The following homily was delivered by Bishop Jaime Soto on Corpus Christi Sunday, June 19, 2022 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in downtown Sacramento:
In many places that have traditionally celebrated the emancipation of the African American slaves on Juneteenth it is customary to read Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. President Lincoln issued the proclamation on January 1, 1863. Since the Civil War was still raging, the federal order was not implemented in Texas until June 19, 1865. That date has been celebrated as Emancipation Day in many places since then.
I would like to read a line from President Lincoln’s historical document: “And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”
The President acted upon his own political instincts. He also drew from his own moral convictions formed over the course of his political career and tried in the crucible of that bloody conflict. What seems so inevitable to us from the comfort of hindsight, was a bold, courageous, and perilous course whose outcome was not assured. Measure the time from when the Proclamation was first published to the date of its implementation in Texas. 900 days before the freedom proclaimed by Lincoln reached the slaves in Texas.
The presidential conscience was burdened by the war and all that provoked it. Months before the force of the proclamation reached Galveston, Texas, Lincoln meditated aloud on the moral consequences of slavery during his second inaugural address. On March 4, 1865, he told the crowds gathered on the steps of the Nation’s Capitol, “Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”
We all celebrate the freedom gained for our African American brothers and sisters in 1863 because the freedom and dignity of all is obtained. This occasion also should trigger a sober examination of conscience about the work that is still unfinished. At the same inaugural address Lincoln spoke these immortal words, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds.” This task is still before us.
A free citizen of this country, Lincoln served as president during a troubled time in America’s history. He employed his own personal freedom to break the bonds that weighed down in cruelty many children of God and bridled the Nation’s fondest aspirations. His bold exercise of freedom found its moral fortitude in the divine power of a God whose judgments are “true and righteous.”
It is right and just then, that we gather here around the altar of such an Almighty and Merciful God so that he may teach us once again how to employ our freedom for the unfinished enterprise of human dignity and peace. The solemn feast of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, brings us into the presence of the Lamb of God who exercised his divine freedom with unimaginable mercy and boundless charity.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians reminds the disciples of Jesus throughout the centuries, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” With the sacrifice of his own body and blood, the Lord Jesus made an eternally binding proclamation of human freedom. By his sacrifice we have been saved. Through the outpouring of his precious blood, we have been freed from sin. Those who eat his flesh and drink his blood become one body with the transcendent Christ. In Christ we transcend the slavish bonds of sin and see through the veil of racism to a horizon of a new creation, borne from the wounded side of Christ. True human freedom is found in this divine transcendent vision that will not be chained by fear or animosity.
The Eucharist Christ offers an emancipation to the human spirit so that we may proclaim the redeeming death of the Lord until he comes again. In the Eucharist we become what we receive. We become the Body of Christ so that we may offer ourselves with the Lord. We continue his saving work until he comes again. As he did for the disciples in the gospel, Jesus gives us now the saving, holy Eucharist so we may share the bounty of his divine mercy with all. Jesus frees us from the prevailing fears and rancor of these times urging us forward: “Give them food yourselves.” “Give them hope yourselves.” “Bind the wounds yourselves.” He can command us to give because he gave himself to us. He provides us with the bread of life and cup of salvation.
The charity of Christ is the great gift of the Father who loved the world so much that he sent us his only beloved Son to save us. The world is saved through our communion with the body and blood of Christ. In Christ we become one body united in the freedom of the sons and daughters of a merciful God and Father of us all.
On Corpus Christi Sunday, June 19, 2022, Bishop Soto kicked off the Diocese of Sacramento's participation in the National Eucharistic Revival. The celebration, which also commemorated Juneteenth and Father's Day, included a Gospel Mass sponsored by the diocesan Black Catholic Ministry and a traditional Corpus Christi procession, culminating in a Eucharistic Blessing from Bishop Soto on the steps of the Cathedral.