It has been almost 100 days since Governor Pritzker issued the “stay at home” order for residents of the State of Illinois. Only God knows how many more days before we can venture out of the safety of the St. Francis Woods Mother House. I am sure that we are all anxious for this time to end. However, the first reading for today makes a point of telling us that the journey through the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land lasted forty years. As I prayed with today’s readings before working on my homily, that number made me pause and consider what that must have felt like. If I am chafing because of staying at home for a few months, what must it have been like to wander through the desert for forty years?
We are also told that God was testing the Israelites to find out whether they were intent on keeping his commandments. That test came by way of hunger. They were so hungry that they even wished at one point that they could go back to Egypt where they had been slaves. Why did God test them with hunger? Moses says that it was to show the people that they didn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
When the Bishops of the Church gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council, one of their concerns was to help the faithful realize that God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – was present in our midst not only by the Eucharist that was preserved in our tabernacles, but also in the Word of God. They taught this dogma of our faith through the dogmatic constitution, Verbum Dei. I have heard many people comment, maybe even complain a little, about the fact that the “stay at home” order has deprived them of the Eucharist. Whenever I have heard such comments, I have gently tried to remind them of this truth; and while we celebrate the Eucharist in this beautiful Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, I find it interesting that the Church also reminds us of this truth in the first reading for the day. God’s Word has been present with us throughout these days of sequestration. If we availed ourselves of the Scriptures during this time, we received the very presence of God even though we were not able to receive the Eucharist.
Moses goes on to warn the Israelites. Do not forget all that God has done for us. Remember that even when we were beset by the vast and terrible desert with its serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground, God was with us. God did feed their hunger each and every day that they sojourned in the desert. God sent them manna in the morning and quail in the evening and made water to flow from the rock at Meribah.
As we gather for this solemn feast day, we too must remember all that God has done for us through the men and women who serve us every day in the Care Corner, in the kitchen and in the maintenance department. We have been cared for and kept safe from the dangers of the virus. The danger is still present if the news media is to be believed. The parish churches have been cautioned to open slowly and in a limited fashion, but the Eucharist is being celebrated once again. This very afternoon, Bishop Pates is streaming Mass and a special message to all the First Communicants who have had to postpone their First Eucharist. My cousin Alexis, who has come to St. Francis Woods with her parents on various Sundays, is going to be one of those who will be listening to Bishop Pates at 2:00 PM today. She is preparing to participate in the Body and Blood of Christ, to join the one body which partakes of the one loaf of which St. Paul speaks in his First Letter to the Corinthians.
The Sequence for today’s solemnity reminds us “Here beneath these signs are hidden priceless things to sense forbidden; signs, not things are all we see: blood is poured and flesh is broken, yet in either wondrous token Christ entire we know to be.” Just as God was with the people in the desert, God is with us today and has been with us every day.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator