Corpus Christi: Real Body, Infinite Love
"May the Bread of Angels become bread for humankind" – so petitions the penultimate strophe of the hymn 'Sacris solemniis', composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi in the 13th century. Every human being experiences pangs of hunger; hunger not just for food, but also for affirmation, meaningful labour, dignity, affection, but most greatly for love. We hunger for love, and yet "the most pleasing compliments, the finest gifts and the most advanced technologies are not enough; they never completely satisfy us," says Pope Francis. It is only the Eucharistic Body of Christ given to us as food that elicits from us a sigh of fulfilment.
Following the Feast of Pentecost and the Most Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi is a liturgical and faith-filled commemoration of the infinite love that God has for us. It is a feast solely focused on the Holy Eucharist and an unwavering declaration of the Real Presence of Christ. It is living and visible proof of Christ's desire to be with us "in the flesh" even after His return to the Father. Breathing His last on the Cross, His Body broken for us, He gave us yet another gift most precious to Him - the gift of His Mother. A mother's love and nourishment are fundamental to survival at the earliest stages of life. From the side of the Crucified Lord on the Cross, the Church received the Sacrament of baptism, was nourished by the Lord's Body, and was embraced by the Mother of God.
The Eucharist nourishes, but also affirms. It is an affirmation of our human dignity as children of God. The Eucharistic Bread is consumed and assimilated into our own mortal bodies, thereby forever carrying within us a sign of God's Incarnation. The Eucharist is therefore an affirmation of every human being, including the unloved, the unwanted and the marginalised. It is a denunciation of every act of transgression on another human being. "When we touch the Lord's flesh, we must be personally committed to the promotion of the poor and an authentic form of evangelisation," says Pope Francis in his Message for the World Day of the Poor this year.
In his message, the Holy Father highlights families forced to leave their homelands, victims of different forms of violence, victims of exploitation, and the homeless and ostracised "who roam the streets of our cities, rummaging through garbage bins to retrieve what others have discarded as superfluous. In so doing, they themselves are treated as refuse, without the slightest sense of guilt on the part of those who are complicit in this scandal." The Feast of Corpus Christi is an invitation to each member of Christ's Body to set out and retrieve every other member who has been discarded and rejected as less than human.
The Holy Eucharist is not a memorial relic of the Last Supper, but a living dynamic where love is constantly poured out by God on His People, through the brokenness of His Body. The act of breaking oneself for others is the highest expression of love. On the Eucharistic table, the transubstantiation is not the only transformation that takes place; it is also a transformation of hearts, offered up together with our gifts, hopes, desires and cries to God. It is a reminder of the many mothers and fathers who continuously break themselves for their children. It is an acknowledgement of the many Christians who every day, break themselves to defend the dignity of the poorest and the most vulnerable. It is a humble commendation of the contrite of heart, who offer their own brokenness to the Lord, asking Him to transform their sinfulness into graciousness through the abiding transformative power of the Lord's Body and Blood.
May the Feast of Corpus Christi remind us that the Bread of Angels is our food as well, spurring us towards the heavenly Jerusalem and the eternal banquet.
Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.
Mystery of Mysteries
Fr Anthony Charanghat
The mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Mystery of all mysteries, is the summit or the heart of all of God’s revelation of Himself to us. Anyone who hopes to approach God as He really is and share in His life must approach Him as Trinity. It is given only to the Christian to know the secret of God’s inner life, and to know Him as truly a Trinity - One God in three persons.
The Trinity is a mystery we are all familiar with in the doxology, “Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was, in the beginning, is now and ever will be, world without end.” God always was three in one, is three in one, will always be three in one. It is a prayer not only of praise, but a statement of faith that expresses an unending truth about God. The inner life of God is wider, richer, deeper and more awesome than we can capture in our minds. It is a profound mystery.
In the Old Testament, when the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, Moses reminded them never to forget all that God had done for them. We too experience God the Father in the miracle of Creation, and in the miracles of providence, as God guides our life and manifests His life-giving power, His majesty and transcendence through Creation. The Father not only brought us into being, but also sustains every beat of our heart.
In Christ who shows Himself as our Redeemer, we discover that God is love. It is not just that God loves, but that God is, at the very core of His being, love. When we love, we share in the very life of God. If God were alone from all eternity, then God could not be love. There would have been no one and nothing to love until Creation. But because our God indeed is love, then we are caught up in this mystery and cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’
We can have all of the basic necessities of life, and still not have what we need to be fully human. We need community because Almighty God in Himself is a Communion of Three Persons, yet One Godhead. One might say that being in communion of relationships with others is built into who we are as human beings, created by God in his image and likeness. We are called to communion, because God is a Communion!
The Trinity points towards a love which is utterly mutual, but which overflows, as the love of the Father and the Son overflows in the Holy Spirit. When parents have children, they too learn that love which spills over, beyond the couple. Love becomes Trinitarian as its mutuality is opened towards others. Otherwise, our love might become introverted and narcissistic. So the doctrine of the Trinity is the most down to earth practical lesson in the mystery of generous and fruitful love.
So right from the earliest times, the disciples had a glimpse of the mystery of this Triune love which they encountered in Jesus. It is the love which transfigures our own loving. All our everyday ordinary loving is marked with this mystery.
It is a love which lifts us into equality, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal. Its grace frees us from domination and manipulation. It is a fertile love, overflowing beyond itself. It draws us into unity with each other and with God, overthrowing divisions between nations, saints and sinners, the living and the dead.
The Trinity is not only a doctrine to be believed, but also to be lived. We can anchor our lives in the guiding providence of the Father, we can feel the saving love of the Son in the Sacraments, and the living presence of the Holy Spirit binding us to the Church.
Go forth and carry forward
At the Regina Coeli Address on Sunday, May 26, 2019, Pope Francis spoke about Jesus' promise to the Apostles as found in the Gospel Reading for the 6th Sunday of Easter (John 14:23-29). He recalled the promise of Jesus to send the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit "whom the Father will send in my name. He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26). The Holy Father further highlighted the work of the Holy Spirit: to sustain the Apostles in their mission to take the Gospel to the world, to teach all things to all people, and bring to remembrance all Jesus had taught them.
We, as members of the Church, receive the Holy Spirit at the time of our Baptism. Every baptised member of the Church, therefore, has the responsibility to carry forward the mission of the Church, in the way they are prompted to do so by the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit to guide us to carry forward this mission, we must first allow the Spirit to be our teacher and guide. We can do so by being attentive to the voice of the Spirit, through frequent reading of God's Word and regular reception of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is also necessary that we 'unwrap' the gifts received at Confirmation: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord; these, so often, remain dormant because of the many distractions that surround us. It is only when we grow in our personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, that we enable the mission of the Church to become a reality in our own lives, our community and in the world.
The same Holy Spirit also breathes life into various lay apostolates of the Church—the youth, SCCs, Legion of Mary and other parish Cells and Associations. Like the Apostles, who kept the flame of faith alive, we must never allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to diminish, while remaining attentive to His prompting. The prime focus of mission is sharing Jesus with others. Sometimes, like the Apostles, we too will be challenged by internal and external forces. And when faced with such situations, our response should be one of love and what Christ expects of us. It is the Holy Spirit who will sustain and encourage us through these events. When such challenges plague the Church, we as members must always seek solace from the wisdom of the Holy Spirit on how to rise above each situation. And just as before the first Pentecost, Mother Mary played a key role in interceding for the Apostles, she will, even today, continue to play a significant role and intercede for the Church, as the mission of her Son is carried forward.
Sometimes, in our eagerness to serve the Church, we may hurt others by allowing spiritual pride to creep into our service. When this happens, we create divisions in the Church; perhaps even causing members to leave the Church, thus grieving the Holy Spirit. Therefore, aware of our limitations and shortcomings, we should nonetheless encourage everyone to become active members of the Church, calling upon the 'Spirit of Unity'. If there are some who refuse to participate because of past hurts, it is our responsibility to reach out and try to bring about healing through love.
Pope Francis beautifully explains the Church's mission as that "which she carries out through a precise way of life…by faith in the Lord and the observance of His Word; docility to the action of the Spirit, who continually makes the Risen Lord alive and present; the acceptance of His peace and the witness born of Him through an attitude of openness and encounter with others... The Church cannot remain stationary, but relies on the active participation of each baptised person... to act as a community on a journey, animated and sustained by the light and power of the Holy Spirit who makes all things new."
The Holy Father also advises that we are called to free ourselves from our views, strategies, and objectives which often impede the journey of faith. "It is the Spirit of God who guides us and guides the Church, so that her authentic face, beautiful and luminous, willed by Christ, may shine forth."
Bishop Barthol Barretto, Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay
Ascension - An Affirmation and Assurance
Fr Anthony Charanghat
Our belief in the mystery of the Ascension of the Lord is affirmed in all the creeds of the Church as "He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father." Luke's narrative of Jesus 'being lifted up on a cloud out of sight' to describe His physical absence in our parlance may appear that He is unreachable. However, in biblical idiom, the message of this pivotal event in Easter underlines the closeness of the new kind of glorified presence of Jesus and its salvific significance for humanity.
First, the Ascension is an affirmation about Jesus returning to the Father's glory. He belongs entirely to God. He is no longer subject to the principalities or powers of the world, of corruption and death that conditions the various situations of life. Secondly, it is an assurance that He, the Eternal Son, has led our human existence into God's presence, taking with Him flesh and blood in a transfigured form.
The Ascension of Jesus in this context becomes a celebration of the extraordinary fact that our humanity, in all its variety, in all its vulnerability, has been taken by Jesus into the heart of the divine life. This is the good news of the Ascension – the stained, wounded, imprisoned in various ways of the human race are still capable of being embraced by God, shot through with God's glory, received and welcomed in Christ.
In the Ascension account of both Acts and the Gospel of Luke, Jesus also speaks to us of the promise of the Father that is going to descend on the world when He goes. He is speaking of the way in which the gift of the Holy Spirit of God enables us in our mission not only to be a new kind of being, but to see human beings afresh, and to hear them differently. A Spirit-filled life will help us participate in His saving mission, which He commissions us, His disciples, to continue, even as He ascends to His Father.
When the Holy Spirit hovers over us in the wind and the flame of Pentecost, He gives us the life of Jesus, and Jesus' capacity to hear and see. We must hear the sounds of the quiet cries of the abused child; the despairing pain and death of the victims of mindless violence. We ought to be alert to the cry of the hungry and the forgotten. We cannot be blind to the plight of those unjustly oppressed and disadvantaged. We must stand up for truth, justice and the dignity and sacredness of life.
A Christian is someone who should be more open and more vulnerable to that great range of the glory and tragedy of the human experience. We must be able to welcome and harness the good and feel the edge, the ache in human suffering, and empathise with the spate of human tragedy. It must be taken into Christ, and into the heart of the Father, to be healed, transfigured.
The promise of the Father is that we as Christians will receive that level and dimension of divine life that we call 'Holy Spirit', so that, like Jesus, we will find that nothing human is alien to us. And the promise of the Father is that by the love of Christ spreading through us and in us, the world may be brought home to Christ, who brings it home to His Father.
We need to take Jesus' words to heart, and ensure that we are focused on preaching the Gospel, making Christ known, living His truth, and inviting people to experience the life of the Church. Today, we too can be part of Christ and His work. That is the message and the majesty of the Ascension.
Connection to Communion
In our present times, where the Internet has become the 'beating heart' of everyday interaction, social, economic and political life, we must guard against unbridled individualism, spirals of hatred, and defining ourselves by what divides us rather than with what unites us, warns Pope Francis. In his message for the 53rd World Communications Day, which is celebrated each year on the feast of the Ascension of our Lord, the Holy Father urges us to rediscover the positive potential of the internet, by invoking images of the net, community and the body made up of different members working together.
Creating online communities and groups helps bring people together on the basis of common interests and concerns, speeds up the transmission of news and knowledge, and evokes a greater expression of cohesion and solidarity. The downside of such 'virtual communities' is that we can isolate ourselves from those who are different from us, and end up living in ideological bubbles, dismissing diversity and interacting only with like-minded individuals. Groups and identities on the web are quite often based on common opposition to another ideological group or thought, which gives rise to suspicion, distrust and every kind of prejudice.
Young people, he says, are particularly susceptible to an illusion that the social web can completely satisfy them on a relational level. Young people become 'social hermits', alienating themselves from physical encounters and activities, creating online personas which belie their real nature and identity, and believing that what they see online is how things really are. The online world becomes a showcase for exhibiting personal narcissism, says Pope Francis. This has disastrous consequences on the relational fabric of society.
Social network communities should not therefore be automatically mistaken to be real human communities. By invoking the Pauline metaphor of the body and its members, Pope Francis says that authentic online interaction requires us to remember that "in order to be myself, I need others. I am truly human, truly personal, only if I relate to others." True communion protects truth and dispels divisions. Christian communion is based on the communion of love among the Holy Trinity. God is communion, and therefore communication, because love always communicates. Since we are fashioned in the image of God, we carry in our hearts a deep desire to communicate ourselves to others and live in community.
In the Church community as well, use of the social web must lead to an encounter in the flesh. The goal of parish media activity must be to invite and attract people to be physically present at the Eucharistic Table, where faith comes alive through the meeting of bodies, eyes, hearts, and touch. The online community must translate into the offline 'Body of Christ'. This Christian eucharistic network is based not on 'likes', but on the truth, on the "Amen", by which one clings to the Body of Christ. The internet therefore becomes a resource, when it is used to facilitate an encounter, to pray together, and to share stories of beauty and suffering, to seek out the good in the other, but becomes a malice when it is used to foment division, spread disinformation and distort relationships.
As governments rush to tackle the challenge of protecting the original vision of a free, open and secure network, and to prevent its misuse in the social, ethical, economic and political realms, the Church has the opportunity and responsibility to promote its positive use and harness its powerful potential for the enhancement of life, love, human dignity and a communion based on truth and justice.
Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board with the additional duty of Managing Editor.