WHAT DO YOU SAY?

Nine out of ten people who use the word “Eucharist” think of an object. They think of the Eucharist as a thing, bread or wine that is transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

But strictly speaking Eucharist is not a thing, it’s an action. It’s the action of giving thanks.
In fact, the word for “thank you” that is heard thousands of times every day in modern Greece is “evcharisto”, the same word as Eucharist.

Each time Christians celebrate Eucharist they thank God for all that God has done in the past and continues to do for us today. The Eucharistic Prayer is one long prayer of praise and thanksgiving for the fact that God made us, redeemed us through Christ and continues to support us today in the Holy Spirit until Christ comes again at the end of time.
In our worship we “Eucharist” God.

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus et Sanguis Christi) is a reminder to us that Christ has left us a memorial of his Passion and death and that by our action of Eucharist we make really present the grace and power of God on our altars.

At every Eucharist bread and wine is brought up in procession and laid on the altar. Our prayer to God is that the Holy Spirit may transform these humble elements so that they may become for us the body and blood of Christ.

If we are really celebrating Eucharist then we need to offer ourselves and our lives in sacrifice to God along with the bread and wine. We need to bring all our hopes and joys, our dreams and reservations, our plans and worries so that they too may be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Eucharist is the heart of our Christian faith. It is the central act of our community, the source of all our strength and the summit to which all our activity as Church is directed.

Corpus Christi invites us to stand before our God and celebrate Eucharist: to say thank you!

FATHOMING GOD

Dear Sons and Daughters,

I thought I’d drop you a brief line today since, after all, Trinity is my special feast. Though perhaps I should remember that your finite minds would find it easier on Trinity Sunday if I say “our” feast.
The other two agree with me on this!

You know, of course, I am the only one with a total grasp on reality. That’s because I exist infinitely; I had no beginning and will have no end, unlike you who are limited to time and space. One day, of course, you will join me in this never-ending happiness. I’m really looking forward to that day. Well, actually, it’s already arrived for me but that would take too long to explain.

It pleases me that you are trying to be holy.
It doesn’t matter whether you achieve it or not, because it’s the trying that’s important. What you are really doing is trying to become more like me. That’s because I possess the only real holiness: it comes naturally to me. And when you love, too, you are like a kitchen towel that blots up my love and passes it on to others.

One of the pleasures of being God is watching how much progress you are making on earth. DNA, space probes, computers, health cures: it’s all very impressive but sometimes I wonder what took you so long. And I have a good laugh when you try to take the credit for it all. It’s the same when you talk about the origins of life and of the universe. Big bangs, gases, planetary collisions. Well, yes, it’s all pretty close to the mark, but who do you think made the gases in the first place? Yes,
I know it’s rude to boast.

Still, don’t think just because I am the one you’re all trying to catch up with, without really knowing it, that I am too busy or important to be bothered about your own individual cares and concerns. I have always loved you, even before you were born, and that’s why I came down to earth. And even when people talk about me as if I were a thing from the past, and behave in ways that contradict all I’ve ever said, I won’t stop loving. But that’s probably hard for you to understand, even though I’ve
made you little less than gods.
In the meantime I send you my blessing.

Best wishes from your loving Father.
PS The other two send their regards.

ADVOCATING CHANGE

There’s a medieval song that was sung in Latin at Pentecost while the deacon carried the gospel-book in the procession at Mass, prior to proclaiming the gospel itself. It’s called the Pentecost Sequence and it contains line after line that speaks about the gift of the Holy Spirit. It describes the Spirit as Lord of Light, Father of the Poor, Best Consoler, Sweet Comfort, Healer, Giver of Strength, Renewer, etc.

In today’s gospel Jesus says he will ask the Father to send the “Advocate”. We tend to think of an advocate as someone who campaigns on a particular topic: an advocate for equal rights or an advocate for better housing conditions. In fact, the word advocate really means someone whom you call to stand by your side in solidarity. It’s the equivalent of the other strange-sounding word, Paraclete.

Pentecost rounds off Jesus’ saving work on earth as the Spirit completes the action of Jesus in taking on our humanity and humanising it to the point where it can glimpse the divine. What we see happening at that first Pentecost is that Jesus has not left us alone like orphans; he has sent the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to be by our side. And the effects are immediate. From being a frightened bunch of weak men, huddled for safety behind a locked door, the apostles are transformed by the Spirit’s presence, are emboldened to go out and confront their fears, proclaiming their faith in Christ to people from every race and nation.

Someone once said that we should pray as if everything depended on God but act as if everything depended on us. Certainly this is true of the Spirit. We are only too aware of our weakness and our inability to “go it alone” when it comes to living out our faith and telling others about it. That’s why we pray constantly for the outpouring of the Spirit in our lives, that we may be transformed, strengthened, inspired and supported in our Christian lives.

One thing that we cannot do is to restrict the Spirit.
If we ask for the Advocate then we agree to an adventure in faith that has no boundaries. After all, we call on the Spirit just to make us feel good; we ask for the Spirit to come and transform creation: Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth!

UP AND AWAY?

The feast of the Ascension of the Lord is almost the Cinderella of Lent and Eastertide. While we give great weight to Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost, Ascension seems to belong to a second division of feasts that rarely get much of a mention.
Traditionally the number 40 has a mystical significance in the bible. The Hebrew slaves wandered for 40 years in the desert, Jesus fasted and was tempted for 40 days in the desert, and the Ascension is said to have taken place 40 days
after the resurrection. But what is this feast actually about?
It celebrates more than the mere fact that Jesus did not stay on earth after his resurrection. Yes, he went back to heaven. But today’s feast is not simply a historical memorial of that fact. It has a liturgical and spiritual meaning.
Essentially today’s feast is one of Easter hope. We rejoice in the fact that Jesus overcame the powers of darkness by rising from the dead. These powers still threaten us today but we are confident that Christ has crushed evil’s permanent hold over us, and that even death cannot hold us in its grasp for ever.
That’s something to celebrate!
But Ascension goes further. It allows us to proclaim our confident hope that where Jesus has gone, we too hope to follow. The ancient Roman preface for today reminds us that although Jesus has passed beyond our sight he has done so not to abandon us but to be our hope. God might have gone up, but he’s not gone away.
In a very obvious way, Jesus’ ascending into heaven is a way of saying that he has returned to his Father in order to claim for us a share in his divine life.
In just a week’s time this cycle of earthly trial and victory will reach its climax when we witness the sending of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised us. In the meantime we are left contemplating a God whose care for us is such that he sent his only Son to clear away those obstacles which prevent us from sharing fully in the life he created us for, and who is with us till the end of time inviting us to follow him and proclaim the Good News to the whole world.
That too is something to celebrate!

PARTING GIFT

When two Hebrew-speaking people greet each other, they say “Shalom aleichem” which means “Peace be with you.” When two Arabic-speakers give the same greeting, they say “Salaam aleichem.” Shalom/salaam refers to the state of integrity, harmony, serenity and completeness within a person’s life. Peace is not merely the absence of struggle but the abiding presence of calm.

In today’s gospel Jesus gives his disciples a parting gift, a gift that he says the world cannot give: peace. To have faith in Jesus and be possessed by the Holy Spirit means that we enjoy the peace of Christ.

Of course, in everyday talk, peace usually means the end of war (which often is not peace but simply truce) or the idea of peace and quiet, when we are not troubled and are allowed just to “chill out” or have a few moments to ourselves.

But the peace that Jesus offers us is that deep-down sense of wellbeing that comes from knowing that we are loved by God, have been called to be God’s children in baptism and are permanently held in the hand of a God who will never let us be lost, unless we absolutely insist on it. Christian peace brings calmness.

However, the peace we enjoy is not a static thing; it’s something active and dynamic. Consequently we have to work at keeping this peace alive, which is what Jesus meant when he said “Blessed are the peacemakers”. We have to work with the Holy Spirit to keep our relationship with God alive and active and then we have to work for unity among ourselves so that the gift of peace may be a reality in our communities.

Some people can have a false sense of security. Others can have a false sense of peace. If our peace is just built on not being troubled by others, not having worries about our job, our family or our finances, then we are simply enjoying freedom from anxiety. If, however, our peace is built on our relationship with God, on our trust in his promises to us and the confidence that he always keeps his word, then we enjoy that peace of Christ which the world cannot give. And this is what we wish each other at every Mass when we turn to each other and say, “Peace be with you”.