Friday, June 08, 2007

the Three Faces of Corpus Christi

The Feast of Corpus Christi, AKA the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, provides us the opportunity to explore different dimensions around our experience of the Body of Christ.

First, and most obvious, is the personal dimension. Christians are, in large part, defined by their practice of receiving the Eucharist. After Baptism, it is the one action most often mentioned by pagan writers in antiquity trying to answer the question "Who are these Christians, anyway?"

One reason (among many) why I became Catholic was the tremendous respect for this sacrament, which I as a Lutheran had already grown to love. Knowing that many of my sisters and brothers received our Lord in this way only once a month or sometimes four times a year was always distressing to me. I supported weekly eucharist in every congregation where I served. As a Roman Catholic I have found in daily Mass a great support for my all-too-slow journey toward personal holiness.

But this Feast also bids us look at the communal dimensions of Eucharist. The processions which will take place around the world over these next few days take Christ out of the church building and bring him out to where people live. Benedict XVI acknowledged this as he accompanied our Lord through the streets of Rome for Corpus Christi:

"Benedict XVI said that the Eucharist passing by, "between houses and through the streets of our city," is "for those who live in them an offering of joy, of eternal life, of peace and of love." In his homily, the Holy Father said he wanted to put Christ "in the midst of our daily lives, so that he walks where we walk, so that he lives where we live."

"We go through the streets of the world knowing that he is at our side, supported by the hope of one day being able to see him with our faces unveiled in that definitive encounter," he continued.

Benedict XVI explained: "For every Christian generation, the Eucharist is indispensable food that sustains us as we cross the desert of this world, dried by ideological and economic systems that do not promote life, but repress it.

"A world in which the logic of power and possession dominates, instead of the logic of service and love; a world in which the culture of violence and death often triumphs. "Jesus knocks at the door of our hearts and asks to come in not just for one day, but for forever."

For Jesus to be present with us where we are is not only a potentiality, it is a theological necessity. If God indeed became enfleshed in human form, then He would not leave us orphans at the end of His time on earth. The Sacrament of His Love makes him present, really present, wherever that love is remembered according to the form he commanded and using the priestly means He provides. What a promise!

There is also a third dimension to this feast. And that is the solidarity we feel among ourselves because we share in this one Bread. If Christ is truly present in this Bread, then one must also believe, and act as if, he is present to and in and through others also.

I attended a Serra Club meeting this morning, where a representative from Catholic Relief Services shared about her experience as a world volunteer. We were all moved as we heard her tell the story of her work in Africa, and as she shared how CRS and others reach out across continents to meet human need in the name of the Church.

One portion of her presentation in particular struck me. It was a definition of solidarity, along with some quotes from our beloved Holy Father John Paul II and several others.

Solidarity is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good: that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we all really are responsible for all.

-On Social Concern, Pope John Paul II, 1988

Solidarity is the conviction that we are born into a fabric of relationships, that our humanity ties us to others, that the Gospel itself consecrates those ties, and that the prophets tell us that those ties are the test by which our very holiness will be judged.

-Rev. J. Bryan Hehir

Solidarity is action on behalf of the one human family, calling us to help overcome the divisions of our world. Solidarity binds the rich to the poor. It makes the free zealous for the cause of the oppressed. It drives the comfortable and secure to take risks for the victims of tyranny and war. It calls those who are strong to care for those who are weak and vulnerable across the spectrum of human life.

-Called to Global Solidarity:International Challenges for U.S. Parishes, U.S. Bishops. 1997

I can think of no better way to commemorate the Eucharistic presence of our Lord than by sharing him at the Table, walking with Him through the streets of our towns, and then turning around and meeting him in the faces and outstretched hands of others who are in need.

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