The Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). Fr Malcolm challenges us to become what we have received in the Holy Eucharist, the body of Christ, and as members of His body to carry him into all aspects of our lives.
Dominicans from St Thomas Aquinas onwards have been very articulate in helping the Church understand more deeply the mystery of the Blessed Eucharist that we celebrate today. A modern Dominican, the late Father Paul O’Leary from Ireland has helped me personally in making the vital association between the Eucharist and justice.
The constant mistake that we all make about the Eucharist is that is a thing rather than a person. With a person, we can develop a relationship which of its very nature is dynamic and healing, consoling, and loving. This is no less so with the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Personally I do not like the term adoration, which has become fashionable nowadays, because it can so easily makes me think of idolatry. The Blessed Sacrament is not a thing to be adored but a person to love and who loves us. Experiencing this creative love should change us and make us anxious to spread that love in our everyday lives.
That is what Fr Paul pressed home to me in a sermon I was privileged to listen to when he was teaching in South Africa. The exact point he made was that there was little point in us sharing the consecrated bread of the Eucharist if we were not prepared to share unblessed bread with our brothers and sisters when we left Sunday Mass or Benediction and went back to our homes and work. In other words the Eucharist demands that we “love one another as I have loved you”. The link between the Eucharist and Justice is an unbreakable bond of love. If we fail to allow this to work in our lives and continue to think that Eucharist is only about myself and how I feel then we are in danger of missing the point.
The tradition of the Corpus Christi procession in public places brings this gift of the Eucharist to those who may not know or understand the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It will startle some people and evoke all sorts of behaviour. Some will kneel down, their conscience jogged so that they resolve to be a better person. Other people will walk away and try to ignore the spectacle before them. It is not unusual for the procession to provoke a violent response among some of the members of the public. Though I imagine many will simply carry on with their shopping. But we know these reactions from the gospels so we should not be surprised. However when we take the Blessed Sacrament out of churches and process through the streets we are making a clear statement that Christ is for all people not just for those who go to church. In so doing we are taking the responsibility not to let Christ down. So don’t process unless you are prepared to help those who sit by the roadside begging. You must be prepared to take Christ into those parts of society where injustice prevails whether it is in an abortion clinic or a business that exploits it workers.
At times this may seem just too challenging. But don’t worry about this, because in receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist you will be given the grace to see what needs to be done and power to carry it out. We are not alone because Christ is among us as one serves, offering his life as a ransom for many The Eucharist makes present for us, now, Christ’s sacrifice of his entire self for me. And so, each time we eat the Bread of Life and drink the Blessing Cup, we associate ourselves intimately with that offering of the Lord. We are saying ‘Amen, yes, so be it’, to his invitation to a life of committed and self-sacrificing love and service. For Christ has left us as example that we are to copy: an example expressed in the simple gesture of washing feet and a call to do the same for one another
A final thought on this Feast of Corpus Christi that we can pray is the post-communion prayer from the Liturgy for the feast of St Augustine:
Lord, make us holy by our sharing at the table of Christ. As members of his body, help us to become what we have received.