Father Rich Jasper preaches during Mass at St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Denton, Md., In the Pass the Word Diocese on February 24th. (Dialog photo / Mike Lang)
FROM FATHER RICHARD JASPER
I was a “scared” teenager.
My family prefers the word “miserable” but let’s not argue about the semantics here.
And like all wretched people – I mean “scared” 13-year-olds – I found a song during this time that expressed exactly how I felt.
Father Richard Jasper
It was being played on an easy-listening station that I didn’t particularly want to hear at the time, but the voice and lyrics immediately caught my attention: it was Karen Carpenter’s “Rainy Days and Mondays”.
Now the song itself is just as scared as I am, so DO NOT listen to it when you are in a good mood. I repeat: DO NOT listen to it when you are happy.
BUT when the blues and the sorrows of life pile up, get a bunch of these soul-grabbing lyrics –
“Sometimes I want to stop; nothing ever seems to fit “…
“Nothing is really wrong; I feel like I’m not one of them … “
Now I know that at this point you are wondering, “Father, what in God’s name do“ rainy days and Mondays ”have to do with these scriptures … or with the feast of Corpus Christi?
And my answer? Everything.
In all three of our readings, everyone is unhappy. ANYONE.
The prophet Moses in the book of Deuteronomy (our first reading) tells the Israelites pretty precisely: stop wandering around and complaining. Don’t forget the God who ALWAYS took care of you in the darkest days: there was manna when you were hungry, water to quench your thirst, and a guiding spirit during your years of wandering in the desert of temptation and your own Sinfulness.
Then Paul tells the Christian church in Corinth (our second reading), “Hey, don’t be like your ancestors who longed for ungodly things on their journey. Instead, find your strength – together in the community – and share the one bread and one cup. “
This is exactly what Jesus says to a mostly unbelieving crowd in John’s Gospel:
“I am this living bread… the manna you long for. My blood is precisely this gift that gives you the eternal life and salvation that you seek. “
And because they hear something that seems both impossible and blasphemous, most turn away from following it. How can God feed us with himself? Perhaps better: WHY would God do this?
One answer: Do you remember last week’s gospel (and the beginning of John’s gospel)? God loved the world so much that he sent his only son.
It is THAT resurrected Son who is present every time we gather at this altar and in this church to take the very things that Jesus himself used at the Last Supper – bread and wine, the most basic elements of the Passover – and to make His presence to them.
Because he is god. Because he loves us. And because he knows that nothing else will fill the void like Christ himself. Nothing.
I think we all know that hunger is becoming epic today.
We are hungry for healing. Hope. Justice. Grace. Authentic relationships. Truth.
We want to be loved for who we are and not get caught up in our misery.
And so sometimes we look everywhere, but sometimes not to God, right?
And he reminds us – just like in the Gospel of John – that he is the only one who will really really give us everything we are looking for.
Yes, it will take time for our faith to grow … doubts will arise … and the cross will be part of the journey.
And because God knows all this, he will stay with us until the end of time, as he promised: HERE IN THIS VERY SACRAMENT OF THE MOST HOLY EUCHARIST.
Unfortunately, it is now believed that less than a third of all Catholics actually believe that what happens here at every Mass is what really makes Christ present to us and us. I suspect the number is lower.
I also imagine that most of us here believe that the Eucharist we receive is the body and blood of Christ, even if our minds sometimes fail to understand it.
The question is: how do we invite others to know this love we have found in Him … even if we sometimes wrestle and question it?
And the only answer I keep coming back to: SHOW ON, BECAUSE HE IS HERE.
Even in the doubt and the bustle of life … even when the prayer seems dry and far from God … especially when the temptations grow strong and sin weighs on you:
SHOW ON BECAUSE HE IS HERE.
I say it from experience … because I thought it was true and I would give my life for that belief.
Do you remember me, a scared, wretched teenager? The one who lived the lyrics of ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’: “Walking around, some kind of lonely clown?”
Well, there was one other verse to that hit that spoke to my heart – still, thirty years later: “Funny, but it seems like the only thing to do is run and find the one who loves me . “
I stand before you today as someone who tells you the following: I have found here in the Eucharist everything I have been looking for and what my heart has longed for: the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
You want love and peace and justice? Run to him and you fill these things in him alone.
Do you want healing and hope? Run to him.
Do you want someone to listen to you in your disappointments and misery? Keep walking to him.
Every time you come here – to receive him at mass and pray before his presence – he closes the distance between heartbreak and fulfillment, between brokenness and holiness.
Peter best said it immediately after this passage of John’s gospel that was being preached. As soon as almost everyone leaves the Lord, he turns to his closest disciples and asks: “Do you want to leave me too?”
And Peter’s answer: “Lord, who are we going to?”
Who else are we going to?
Take it from a once miserable self and an old, easy-to-hear song from the ’70s by Karen Carpenter: “Run and find the one who loves you.”
Everything that our heart longs for and that our life cries for can be found here in this Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.