All of us approach the Mass, and indeed the Church and all of her Sacraments, in different ways; we each come here today with differing agendas, expectations, and attitudes. We come with our own personal histories; we each carry our own burdens of personal problems. Some of us are here because we love God, some of us may be here simply out of duty, and others are here only reluctantly, perhaps even grudgingly.
Those of us who have a few grey hairs on our heads will remember when many of our Catholic churches were filled with beautiful statues, perhaps even glorious stained glass windows, and vaulted ceilings. The church building and its decorations filled us with a sense of the glory of God. The smell of real beeswax mixed with incense spoke of the mysterious transcendence of God’s presence. Choirs sang magnificent and awe-inspiring hymns and anthems. The parts of the Mass were sung in timeless Gregorian chant. We experienced the grandeur of the Church as well as the presence of God. I don’t know about you, but I come to Mass to experience the Church Triumphant. Not for nothing has the Mass been called the most beautiful thing this side of heaven. Sadly, many Catholics who go to Mass in their parish church this morning will experience something quite different.
Some of you may be burdened with problems and you seek God’s help in order to face them. Some of you may be lonely and seek the friendship and companionship of the Christian community; each Sunday you look out for the faces of those you know and perhaps admire, looking for friends, and the comfort of their closeness. Some of you may be here to experience the orderliness, the regularity, and the lasting structure of the Church. You are here to check out your lives before the face of God, looking for some inspiration and a portion of courage, so that you can start the coming week doing what’s morally right and humanly decent in the week’s events facing you.
We are all here with personal issues, the kind we keep from others, the sort that we bury deep within us, holding our hearts and souls in their unforgiving grip. Eventually those issues raise the eternal questions: Who am I? What am I doing with my life? Why am I doing the things I am doing? We seek forgiveness and reconciliation while looking for integrity, authenticity, and God’s favour.
Fellowship and a sense of belonging bring many of us here today. All of us want to belong to something greater than our little self-centred egos. The crushing burdens of human poverty and deprivation cause us to realize our own need to be fed, to be given spiritual food in the Bread of Life that God offers us in the Eucharist. All of us want to be part of the answers to our social ills instead of being part of its problems. And a big question confronts us: Where is God in all of this? Where am I in all of this?
The symbols, the gestures, the music, and the form of our worship are all here to unite us. Politically we may be Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, UKIP or even Monster Raving Loony Party. We are liberal, conservative, and indifferent. We are old and young, male and female, married and single, traditionalists and innovators, saints and sinners, guardians of the past and social revolutionaries. All of us are here forming the Body of Christ by receiving His Body and Blood in Holy Communion. We are here to be sent out at the end of Mass to be Christ’s very presence here on earth. You and I have a mission – and that mission is to make Christ’s presence real in our world.
Our Mother, the Church has recently taken us on the yearly path from Christmas to Easter and to Pentecost. Last Sunday she took us into the very inner life of God living His life as the Holy Trinity. Today she brings us to the feast of Corpus Christi, setting before us our history and our reality as members of Christ’s Body. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is here to give us His resurrected and glorified humanity in Holy Communion so that with Him we might be filled with sensitivity towards others, that we may be available to them, be self-sacrificing for them, and to be good examples for others to follow.
When we speak of Our Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross for our sins we speak of His “giving it all away,” His giving away of His life for us and handing it over to us. This happens in each and every Mass. Our Lord does all this in the hope that we too will live life as He lives it; that we too might give ourselves to others.
For more than 2000 years the sacramental presence of Christ in Holy Communion has encouraged, supported, sustained and energized countless millions of souls. It has inspired artists, musicians, poets, and intellectuals to reach down deep within themselves to find new levels of the presence of Jesus Christ within them. That presence sustains us in being; it inspires us in living, and it calls us to be another Christ in our world. Jesus Christ has suffered for us, he died for us, and he rose from the dead for us in order to bring us all that His Father had in mind for us, all that He dreamed we could be when He created us in the first place.
There’s only one thing I can tell you about Corpus Christi: all that the Father has He finds in His Son. And all of that He gives to us in Holy Communion so that He, our Father, can find it all – and love it all – in you and in me.
We each have a purpose; we’re not the product of blind chance in a meaningless universe of chaos. The world and the universe that surrounds us is ordered in its design, and so are we. Ask any doctor about the human body and he will speak of its wonder and its marvellous integration of function and purpose.
The gospels present 107 times when Jesus spoke of God’s kingdom. However much we have sinfully messed it up and now regard it as a chaotic mess, it wasn’t that way in the beginning. And nor has God simply abandoned us to our own devices and turned His back on us. He has sent us His Son to bring our world and each one of us in it back to His purposes. In Christ, God brings order out of chaos, meaning out of absurdity, good out of evil, and life out of death. We need the nourishment of the Bread of Life to feed our souls and we need the Spirit of God to guide us and to fill us with the strength that come from His gifts.
Are we here simply to wait for death and leave life behind so we can get into heaven? Yes, that is part of the answer to life’s many riddles. But the other part, the more important part, is that we are here to reveal God’s kingdom: here on earth as it is in heaven.
Again, that’s something we simply can’t do on our own. That’s something we can only do with Christ’s Body and Blood within us. That’s something we can do only with Christ’s life and Holy Spirit living within us. Corpus Christi – the Body of Christ – is not something that should be found only here in church. It should be found in the Kingdom of God Jesus came to reveal: here on earth as it is in heaven.
Saint John puts it all much better than I can: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
We are here to receive Christ’s Body and Blood so that his mission might become our mission.