Saturday, November 10, 2012

This is My Body: Homily by Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais for Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Dominica XXXII Per Annum, Anno B (Veteran’s Day)

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Christ the High Priest. St. Paul uses the word ‘oblation’ when he speaks of the ‘offering’ that Christ has made once for all. This word ‘oblation’ is used quite a bit in the texts of the Roman Missal. What is an oblation? It is a type of sacrifice. We can contrast an oblation to a holocaust. Both are sacrifices. But a holocaust is a whole burnt offering where nothing remains and the victim of sacrifice is completely destroyed. An oblation, however, is an offering that is shared with God. It is not completely destroyed. The Mass is called an oblation. In Eucharistic Prayer #3, the priest says, “Look we pray upon the oblation of your Church.” We intend to offer something specific to God and He gives us back what we offered, but what He gives back is far greater than what we offer.

We originally offer bread and wine. The oblation is placed on the altar. The large host is placed front and center because it is the first thing offered: the body. Directly behind the host is placed the chalice of wine. This is the next thing offered: the blood. They are intentional offerings: the key word spoken in the consecration is the word “Hoc.” “Hoc est enim Corpus Meum” For THIS is my Body. The same with the chalice. The word “Hic” also meaning ‘this’ is essential because it identifies the gift which is intentional. THIS is the gift. “His est enim Calix Sanguinis Mei” For THIS is the Chalice of my Blood. The widow was intentional when she said “THIS is my life.” THIS is everything I have and I give THIS to God. She understood THIS to be an oblation. God would not abandon her. God would share it with her.
You see, everything we have comes from God. We offer back to Him what He has given to us. This is a beautiful concept which originates in nature. This concept is called ‘exitus et reditus’. It originates from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, and through the Church Fathers such as Augustine and Aquinas it has come into mainstream Christian theology. Exitus is Latin for exit. Everything that comes from God exits heaven and comes to us. Reditus is the word that means to return. That which has come to us, or exited from heaven is meant to return to heaven. God gives and we receive. We give back to God and He turns around and gives it back to us. Water is a natural example of exitus and reditus. Water comes down from the clouds. It collects on the earth and then evaporates back up into the sky. It collects in the clouds and then comes back down yet again and again and again.

But when humans receive a gift from God it is not enough to just offer back what we received. We must improve the gift by our work and our talents. What we offer back to God should be better than what He originally gave to us. So if God gives wheat, we don’t just offer wheat back to Him. That was what Cain did. No, we offer back to him bread. Bread is intentional and it takes human artistry. If God gives grapes, we offer back to him wine which is intentional and it takes human artistry. And when God receives a gift from humans, it is not enough for Him to turn around and give it back unchanged. No, the gift has to reflect the giver. Wheat and grapes reflect the artistry of God the Creator. Bread and wine reflect human artistry using these gifts of nature. Transubstantiation reflects the artistry of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist reflects the artistry of Jesus Christ. It is an entire self-offering on the part of the Son of God. It is intentional on His part. It is intentional on our part. This is an oblation.

The widow in the gospel was intentional in what she gave. She gave everything she had to God. She did not just reach in her pocket and throw in from her surplus. She was intentional in giving God all she had. That is trust! But didn’t God give everything to her in the first place? What does she have to lose? She trusts that God will give far more back to her because of her generosity. That is how exitus et reditus works. We have to multiply and improve upon the gifts, talents and treasure that God gives us. He expects that of us. But He will also multiply and improve what we give to Him and He will give it back to us.

Ultimately what God wants is for us to offer everything to Him as the widow did. He wants us to offer our very lives to Him. What have we to lose? He gave us everything in the first place. If we offer all to God, we will not be the losers. We will win everything including eternal life. This is at the heart of the religious life and the accompanying vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Those are very difficult things to surrender, but they are at the heart of a complete self-offering.

The most beautiful words we can say to God are the same words He has spoken for us in this Mass: THIS is my body. I offer THIS to You my Lord and my God. THIS is my health. THIS is my family. THIS is my livelihood. THIS is everything I have. I have nothing left to offer but I trust in You; I offer it to You, my beloved Savior Jesus Christ. Have mercy on me a sinner. 

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