Sunday Within the Octave of Corpus
Christi—Second Sunday after Pentecost—25 May AD 2008
“I tell you than none of those who were invited shall taste
of my supper.”
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text Latin - Sunday within the Octave
Mass Text English - Sunday within the Octaveh
English Mass Text - Corpus Christi
Latin Mass Text - Corpus Christi
The Sequence "Lauda Sion," mentioned in today's
sermon is given in the Masses of Corpus Christi
In the traditional Roman Rite, the feast of Corpus Christi—the feast honoring
the body and blood of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament—is celebrated with an
octave. That is to say that for the eight days beginning on the feast, the Mass
of Corpus Christi is either celebrated or commemorated by adding its prayers to
the Mass of the day. So, today is both the second Sunday after Pentecost, and
the Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi.
The Mass and Office of the feast were composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Together they make up a work of great genius, not only in expressing the
Catholic theology of the Blessed Sacrament, but managing to express that
theology very precisely in beautiful works of poetry, which have been set to
impressive pieces of music.
Perhaps you know that the preface of the Mass is that prayer which comes just
before the Sanctus and the Canon. There are prefaces for the seasons of
the year, for the Apostles, the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph, and for the Dead.
Sacred Heart and Christ the King each have their own unique prefaces. And each
of these prefaces has a very concise theological note relating to what is being
celebrated in the Masses which they accompany.
When Catholics first take an interest in the prayers of the Roman Missal,
they are often surprised that Masses in honor of the Blessed Sacrament all take
the preface of Christmas. A bit surprising when we celebrate Corpus Christi in
May or June. But if we go and read that preface, we will see that it might be
better called the “Preface of the Incarnation.” Its “theological core”
speaks of the “everlasting God,” Who, “by the mystery of the Word made
flesh, the light of His glory hath shone anew upon the eyes of our mind: that
while we acknowledge Him to be God seen by men, we may be drawn by Him to the
love of things unseen.” It is because of the Incarnation—because the Second
Person of the Trinity became one of us, that we became able to recognize God in
Him whom we could see, and to recognize God and his invisible works in what we
cannot see. The Incarnation is a sort of “bridge” between the Creator and
His creatures, between Heaven and Earth, between spirit and matter, between the
invisible and the visible. And this “bridge” is extended throughout place
and time by Holy Mass and the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
In Saint Thomas’ poetry, we hear:
For this day the Shepherd gave us
[His] Flesh and Blood to feed and save us,
Lasting to the end of time.
For as long as it shall last, the Earth is united to God in heaven. We have
been given the Bread of Heaven, which Bread will nourish our souls, make us
radically holy, and prepare us for everlasting life.
At the new King's sacred table
The new Law's new Pasch is able
To succeed the ancient rite;
Old to new its place has given,
Truth has far the shadows driven,
Darkness flees before the Light.
The Old Covenant with its ritual prescriptions and animal sacrifices has been
put aside. Christ is our new Passover, perpetually to be offered in His Holy
Sacrifice. The light of His Truth drives out all that is inadequately holy, or
darkened by the errors of men.
Bread and wine in sweet compliance,
As a host we offer Thee.
When we speak of a Communion “host,” the word comes from the Latin
“hostia” which means “victim.” The substances of the bread
and wine which we offer become our Lord’s body and blood; their separate
consecration a sort of “mystical sword,” renewing the Sacrifice of the Cross
in which our Lord offered Himself as victim for our sins.
In faith thus strong the Christian hears:
Christ's very Flesh as bread appears,
And as wine His precious Blood,
Though we feel it not, nor see it,
Living faith does so decree it,
All defects of sense makes good.
Perhaps the Blessed Sacrament is the ultimate “mystery of faith.”
There are a number of things which Catholics accept on faith—having been told
something by God Himself, we can only believe. But most of these mysteries are
far away, and unapproachable. The Blessed Sacrament is right her in our midst.
We can see, and touch, and taste, and even smell it, but our senses completely
fail us in knowing It’s inner reality. Only “living faith ... makes good ...
all the defects of sense.”
Make us, at Thy table seated,
By Thy saints, like friends be greeted,
In that paradise above. Amen. Alleluia
Again we have been given the Bread of Heaven, which Bread will nourish our
souls, make us radically holy, and prepare us for everlasting life, dining at
the table of Christ and His Saints in eternity
Which bring us to the Gospel we read today for this Mass within the Octave of
Corpus Christi. It is a story that is probably familiar to many of us. We are
invited to a dinner party a few weeks in the future—we eagerly accept the
invitation—but when it is almost time we begin to have regrets. “I have
nothing nice to wear.” “I really have to get up early the next morning.”
“Gasoline is four dollars a gallon.” So we leave our gracious host with an
excuse, rather than with a party guest.
We see our Lord’s subtle sense of humor in the excuses the invited guests
give in His parable. They are all pretty lame:
“I have just married a wife, and therefore I cannot come”—well, why don’t
you bring her with you?!—the host in the parable is certainly not stingy with
his hospitality!—take the good woman out and let someone else cook for a change.
“I have just bought a farm, and I must go out to see it.”—This one claims
to have bought a large piece of property without looking at it.
“I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them.”—as
if the oxen in our Lord’s time came equipped with head lights and electrical
turn signals so that they run around during the hours when a supper party would
The parable was intended for the Pharisees, for they were among the people
first invited by God to the table of salvation. Our Lord was cautioning them
that they were in serious danger of no longer being God’s chosen people.
But like many of our Lord’s parables, this one is timeless. It can be
applied to the Christians of the twenty—first century, as well as it could be
applied to the Pharisees of the first century. For we have been invited to
attend that banquet described so poetically by Saint Thomas. Yet all to often we
Our Lord hosts His Sacred Dinner every day of the year except Good Friday. We
are invited every day without exception. Even though one shouldn’t have
to be ordered to attend such momentous event, we are told that we must attend on
Sundays and Holy Days—yet, even for this we occasionally find excuses that often
don’t hold up all that well. And, what about the other days? What excuse do we
have that day in and day out we do not attend the Masses we are not required to
attend?—do we always have a cold, or a sick child at home, or an elder who can
not be left alone?—do we always have to work on that day and time?—is it both
that the gas is too expensive and that we will have driven away to Disney
Land those days?
There are some days when only the angels accept our Lord’s invitation.
Consider that we gain far more than the angels, yet we refuse the invitation
they faithfully accept. The angels have no need of the Incarnation. They see God
directly, without any need for material appearances.
So let us all consider the invitation to our Lord’s supper more carefully,
in the light of the great benefits which it confers upon us. Let us follow the
good example of the angels, and not be like the Pharisees who heard our Lord
say: “I tell you than none of those who were invited shall taste of my supper.”
If we don’t accept His invitation on Earth, we will not be invited to His
Supper in Heaven.