Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

03 June 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan NewsMessages and Homilies

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Sacrament of Confirmation


[Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26]

Rumour has it there’s a hockey game tonight. Game 6! It takes place on the same day that we are gathering to celebrate Corpus Christi and the sacrament of Confirmation. So, as strange as it might seem, I would like to make reference to the game in order to lead us into an understanding of what we are celebrating this afternoon in this mass.

I refer specifically to the fans. They tend to be rather noisy. In fact, on the few occasions I have been to a game at Rogers Place, the noise generated by the fans is so loud that I always fear hearing loss. Much of the noise is generated as the fans shout out directions to the team, often so loudly that players have a hard time hearing the whistle. More importantly, they would find it difficult to hear the coach. Obviously, the players need to listen to the coach, not the crowds, and this often means getting near the coach so that they can hear what he says.

In many ways, our lives mirror the experience of the players on the ice. We are surrounded by crowds that are very loud, shouting out directions as to how we should live, behave, and even think. They are not in the stands at Rogers Place, but present in social media, television, music videos, and peer pressure. And also like the players, we need to be disciplined to listen not to the crowds but the coach, who is Jesus Christ. Only he can be our coach, because he alone is the way to eternal life. By listening to the voice of Jesus, we know the exact “game plan” to follow as we “stick-handle” through our earthly life toward our heavenly homeland.

Yet, those crowds are so loud that we need to stay very close to the “coach” in order to hear him. Jesus knows that, too, so he draws near to us in the mystery of the Eucharist. From the Gospel of Mark, we hear the account of the Last Supper. There Jesus took bread and wine and said, “This is my Body; this is my Blood.” It is the sure faith of the Church that when the priest, ordained to act in the person of Christ, says those same words over bread and wine, then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, those simple elements are bread and wine no longer but the true Body and Blood of our Lord. This means that, in the Eucharist, Jesus gives himself to us as nourishment; he dwells within us and we dwell in him! That is how close he comes, so that we can always hear him, even in the midst of the noisy crowds that seek to drown out his voice.

Now, when we listen to Jesus and follow him, we do not do so as his fans. A fan is not a player, but an observer. Jesus calls us to get into the game, as it were, to be a player on his team. The more biblical term for this is “disciple”. The Christian does not simply admire Jesus from a distance, but unites with him in his saving mission. Like the Jewish people of old in their response to Moses, the Christian is one who seeks to hear the voice of the Lord in order to do whatever he tells us to do.

This brings us to the sacrament of Confirmation. Through the sacred anointing, the recipient receives the wondrous gift of the Holy Spirit, sent to bring us understanding of all that Jesus says and teaches, and to give us the gifts we need to fulfill the mission entrusted to us. Jesus has already placed us on his team at Baptism, when his life began to flow in us to set us free from sin and make us members of the Church. Now, in Confirmation, the recipients receive a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit to give them the necessary gifts, or skill set, to be a successful member of the team, the Church, whose mission is to make Jesus known in our world.

We can expect Rogers Place to be rather raucous tonight – provided that the team does well. If the opposing team scores, however, the place will go silent, and that silence is likely to be filled with tension and worry. We experience a different kind of silence when we listen to and follow Jesus. It is an inner silence, a quiet peace, free from worry, because we know we are guided by the One who is always victorious. This peaceful interior silence can co-exist with all the noise around us, because we know that any “team” opposed to Jesus will never win. We ourselves cannot create this peace; it is the result of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts. This is why I conclude the act of anointing with the words “Peace be with you.” When we follow the Spirit’s promptings and live in accord with the voice of Jesus, the result is true peace, which can come from nowhere else.

I now invite our confirmation candidates to stand, renew their baptismal promises, and thus indicate their readiness to receive the Holy Spirit, so that they may hear clearly the voice of the “coach” and do whatever Jesus tells them to do.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Annunciation Parish, Edmonton

June 2nd, 2024