Corpus Christi Sunday MMVI

Homily — Corpus Christi June 18, 2006

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still [Josué arrêtant le soleil] 1742-1743

Jesus took bread . . . . and said “This is My Body”

The Old Testament Book of Joshua is all about how, after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites, led by Joshua, finally entered into and took possession of the Promised Land, conquering it from the Hittites, Amorites,/ Canaanites, Perizzites,/ Hivites and Jebusites that dwelt there, through a series of military battles.

A critical point in this conquest, their D-Day of sorts, came when a key Israelite city called Gibeon was laid siege to by five Amorite Kings and their armies. Losing this very large city of Gibeon to their enemies would have been devastating to Joshua and the Israelites. If Gibeon fell, all hope of conquest of the promised land in their lifetime would have been lost.

Vastly outnumbered, their foes pressing on them from every side, the Lord then said to Joshua “Do not fear (these five Kings and their armies), for I have delivered them into your power.”
So Joshua and his small army marched all night, and arrived at Gibeon as the sun was rising in the sky.

And Joshua and the Israelites fought with all their strength, and as the noon hour approached, the Lord rained down hailstones on their enemies as well, even as the sun shone bright in the sky. And then as Chapter 10, verse 12 and following, accounts,

Joshua prayed to the LORD,
and said in the presence of Israel
“Stand still O sun, at Gibeon!” . . . .
And the sun halted in the middle of the sky, not for a whole day did it resume its swift course,
While the (Israelites) took vengeance on their foes.

Under the rays of this supernatural sun, the key city of Gibeon was saved, and the promised land was secured for God’s people.
The account of this story ends by saying: never before or since was there a day like this, when the LORD obeyed the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.

The Church has always interpreted militaristic Old Testament passages, like this one in Joshua, to be symbolic of the spiritual battle between good and evil. Joshua of the Old Testament is a forshadowing of Jeshua of the New: Jesus, our commander-in-chief, the head of our “army”.

The Promised Land the Israelites were trying to conquer is a symbol of the Kingdom of God we are trying to bring about on earth — His Kingdom of Justice, Peace and Love which we bring about not by the weapons of war, but by the “weapons” of prayer, self denial, and works of mercy.

Those nations the Israelites had to conquer — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, — along with the Philistines, stand for the seven deadly sins we must conquer and obliterate if we are to be victorious and settle in to the promised land.

And finally, just as at the words of Joshua — Stand still, O Sun! — the light of the blazing sun shined brightly over the Israelites as they fought their way to victory, so at the words of Jeshua — This is My Body — the brilliant light of the Eucharist, brighter than the sun, illuminates the Church as we conquer the world for Christ.

On altars and in tabernacles throughout the world, the Eucharist enlightens the disciples of Jesus, gives them the grace to see clearly who the Enemy is, gives them the strength to fight bravely and successfully against those seven deadly sins.

The Old Testament prophet Malachi foretold this, when in Chapter 1 verse 11 he said “In every nation around the world, a Bread offering (minhah) will be offered in sacrifice to the God of Israel.”

Never before or since was there a day like this, when the LORD obeyed the voice of a man, the Old Testament Book of Joshua says. But now, by the grace of the New Testament, a man with the Sacrament of Holy Orders is able to stand before an altar, take ordinary Bread and speak four words and God must obey the voice of that man, whether that man is the greatest saint, or the greatest sinner, or somewhere in between.

For it is our certain Catholic faith that whenever a priest says at Mass “this is my Body . . . . this is my Blood,” God must obey, and change the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

God the Father must do so, and He gladly does so, so that His chosen people may be enlightened and nourished with the Bread of Heaven, so that they may conquer all their foes with the help of God so abundantly poured out in this sacrament, and so that they may settle in and have rest in the promised land the LORD has given them.

This Corpus Christi Sunday may Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist, shine ever more brightly on this altar, in this Tabernacle at St. Joseph Church, and in the hearts of all who receive Him with reverence and love.

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