By Father Anthony F. Raso
As Christmas approached when I was 10 years old, my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and they were good and surprised at my answer. I wanted a globe, a nice, big, colorful globe that I could spin around and see all the countries of the world, circa 1958, spinning by me. This was to be certain an unusual wish for a 10-year-old, but that’s what I wanted. As the days went by, I was joyfully looking forward to seeing that globe beneath the tree, and, sure enough, on Christmas morning, there it was, an appropriately sized box waiting there for me. I jumped down and ripped open that box, and inside there was … a smaller box. Inside that box, there was a smaller box yet. Then there was an even smaller box. Finally, inside that last box, there was the globe – It was a pencil sharpener topped by a globe that was maybe 5 inches high. I stared at it for a moment or two, and then I responded with a gale of laughter that woke up everybody in the house. My parents came out and asked me how I liked my globe, and I couldn’t answer because I was laughing so hard.
Why wasn’t I mad? After all, I was only 10 and had a big disappointment in my (one!) hand. It was because I knew from the bottom of my heart that my parents loved me and they decided to play a practical joke on me and it was funny! I remember that Christmas morning very fondly and I always will. In a (strange … ) way, my parents showed me that they loved me and trusted me to see the joke. I was absolutely delighted with that pencil sharpener. When my birthday came the next May, I received another big box, and in it was a globe, big and colorful and beautiful. I treasured that one, too.
Today we celebrate the most wonderful gift that Our Father in Heaven ever gave us, His Son, Body and Blood, on our altars and in our tabernacles, really present for us every day and waiting for us on Holy Saturday. We don’t ever have to wait for God: He is in that church, waiting for us. That gift is so tremendous and so beautiful a gift of love that it is almost unimaginable, but we don’t have to imagine it at all. All we have to do is to go into the church, look up and there He is.
Bread and wine are presented today in our First Reading from Genesis as the basic signs of life and the priest Melchizedek gives them to Abraham in respect and fraternity. In using those central gifts to become His Body and Blood, Jesus is promising His Apostles that even though He won’t be with them after that night of the Last Supper as He had been with them before, He’d still be there with them always, really present in those in those two central forms. Whenever we walk into a Roman Catholic church, even now, there is a sacred aura there because He is here, not as a symbol, not as a “reminder,” not as a sign but really present and ready always to be at the center of our lives.
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in which we rejoice today is indeed gift of love and we are right on target when we realize that. That’s how Jesus was motivated in everything He did. We have a spectacular example of this in our Gospel today from St. Luke in the story of the feeding of the 5,000 people. In every other case of a miracle, Jesus acts at someone’s request, but this time the motivation is more His own. The Apostles are nervously pointing out a problem and what they think is best is that Jesus dismiss the crowds. That would have been a practical thing to do, but Jesus is moved more than by merely being practical. He works the miracle of the loaves and fishes because He loves the people in that crowd. If He had just dismissed them to go home, He would have removed a problem, but removing a problem is not what Jesus was, or is, about. He loves them, and if there is any danger of them becoming weakened or sick on the way home, that just won’t do. He has a better idea, one that not from His practical mind but from His Sacred Heart. It will be a small gift, a bit larger than a pencil sharpener, but it will touch their hearts and they will never forget that when they needed a good practical thought from Him, He did more than just that: He gave them His heart – and that is what we are celebrating today. What’s more, as St. Paul tells us today in our Second Reading: “As often as you eat this Bread and drink the Cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”
What we are celebrating today is not just a biblical history lesson, but a reminder that we are never alone. He is with us and is waiting for us in the Church with His eternal gift of love, and we must never forget it.
Once we have been loved, we can never forget it. As I am writing this column, on my desk in the rectory is that globe, the gift from 61 years ago. It’s still a beautiful gift because it reminds me of how I was loved by the two best examples of Jesus that God ever gave me. That globe reminds me of them, and it reminds me of Someone else Who is waiting for me now in the church.
So I decided that I would try it out on one of my grandfather’s rosebushes in the backyard. He had planted so many that nobody would notice it missing if my faith experiment worked. I deliberately chose an especially small one that I hoped wouldn’t put up much resistance to my command to uproot and relocate itself to Flushing Bay.
Readings for Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Genesis 14: 8-20
Psalm: 110:1, 2, 3, 4 1
Corinthians 11: 23-26
Father Raso is a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Dyker Heights