At Corpus Christi, Catherine Gorman from CAFOD’s Theology team reflects on how our faith commits us to one another as part of the body of Christ.
This week we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, or Corpus Christi. We are reminded in this Sunday’s gospel of the wonderful promise that Christ has made us: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.” (John 6:56)
The Eucharist transforms us
The Eucharist transforms us. It does not only nourish us, but it is also a catalyst which drives us to action and demands that we reach out to those who are vulnerable and in need.
As St John Chrysostom said:
“What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.”
Through the Eucharist Christ comes to live in us. This changes how we see things and the way we act in the world.
And yet, this year we are living in unprecedented times. Most of us have not been able to receive the Eucharist now for many months. The coronavirus pandemic has led to our church buildings being closed, and we are cut off from the comfort and strength that shared prayer and the Eucharist brings.
Watching Mass live-streamed and making time for personal prayer, or joining virtual children’s liturgy with my young children, offers some comfort, but it is just not quite the same.
It is possible that some of us may feel separated both from the body of Christ which we receive in the Eucharist, and from our parish community, an expression of the body of Christ of which we are all a part.
One body in a time of coronavirus
Despite this seeming separation, Christ continues to walk alongside us and to nurture us as we face all the challenges of life in this new world. As we pray and make acts of spiritual communion, we invite Christ into our hearts.
And even though we cannot gather together, this does not mean we are not still a community. Even though we have to remain physically separate, we are still one body.
As St Paul wrote of the body of Christ:
“It is precisely the parts of the body that “seem to be the weakest which are the indispensable ones… If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain.” (1 Corinthians 12: 22, 26)
So, while coronavirus continues to impact our community, locally and globally, we share in the pain of all those affected. Those who are sick, those who grieve, those who are isolated and alone, those who are frightened.
We stand alongside those faced with the impossibility of maintaining their distance in cramped conditions, those forced to make the choice between staying at home and earning money for food, those who continue to face the threats of natural disasters.
In Zimbabwe, people are struggling without food or clean water. And with a fragile healthcare system people are not able to get the treatment that they need.
While in Brazil, for both people living in overcrowded slums in big cities, and indigenous communities who live communally, quarantining and maintaining a safe distance is extremely challenging. Clare Dixon, CAFOD’s Head of Region for Latin America, adds: “The situation in the Amazon is critical. The survival of many cultures and communities is under threat.”
Playing our part
We have heard of so many acts of kindness and generosity throughout this time of lockdown. Ordinary people who have done extraordinary things, including volunteers in Zimbabwe as Luckson Mashiri explains: “Volunteers have brought massive value to the work we do as CAFOD… without them it would not be possible to get items to communities.”
As part of the body of Christ, we are all called to play our part in whatever way that we can. Filled with God’s love it is up to us to bring about the world that we wish to see.
Soon, we will be able to enter our church buildings again for private prayer. And when we are finally able to receive the Eucharist again, I know that for my own part it will be with an increased appreciation for this wonderful gift. I pray that we may all have a deeper recognition of its transformative power, and a renewed commitment to the body of Christ, visible in all those we meet, and in those whose stories reverberate from around the world.