Some of you have visited the other Washington – Washington, D.C. No doubt you saw what many people consider the most valuable object in the world. Exhibited in the Smithsonian Museum, it is a diamond of deep blue color, almost 46 carats. Originally from India it was cut in the 17th century and for a time was owned by King Louis XIV. Later a man named Hope purchased it, giving its name – the Hope Diamond. Many believe it is the most valuable thing in the world.
However, we have something even more valuable in our church – worth more than the Hope Diamond or even than all the diamonds put together. Many of you will receive it this Sunday. I of course am referring to the great gift Jesus gave us – the Blessed Sacrament, the very Body and Blood of our Lord.
Christians have always known about this treasure. Back in the third century a boy named Tarcisius gave a great testimony. About 12 years old, he was an altar server. Being a time of persecution, they could not celebrate Mass openly as we do, so they went underground – in the Catacombs of Rome. Usually after Mass the deacon took Communion to prisoners, but one day the deacon was not there. For his replacement they made a remarkable choice. On account of his maturity, faith and piety, they chose Tarcisius.
The priest placed the consecrated hosts in a special container, then gave them to Tarcisius who held them under his clothes, near his heart. On the way some boys were playing ball. Needing an extra player, they called Tarcisius to join them. When he said he could not, they asked him what he was holding. He did not want to show them the “Sacred Mysteries,” so they gathered around him and began hitting him. Eventually a man came who shouted and chased the boys away. Tarcisius was beaten so badly the man had to pick him up. He died on the way and was buried in the Cemetery of St. Callixtus.
Like Tarcisius, many Christians have given their lives for the Eucharist – especially in the past century during World War II. Hitler not only wanted to murder all the Jews of Europe, but to destroy the Catholic Church. Thousands of Catholics, including priests, were sent to concentration camps for openly promoting the faith. Pope John Paul recently beatified one of them. His name was Karl Leisner. As a theology student he organized Catholic Youth Groups. The Nazis would not tolerate any competition for the minds of young people, so they arrested Karl and sent him to the Dachau concentration camps. There, on December 17, 1944, a French bishop (smuggled into the camp) ordained him a priest. Fr. Leisner was so ill with tuberculosis that he could not celebrate his first Mass until a week later – Christmas. He did so at great risk and sacrifice for himself and fellow prisoners. He survived until the Allies liberated Dachau, but died some months later, August of 1945.
People like St. Tarcisius and Blessed Karl Leisner gave their lives for the Eucharist. What about us? We live in relative comfort and perhaps for that reason have become casual about the Blessed Sacrament. If we make it to Mass, great. If not, no big deal. Sometimes our behavior, even our dress reflects a casual attitude toward the Body and Blood of Christ. Most make certain they come to Mass clean, but what about our souls? Do we prepare ourselves by repentance and prayer?
St. Augustine said, “No one eats this flesh unless he first adores it.” One of the beautiful things here at Holy Family has been Perpetual Adoration of the Eucharist. However, for lack of committed adorers we recently had to suspend the nighttime hours (from midnite to 6 a.m.). I know those hours can be hard. Sometimes I have not wanted to get up when my alarm rings Thursday at 4:30, but when I go over to the chapel, it turns out to be the most beautiful hour of the week. I ask you to consider giving it a try. More during the announcement time.
I am thinking this Sunday of Sharon Carriere, a member of our parish staff who is greviously ill. In earlier days she worked hard to form a youth group with a special focus on the Mass. More recently she has helped prepare couple for marriage and also worked on marriage cases. There is really only one purpose for seeking an annulment – to be able to receive the Eucharist. Please remember Sharon, her husband Duane and all the Carriere family as we offer the Sacrifice of Christ.
Celebrating today the Feast of the Body of Blood of Christ – we ask him to deepen our faith and gratitude for what is the greatest gift God could give us.
Earlier Version (documents references to St. Augustine and Blessed Karl Leisner)
From Archives (Corpus Christi - Year B):
Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Mel Gibson Says "The Passion" Is Meant to Inspire, Not Offend
The Rapture: Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? (Author Carl Olson on a Flawed Eschatology That Has Captivated Millions)
Recommended Summer Reading: The New Anti-Catholicism by Philip Jenkins and The Ring of the Dark Elves (a novel by Victoria Randall)
St. Mary of the Valley Album
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Parish Picture Album
Cuzco, Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley with link to Mary Bloom Center video
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
(new, professional website)