Remember Richie Fernando? When I visited Cambodia many years ago, I made it a point to visit the memorial of Richie. Passing by the Jesuit cemetery in Quezon City, I dropped by to look for his tomb there. He is still to me, a modern hero of faith, a saint.

Richie was a Filipino Jesuit seminarian who was sent to Cambodia to work with young former victims of war, specially those maimed by landmines. When one youth’s angst and depression burst into extreme anger, he threatened to blow up his classmates with a hand grenade. Richie quickly jumped on the man snatching the grenade and shielding the others. The grenade exploded on Richie’s body and his Filipino blood flowed for his Cambodian friends.

Today’s feast is a feast of freedom and friendship. When we think of the Body of Christ, do we not only think of Communion, adoration chapel, or the church as his mystical body? The Eucharist is indeed the great sacrament of unity and love. The Eucharist makes the church alive and one. But before all that, for Jesus, his giving of self was an exercise of his freedom.

About to die at the hands of his enemies, Jesus had the option of fleeing, fighting back or freely offering his love. He chose the last, he gave his body and blood, for the life of the world. He made a decision not to be a vessel of fear, hatred, and vengeance. Instead he willingly gave what remained of him… like he did when he preached, healed, and walked and talked with the people.

Receiving the Eucharist is sharing in that freedom. Don’t we feel at times that: I cannot… I cannot… I cannot anymore….? Let Jesus empower you to say: I can… I can… I can! You are free to be creative with life, even in the midst of pain and failure. You are free, like Jesus, to choose love, faith, hope and joy in every moment of your life.

 early memorial to Richie

Then, Jesus’ self-offering was also an exercise of his friendship. Just as the Father made Abraham his friend, in the darkest moment of his life, Jesus considered his disciples not as servants but as his friends. We become a friend when we enter into the mind, the heart, and the soul of our friend so that we see things not from outside anymore. We see things from inside, just like him, feeling like him.

When we receive the Eucharist, let us welcome that friendship. Beg the Lord for the grace to be truly understand, love and care for the people around us who are waiting for kindness and concern. In the Eucharist it is not my friendship with Jesus alone. It is also my friendship with Jesus-in-others.

A Blessed Corpus Christi to all! Enjoy your freedom! Enliven your friendships!

 improved memorial site to Richie