Wednesday, June 05, 2013
Last Sunday, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ in England, saw Oxford's annual Corpus Christi procession, which made its way from the parish church of St Aloysius (home of the Oxford Oratory) to the University Chaplaincy, with a stop at Blackfriars for a sermon given by one of the friars, Fr Robert Ombres. The procession attracted a large crowd - at the station at Blackfriars, not everyone could fit into the church - and the beautiful weather added to the beauty of the occasion. Below are some pictures of the event, illustrating the sermon which one of the Godzdogz deacons, Br Gustave Ineza, preached at the Conventual Mass on the same day:
An atheist travels to a far land which used to be inhabited by cannibals. He finds that they had become Christians. He approaches the chief of the village and says: “I understand that you eat some bread and drink some wine and you call it Lord Jesus' body and blood: how can you believe in that nonsense? Even in my country that evangelised yours we no longer believe in that.” The chief in the village responds: “My friend, had I not started to eat the body of Christ, right now you would be the one to be eaten.”
One can't obviously doubt the transformation that had happened in that village chief when he became Christian and received the body and blood of Christ. It is about that transformative aspect of the Eucharist I would like to talk about today.
On the feast of the Body and the Blood of Christ, one could really talk about many different and amazing things about that mystery that makes the life of our Church.
Today I would like to stress some aspects of the Body and the Blood of Christ.
The Body of Christ that we eat and his Blood that we drink make us become like Christ himself. We share in his life.
There is a practice that has almost disappeared from my culture: the Rwandan culture. It is called IGIHANGO and it is very powerful. People who wanted to become friends for life used to make a pact of blood. It consisted in cutting each other on the belly, near the navel, and every one would suck some two or three drops of blood from the other.
The meaning of that pact was that if you do not honour your friendship, you would die. But the main meaning was that you'd share the life of your friend, his/her joys and his/her pains, and you would never betray them.
One of the meaning of eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood is that we incorporate him in us and accept him to transform us to become like him. When we eat the Body and drink the Blood of Christ, we share that heavenly food as brothers and sisters who live an earthly life.
I would like to stress this one because it is very much related to today's gospel. We heard how the people who came to listen to Jesus were fed. There were five thousand people and they managed to share five loaves of bread and two fish.
Of course, we know that a miracle happened and that this episode is known as the multiplication of the bread (and the fish... which are usually ignored). But at the same time, the words of the disciples before the multiplication of the bread and the fish make use understand how the situation was desperate. “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in an isolated place here.”
We are all aware of the financial problems that the world is facing, mostly due to systems that encourage greed and not sharing. This episode of the multiplication and the sharing of the bread portray the communion aspect of the Eucharist. Those who share this heavenly food at mass, are invited to share their earthly food too. People usually say that they have worked hard to achieve what they have, this episode of the feeding of five thousand people is inviting them to start now working hard to share what they achieved.
One of the most absurd thing about Christians in the eyes of those who do not believe, is that they claim to share the body and the blood of Christ, while they struggle to share the perishable foods of the world. This gospel chosen today reminds us that however big our number is, we should share the goods God gave us. And that the Eucharist is a powerful reminder of that. We use the word communion when we eat the Body and drink the blood of Christ. One reason for that is that they bring us together and invite us to share other things that we freely got from God. And we sometimes think that this is inappropriate or very difficult, what would we say about the one who gave himself, not his possessions, to redeem us? Because the Eucharist reminds us also and before anything else, the redemptive work of our Lord.
Dear sisters and brothers, we are thankful to our Lord Jesus Christ, who accepted to give us his Body and Blood and we receive it with happiness because we know that they make us resemble him, they invite us to share also what we've been freely given by God with those who have less and we are willing to imitate his example in order to contribute to his redemptive work.