By Sister Michelle Gorman
The Gospel reading for the feast of Corpus Christi is a microcosm of the life of Jesus and how we are to understand ourselves as members of the Body of Christ. Jesus is healing those in the crowd in the context of the reign of God, and he places this reign of God within the reality of a crowd whose hunger can be fed by the intervention of the Twelve in the present moment. The seemingly insignificant five loaves and two fish are multiplied through the action of blessing, breaking and sharing.
To bless the bread is to be present to God’s continual gifting of humanity in time and space. In each eucharistic liturgy, we say:
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation.
Through your goodness, we have thisbread to offer—
fruit of the earth and work of human hands.
In gratitude and humility, we acknowledge that we are recipients of the gift and mystery of creation—with its 13.7 (or so) billion years of evolution upon which the work of our hands has helped forge certain structures, some to the benefit of and others to the detriment of creation. When we offer God’s gift as our gift to God, God continues to transform it and us in loving union and exquisite charity, allowing us to co-create with God in Jesus.
To break the bread is to recall that the “institution of the Eucharist” did not occur within a banquet of joy and camaraderie; rather, the atmosphere of the Passover was fraught with tension, suspicion and competition, to the degree that, in John’s Gospel, Jesus is forced to stand up, put a towel around his waist and assume the position of a slave to show them how they were to love one another. And when he says, this is my body—my life—broken for you, he is saying, “I am living into the consequences of touching the untouchables, speaking to the outcasts, unbinding those held bound, and I will not betray their dignity.” We know that soon after, Jesus experienced Judas’ betrayal, that his “forever” followers ran away, and that he was left to die, with his mother having only the consolation of his best friend. We know that after his resurrection, he did not hold their betrayals against them but lovingly led them to the next steps where they would be broken to be given away for the ongoing healing of the world.
What about us in these days of unrest and violence? How are we faring in our commitments and recommitments to seeing the world and its sorrows with a new consciousness? Can we allow ourselves to be held in Christ’s eucharistic healing communion and extend that communion to those considered outside the boundaries of what is considered acceptable? Can we persist in extending Jesus’ healing within the reality of our own brokenness and sinfulness? Can we acknowledge with poet Amanda Gorman:
Maybe everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed & strange.
But only when everything hurts
May everything change.*
To give away that which we might like to hold on to ensures the possibility of continued evolution and transformation. Within our cosmic context, our sun is sacrificing itself each second to become the energy that we imbibe with every breath and every meal. The sun does not withhold itself, unlike us humans who know the rightness of self-sacrifice for the common good, and yet, when the moment comes, we often choose to be complicit in the status quo.
With the conclusion of the Easter season we now return to Ordinary Time. In this day-to-day ordinariness, we need to continually open our eyes and the eyes of our hearts to the mystery of God’s incarnational presence—in the wonder of all things created, in the communion with Christ in the eating and drinking of the eucharistic feast, and in the abiding breath of the Spirit gently continuing the gifts that each of us needs for the ongoing evolution of eternal love in our world.
To bless and break open the bread of our lives is to ensure that all will eat and be satisfied. It is to live the reign of God here and now. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin sums it up thus:
By virtue of Creation,
And still more of the Incarnation,
Nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see;
On the contrary, everything is sacred.
In the feast of Corpus Christi, we celebrate the incarnational sacredness of our existence, and the privilege of witnessing to the sacredness of all people and all reality. May we continue to treasure the memory of Jesus’ courageous self-giving and make it real in our daily lives.
*Amanda Gorman, “Hymn for the Hurting”