C Cycle – Feast of Corpus Christi 22
Each year when we celebrate this feast, I cannot help but recall memories of watching the procession of the priest carrying a monstrance, followed by deacons, and the congregation carrying colorful banners through the streets of Singapore or in Knoxville, Tn. The intention of this procession, which was part of this feast day for centuries was to be a visible witness or our belief in the very words spoken by Jesus – “who ever eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus told us he is bread come down from heaven and ties this eucharistic bread to the mana given the Israelites as they journeyed to the promise land. Yet, reminding us that mana did not bring them eternal life, but this bread does.
At the same time there was another side to the processions we fail to recognize. In Singapore that procession was not unlike the processions of the Hindus who paraded down the same streets with colorful banners and statues of their gods as they gave thanks for favors granted them by their god. The witness of the two processions were hard to distinguish from one another by the Muslims, Buddhist, or other non-Christian religions. In Knoxville, it seems to reinforce the erroneous belief by other faiths about Catholics.
We do have a great deal to learn about giving witness to what we believe for we do believe Christ is present in the Eucharist. We do believe that the last supper when Jesus took bread and wine declaring it was his body and blood for the life of the world was the first Eucharistic meal. We do believe Jesus intended his disciples and his church to feed us with that same meal so that we may become one with Christ. In a strange way we stand before the Eucharist being offered to us knowing we have fallen short of living as God intended. We are prodigal sons and daughters at that moment, and we willingly open ourselves to become one with God.
We need to give witness to what we believe because that is the mission of the church, and we are the church. Our problem is not what we believe it is how we are unprepared to give witness to what we believe. The reception of the Eucharist should change us, touch our hearts, convict us of our failings and at the same time hear the voice of God celebrating the fact we are in his presence. That alone is worth celebrating and announcing to the entire world.
The processions on this feast day should be a procession of the body of Christ. Us giving witness to the transforming power of forgiveness, the love of God and the desire of God that none should perish. We should be the focal point of the procession as the body of Christ telling the world God’s desire is for all to seek his embrace. We are visible signs and banners and should be pointing to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
Perhaps our witness this day needs to be us going into the coffee shops, standing on the street corners, or going to places where people are gathered and hold up our signs telling the world Jesus is the only way to find the happiness, the joy, the peace, or the things we seek.
Today is the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ who came to remove the barrier of sin that separates us from the Father. Our witness must also be one that removes the barriers that separates anyone from desiring what we have discovered. Am I against processions on this day? No but at the same time I do believe we need to realize how difficult it is for anyone seeking Christ to believe the Eucharist becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Keep in mind, when Jesus told the people unless they eat his flesh and drink his blood they will die. Many disciples that day rejected Jesus because eating flesh and drinking blood was revolting and they stopped following him (Jn.6:60). I encourage you to read the words of Jesus in John 6 beginning with verse 48.
Hard to take indeed and perhaps that depending on which poll you read, fifty to seventy percent of practicing Catholics do not believe in the real presence. We need to give witness to our Catholic brothers and sisters. To do that we need more than an intellectual belief in the Eucharist. We need an experience of Christ touching our hearts and leading us to all truth.