Solemnity of Corpus Christi


Solemnity of Corpus Christi

[Scripture Readings: Gen 14:18-20, 1 Cor 11:23-26, Lk 9:11b-17    ]

About twenty years ago, a reporter covering the war in Bosnia, saw a young girl get hit in the crossfire as she was walking down a deserted street in Sarajevo.  Seeing another man run out of a Fr. Stephen Verbestbuilding to care for her, he also rushed into the street.  At the risk of their own lives they carried her to the reporter’s car.  As they were driving to the hospital, the man cradling the bleeding girl in his arms pleaded, “Hurry, my child is still alive!”  A few blocks later he said, “Please, faster, her breathing is slowing down!”  Speeding through the empty streets, the man wept and cried out again, “Hurry, hurry, she is turning blue.”  But before they arrived at the emergency room the young girl died. In anguish the reporter said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry we’re too late.”  The man looked at him and groaned, “What a terrible task I have. I must tell her father that his little daughter is dead.”  Stunned and confused, the reporter said, “But I thought she was your child.” “No,” he replied, “but aren’t they all our children?”  

We are members of Christ’s Body, children of God with whom we share divine life, and for whom we may even need to risk our lives, to take care of each other.  One day as evening drew near, Jesus and the apostles were surrounded by over five thousand hungry people.  Were the apostles trying to keep for themselves the meager supply of five barley loaves and two fish when they said to Jesus, “Send the crowds away”?  But Jesus replied, “Feed them yourselves.”   In other words, “You take care of them.”  Afterwards, when everyone was fully satisfied, literally fattened, each hungry apostle had an overflowing wicker basket of leftover fragments in his arms for himself.  Did Jesus smile with amusement at their astonishment?  

The miraculous multiplication of food happened again in a wonderful way at Mount Melleray in Ireland.  In 1838 chilling winds and unceasing rains resulted in failure of the potato crop. The blight hit hardest in County Waterford, around Mount Melleray, but neighbors shared their meager Mount Mellerayprovisions to take care of each other. The following year, 1839, crops throughout the whole of Ireland were hit with the blight.  Farmers became beggars.  

Abbot Vincent Ryan left Mount Melleray for three months to beg for food in England.  He told the monks that as long as a single potato remained in the storage bin no hungry person should be turned away. He didn’t know that the numbers would increase to seventy or eighty persons per day. There weren’t enough potatoes in the bin to feed them for three weeks much less three months. But when the abbot returned he was utterly astonished to find that the bin of potatoes which ought to have been exhausted had not even diminished.  The crowds at the monastery gate continued to increase yet there was no reduction in the quantity of food in that bin.  Because of the monks’ generosity in caring for others, Christ gave them more than they could give away.

The multiplication of loaves and fishes, and of the Irish potatoes, remind us of the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, which is never diminished no matter how much nor how often it is broken and given to us.  We are all God’s children, and he takes care of us by giving us the bread and wine of eternal life, the Body and Blood that we need to live in a happiness that will never end.  

Solemnity of Corpus Christi

[Scripture Readings: Gen 14:18-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11b-17]

I am not sure if it was the nuns in grade school or the parish priest, but in order to bring home to us boys the need for reverence at Mass, told us about a Protestant who said that if he believed God was in the host he would crawl up on his hands and knees to receive communion. And here we were slovenly approaching the communion rail. The shame of it…

In a more serious vain St. Benedict uses a variant of this story in his teaching on reverence at prayer: “Whenever we want to ask a favor of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption. How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and sincere devotion (Ch. 20:1-2.)

Why do we need these types of reminders? Why do we have to keep reminding ourselves and making this mental effort to put ourselves in the proper frame of mind as we approach the altar or begin to pray? Why do we have so many distractions at prayer? Shouldn’t these things come naturally to us as we enter the church or kneel to pray or go up to receive communion? That is just the point they do not come naturally. Standing in awe before the Grand Canyon comes naturally, we do not need anyone to tell us how to feel, we have an immediate experience of the immensity and the magnitude and magnificence of what we see before us.

We have no such experience as we enter a church or kneel to pray or even as we receive communion. We have no immediate experience of God. None of us has seen God. When it comes to religion we deal with signs, and symbols and sacraments. We know that the sacraments have a visible and an invisible component. We have the bread and wine that we can see and feel and taste. What we do not see is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ in the bread and wine. Thus the struggle between the flesh and the spirit.

Today’s feast is intimately connected with the presence of Christ in the host. We will have a procession with the monstrance after Mass and exposition all afternoon. Looking at the host will be an important part of our celebration today. What will we experience as we look at the host? On the physical level our eyes will bring messages to our brain, on the level of the spirit we will feel nothing — unless God gives us a gift of his presence. Faith lives in a different atmosphere from feelings. Yet, when we enter the realm of faith we do have a feeling. It is usually a feeling of absence or emptiness or nothingness—thus the wandering mind, the distractions, In the realm of faith the restlessness of the 8th grader never leaves us. Our mind has nothing to hold it in place and so it wanders off. But, emptiness, and absence are experiences and can teach us something. Suppose you are praying before the Blessed Sacrament and nothing is happening and your mind begins to wander. Here is what one author says about faith: “You will seem to know nothing and feel nothing except the naked intend toward God in the depths of your being. Try as you might, this darkness and this cloud will remain between you and your God. You will feel frustrated, for your mind will be unable to grasp him and your heart will not relish the delight of his love. But, learn to be at home in this darkness. Return to it as often as you can, letting your spirit cry out to him whom you love(Cloud of Unknowing ch. 3).

St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote many beautiful prayers for this feast day, said that in the realm of faith our understanding remains in a certain darkness of ignorance according to which we are best united to God. (ST 1. 8.11. ad 4) Why is this? I think because this type of absence of sensual and intellectual fulfillment makes us long all the more for spiritual fulfillment—our spirits, which otherwise would be dormant awaken and cry out for the source of their life and through this awakening we come to know ourselves as spiritual beings. This could be the grace of the day as we look at the hidden presence of Christ in the consecrated host on the altar—Deep is calling to deep