May 23, 2016 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Some years back in preparing for this feast I asked several people what they think of when they hear the words Corpus Christi. The answers were thought provoking.
My brother in law told me that since he has been a Eucharistic minister he has noticed the incredible diversity of hands. There are the hands of the young children, they are small and dainty. There are the hands of the men and women who toil with their hands in their daily work. He mentioned the hands of an Italian baker whose fingers reminded him of a bunch of bananas. He also spoke of the hands of the young woman whose nails are manicured immaculately and whose softness is apparent. There are the hands of the old people, now misshapen and bent. There are arthritic hands and hands with fingers missing. There are smooth skinned hands and calloused hands. There are hands that are washed but still reveal the employment of the owner as mechanic or brick layer of farmer or cafeteria worker. These people are the Body of Christ receiving the Body of Christ.
In a mediation on hands, Catherine Meany wrote: “I’m sure Mary loved Jesus’ hands very much. She watched his hands touch children and animals and wood. (I wonder how many splinters she removed?) His hands beat out rhythms of the music at weddings and feasts. They added emphasis and grace to the words he read in the synagogue. Then there were the healings–laying them on the person, making a mud paste, helping one to get up. Those hands must have given Mary a tremendous amount of joy as she saw Jesus move among the people. I have wondered if there was a special gesture Mary and Jesus shared that evolved over the years. Was there something that started when Jesus was a baby that became an unspoken code between mother and son? If there was, I bet it involved hands.”
A priest who worked in Siri Lanka for years wrote a book, Eucharist and Human Liberation. Hear some of his challenging words: “What began as a covenant meal of people struggling and powerless has instead been used as a sacred legitimization of the powers that be… The repetition of Eucharistic celebrations has not, in fact, led to the formation of a committed people–committed that is, to anything beyond the ritual observance itself… Our Eucharistic spirituality is not interior in the better sense of the word: of being deep, personal, reflective and formative. Nor is it external in the good sense of being active, committed and transformative of persons and society… The church is behaviorally living one way and ritually celebrating another. We proclaim the sacrificial victim we raise up the suffering Servant and yet live a long-lasting love affair with power, wealth, dogmatism and triumphalism. …liturgical rituals are mask that cover instead of reveal.”
After my brother in law’s reflection on hands I found myself thinking how clearly at Communion we receive the CORPUS CHRISTI, BODY OF CHRIST. But I also became aware that those receiving are also the body of Christ. Pope Pius the XII wrote an encyclical on the MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST. On this feast I have asked people to change the order of words that we use while receiving communion. I ask them to say, ‘BODY OF CHRIST’ and the minister of the Eucharist to say ‘AMEN!’. It is a bit disruptive to some people but truly amazing what happens with a slight change like this.
Finally, a Jesuit priest tells the story that a few years back he got in a conversation with a young Muslim. The man was interested in the Eucharist. Though Fr. Donahue tried his best to explain, the man still had a puzzled look. Finally, the young man said to him, “if you truly believe that the Eucharist is the Body of Christ, how can you treat each other so?” A question for us to ponder this Sunday.