Corpus Christi Reflection 2017

Reflection on the Feast of Corpus Christi 

Every now and then a news article pops up about breastfeeding. There are several hot topics on the subject that trigger lots of debate. Should it be allowed in public? Why do some shame this very human activity? Shouldn’t it be celebrated? Should it be promoted for a child’s health? Maybe, but what about women who can’t breastfeed?

I bring up the subject knowing that I have a real deficiency in participating in the conversation. I am a man and like most men, cannot speak with any authority on the matter and probably should not venture too far into any of the debates. But I can’t help observing a key connection between the human experience of nurturing a child through breastfeeding and the Catholic faith, especially in the feast celebrated today, the feast of Corpus Christi – the feast of the Body of Christ.

There are two instances in human life where I have encountered the sacred notion “Take and eat, this is my body given up for you.”  One is in the infancy of life when many mothers offer their very bodies for the well-being of her child. The second is our spiritual infancy (which we are living even as you read this), where Christ offers his body for the well-being of our very selves.

Once, when I was on a day of retreat and a Catholic priest offered that reflection to me, it took me a while to absorb the enormous meaning behind the connection of those two events. So, if that is happening for you right now, take a moment and reflect upon it deeper.

After years of pursuing, reading and reflecting upon matters that are religious and spiritual in nature, and as a religious educator for this community, I am at a point in my life in which I tire rather quickly of spiritual make-believe that isn’t connected to the here and now. I sigh in exhaustion at notions of God that resemble more of a fantasy of ghosts and ghouls than what is tangible and real.

 

Which is probably why I always feel at home in the Catholic Church. Where else is the connection between the spiritual and physical as manifest as it is in the Church? For us to have a sacrament, we require the physical elements of water, oil, bread, wine, rings, and/or physical people present. We don’t believe that we can just pray for someone’s soul and they’ll be saved, but we demand attention be paid to the Corporal Works of Mercy. The hungry should be fed. The naked clothed. It is why we build hospitals, food pantries, and shelters. Its why we invest in schools to nurture the whole person body and mind.

It is also why we take such great offense to violence done against the flesh, when bodies are cheapened to be clogs in the machine of exploited labor or when bodies are reduced to serve as objects of gratification through human trafficking or abusive relationships.

We believe that we do and will experience God in the flesh and nothing illustrates this belief with greater fervor than Jesus coming to us with his own body, with the same love of a nursing mother, and saying “Take this. Take me. I love you with such intensity that my very body is for you.”

On the feast of Corpus Christi, it isn’t uncommon to focus on the miracle of transubstantiation and the beautiful theories and doctrines which describe the miracle of the Eucharist. This is good to do. But it doesn’t hurt to also remind ourselves of another reality.

Scientist have performed experiments with animal primates in which they showed that primate babies who do not have contact with the skin of an adult of their species will not develop normally and in often cases die. Although unethical to do such an experiment on human beings, it is assumed that human persons would respond the same as the animal experiments. It is deduced that if we, as a newborn, do not have contact with a body to which we can connect, we will shrivel. What a grace it is that in our spiritual infancy, our tender time of spiritual growth here on this planet, God provides us with this contact as well. Jesus gives us his body to be near, to embrace us and to soothe us. The closer and more often we come, the more holistic our development will be. We celebrate this grace every Sunday, but especially today on the feast of Corpus Christi.

 

 

 

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