, and then the fourth person on the floor is a one-month old baby. A one-month old baby crying. Which of the four persons will attract your attention? The baby isn’t it? You may be afraid of the dictator and the dictator can kill the baby, you may be afraid of the athlete and the athlete can crush the baby, you may admire the rockstar and the rockstar can outdo the baby in singing. But if you are truly a believer in the Lord, the powerlessness of the baby will be the most attractive to us. If you were more attracted to the dictator or to the athlete or to the rockstar than to the powerless baby, you will never be able to understand the Eucharist.
You will never be able to understand the Mass because the Mass is God becoming powerless! The Mass is God becoming weak like a small bread. The Mass is not a cake, the Mass is not champagne, the Mass is not a delicious pudding, the Mass is not an expensive aged wine, the Mass is simple bread and simple wine. We can hold the Lord! The Lord chooses to be powerless and He chooses to be powerless to make it easier for us to love Him. That is what the Eucharist is. The internet, the laptop, the cellphone, the livestreaming Mass are signs of power; and some of us cannot even access wi-fi. But if a baby attracts you more than the dictator or the athlete or the rockstar, then you know that the Lord has become powerless so that it will be easier for us to love Him.
We can take the Lord into our hands. We can put the Lord into our mouths. Even if we are unworthy, the Lord will not take revenge. The Lord will not fight back. How do you explain that? That is love. That is how much God loves you. He has decided to be powerless to show us the beauty of powerless loving.
So the Eucharist is Presence. It is a kiss. It is an embrace by a loving God. The Eucharist is a celebration of Powerlessness. God chooses to be small to show his love for us. And the third “P” of Corpus Christi Sunday is Promise. Promise. Do you remember the promise of your husband, “I will never look at another woman ever again” and how it was broken? Do you remember the promise, “I will study my lessons from now on,” “I will not use drugs,” “I will not drink”—and these were broken? Do you remember the promise more than three years ago, “Give me three months and there will be no drug addiction”? Do you remember the promise, “Give me six months and there will be no more corruption”? Do you remember the promises you have heard and you have made? Promises you have broken, promises broken to you. But the promise of the Eucharist is a different kind of promise. The Lord tells you, “I have allowed you to kiss Me. I have allowed you to embrace Me. Let that stick into your mind and into your heart, that there is a beautiful promise awaiting you.”
The promise of the Lord is not just a vaccine for COVID-19. The promise of the Lord is not just a lower level of quarantine for Dagupan. The promise of the Lord is—quarantine or no quarantine, pandemic or health—I will be with you. I will never leave you. I will never abandon you. And the Lord trusts that we will keep our promise, we will not abandon Him. This is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is presence. It is a loving presence— a presence that embraces. A presence that kisses. The Eucharist is promise. Promise not just of health and protection from death. The Eucharist is hope in life everlasting. My dear brothers and sisters, we can continue… we can continue receiving the Lord by our prayers, by our acts of charity, but there is no substitute to an encounter with the Lord, God who embraces us, God who tells us, “I love you. I will never leave you. I will be with you until the end of time.”
As we receive the Lord in Holy Communion, thank the Lord, but don’t just do it for yourself. There are so many others outside this Cathedral wanting to receive the Lord but they are not able. Receive the Lord on their behalf and may the blessings you receive today be received by those who are unable to welcome the Lord at this time. With love, with faith, with hope, we are united in The Lord.