Feast of Corpus Christi
June 6, 2021
Exodus 24:3-8. Hebrews 9:11-15. Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Last Sunday Eileen introduced her reflections saying “The God I grew up with is not the God I know now and I suspect the same is true for all of you.” It’s true for me. In fact, the God I know now is not even the God I knew a year ago. And the biggest shifts in my thoughts, my imagination, and my heart-feelings are about Jesus the Christ.
As a child, beginning with my First Communion, I was deeply affected by the rituals surrounding the Real Presence. I resonated with the moments of consecration proclaimed by the ripple of bells and with the rituals of benediction, embellished with incense, gold-and-white vestments and the starburst of the gold monstrance embracing the Host. Short visits to the Blessed Sacrament were a quiet respite from the social turmoil of recess. Holy Thursday’s elaborate adoration altars and Corpus Christi outdoor processions were times of awe and pride in my Catholic faith. The sacramental life of the Church throbbed for me, and the pinnacle of that life was the Body of Christ with us in the consecrated host.
Later I was moved by the imagery of the Mystical Body of Christ, by the sense of all of us joined in one spiritual family. In my adolescence, I connected the Mystical Body with the spirit of Catholic Action that we sang about with gusto—no, I won’t sing it for you, but the words began “An army of youth flying the banner of truth, we are fighting for Christ the Lord…”
Beginning in the novitiate, the Body of Christ signified for me the combined strength and dedication of all the baptized, with our common vocation to build up the human community in love. Spurred by the documents coming out of the Vatican Council, I looked on my Loretto companions, the students in my classroom, and the whole communion of Christians as St. Paul described us: the many members of one body, having many different gifts but all united under Christ as head.
Recently I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s book The Universal Christ – a book that I’ve found both challenging and unsettling. Rohr insists there is a much closer connection between the Christ and me/us. The Universal Christ is God’s Love incarnate as God’s creation and then incarnate within creation as Jesus. Through deep suffering and deep love, Rohr says, we are drawn into Christ and into one another in a union, a oneness that is the full realization of our human nature and our destiny. Rohr writes “Only great love and great suffering are strong enough to take away our imperial ego’s protections and open us to authentic experiences of transcendence. …[They] will connect you to Full Reality at ever-new breadths and depths ‘until God will be all in all.’ Our part is simply to allow and embrace deep suffering and deep love and we will find ourselves in the body of Christ.
Thomas Merton described having such an experience, one March day in 1958. He was in Louisville, running errands for the monastery. He later wrote that he was walking among crowds on a sidewalk when…
“…at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation.… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud…. If only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time.”
If only we could see each blade of grass, each glass of water, each element of God’s creation that way, all the time. If we could, when we can, we will have lost ourselves in the heart of Christ.
–Eleanor Craig, S.L.