Corpus Christi: A Reflection
Today we celebrate the last of these ‘great Sundays’ that conclude the Easter Season - Pentecost, Trinity and now Corpus Christi, when we celebrate the gift and mystery of the Eucharist.
But what a strange Corpus Christi it is! - unique in the Church’s history. We celebrate a gift that very few people have physically received for more than two months. How distant those days seem now, when we first had to close the church, thinking that the situation would quickly resolve itself.
Yet there have been great blessings. I think, firstly, many have felt connected to the Eucharist in a different and, in some cases, stronger way. Physically absent, perhaps, but spiritually present. The danger is that sometimes when we come to church we are physically present but more or less spiritually absent. We are aware of our external surroundings; we feel the hard wooden bench, we smell the incense, we get distracted by the latecomers and the restless children, we start thinking that the Mass is too long or too short, the church too hot or too cold, the homily too poorly constructed. We live on the surface, as little more than a spectator. For some, joining in with Masses virtually has helped us pray more intensely...
This leads us to consider a second blessing. Not only have we felt connected in a more intense way to the Mass but we realise how much we miss the Eucharist. I know how privileged I have been to be able to walk across the presbytery patio into the church building, whenever I wanted, and to celebrate Mass most days, whereas so many have told me how much they have missed attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion. We’ve been experiencing a spiritual famine. Virtual Masses are convenient but they’re not quite the same. We’ve had to feast instead on the Word of God and content ourselves with spiritual Communion - but for many, something is missing. Out of the hunger comes an opportunity. Perhaps, when we return to public Masses, we’ll participate in a different way, we won’t take it for granted.
Another blessing is that the pandemic has forced us out of our comfort zones. We’ve had to dig deeper into our daily reality and find God there - in nature, in our loved ones, in the needy. We see these things almost in a sacramental way - beneath even the most mundane detail of our lives, God is there, and we are being challenged to respond with love.
If you’re watching this, then you’ve obviously been celebrating the Eucharist virtually - in this church and perhaps in others around the world. It has been the age of ‘Mass travel.’ You’ve heard the Word of God and broken the bread through your computers, tablets and phones, and in all sorts of contexts: your living room or garden, even while driving or shopping. The Eucharist has become part of our daily lives in a very different way from before. It’s left the cosiness of the church and entered the messy reality of your home. Indeed, as we participate in Mass in our homes, we are called to live ‘Eucharistically’ - to give ourselves for others, to spread love, peace and forgiveness, to bear fruit through the way we live, to be the Body of Christ.
Tomorrow the church reopens again for individual prayer - and we hope it won’t be too long before we can celebrate Mass together. We rejoice at this development and I’m sure many of you will want to come here to sit in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord (who will be exposed on the altar), to light a candle, to feel connected to the church in a physical sense.
Physical places like churches are important for Christians. But let us not forget the lessons of the lockdown:
let us continue to deepen our relationship, our connection with the Lord and the Eucharist, wherever we may be - let it not just be on the surface, let us be physically and spiritually present
let us never take the Eucharist for granted and remember the hunger for it that we have felt in these days
and, crucially, let’s see the Eucharist not just as a gift we receive but as a mystery that we live way, penetrating every hour of our day. We can come to the church to pray and be near the Body of Christ and then we go out to be the body of Christ. The church doors are open and they work both ways - they invite us in to pray and be nourished; they beckon us out into the world to do God’s work...d