I’m sure all of us are wondering when is it going to end? Ninety-two days and counting since lockdown began and although some of our Churches are looking to open up for private prayer, the thing we want most of all still seems a long way off. For most of us the heartbeat of our week is the gathering together around the table to celebrate and receive the Eucharist – without it, we feel empty. I have no problem with the watching of streamed masses, but it is no substitute. I feel sorry for our priests, as I’m sure that they too feel the disconnect as well. I hear people saying amusingly that “I’ve been to Mass this morning in Walsingham!” and I wonder what does all this mean when the essential element for us as participants, is actually being there.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ and how strange a celebration it will be. In the gospel we hear Jesus saying to us: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you will not have life in you and we wonder how are we to listen and understand him in this current situation? I suppose we have to realise just how fortunate we have been for all of our lives, to be able to partake of this food on a daily basis. We think of so many of our fellow catholic brothers and sisters for whom the abundance of our experience of the eucharist is so different from theirs. If the word eucharist which means thanksgiving, really does strike that chord, then it is perhaps required of us to remember our communion with them especially this day, as we pass through this lockdown desert of our own.
So the challenge for us is to educate ourselves as to where this experience is going to take us. It is interesting that the gospel we read today is not the familiar one from the Last Supper, in which we hear the words of institution. Today instead we listen to those words in a different context altogether.
The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world
Jesus speaks these words after having been with people in a wilderness, a desert. A place of exile where food and shelter are scarce. Where resources and the means to acquire them are hard to come by and where the desperate and the needy are searching and looking for meaning and healing. Jesus tells them: it is here, in this space, in the mess of all our mistakes and wrong choices, and in the midst of our selfish desires. This is where the word becomes flesh and lives amongst us, combining to both nourish and nurture us. Jesus brings this word into our own locked-down environment so that we can share and exchange its wealth of meaning, its love in our own situations. The word made flesh comes out of the Upper Room and begins to flourish in these spaces, around our tables, in our homes, and it brings us life in his presence. We are called to pass it on, in spite of our current difficulties, because as he says anyone who eats this bread will live forever.
As a memorial, let us decorate our tables at home this Sunday, and light a candle, and before we begin our meal, pray for the food of life, that is our real food and our real drink.
Happy Corpus Christi