My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is associated with Eucharistic processions. The Blessed Sacrament is carried outside our churches and we follow. In some places it is done with an extraordinary splendour. This year in most places, where it is permitted to have a procession, it will be conducted very low-key. It is beyond our control. We have been subjected to these restrictions like many other people and communities in our society.
It may take some time before all of us can return to regular churchgoing. However I encourage you all to turn this waiting into your Advent. I know that we’ve just completed Eastertide and that the liturgical Advent is months away. However Advent is about active waiting. How can you be actively waiting through these Covid-19 restrictions? Be telling people around you, believers and unbelievers alike, that the Eucharist is essential to us. The Eucharist is not a feast we can postpone. The Eucharist is our daily bread. We ‘draw life from Jesus.’ We must therefore eat his Body and drink his Blood. Jesus said: ‘Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever… Anyone who does eat my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day… He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.’ Our absenting from Mass hurts us and drains us of vital spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical support. Therefore the current restrictions can be our mission field where we evangelise by telling people that we are starving, that we are longing for receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord.
I mentioned before that this year Corpus Christi processions will be low-key or even cancelled. However when I thought about that I remembered a situation from the life of St Philip Neri, who is called the Second Apostle of Rome. One day fr Philip observed a man who left the Church right after receiving Holy Communion. Philip Neri sent two altar servers with candles to follow the man. You can imagine how surprised the man was when in the busy streets of Rome there were two boys in liturgical vestments with candles walking on his right and left. When the man returned to the church and asked fr Philip what it was all about he heard: ‘We have to pay proper respect to Our Lord, whom you are carrying away with you. Since you neglect to adore Him, I sent two servers to take your place.’ This year, I believe, we are being challenged to reflect on those Masses we attended in the past. Did we behave like the man from the story? Did we walk away from Mass aware that it was our Corpus Christi procession, not just a yearly event but weekly or even daily? We were carrying Jesus Christ in us.
When a priest invokes the Holy Spirit to turn the bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood it is so that we, by receiving this heavenly food, could be transformed into the Lord whom we receive. That’s why we call the Eucharist our treasure. Its worth is ‘eternal life.’ How could you explain to a unbeliever that the Eucharist is ‘eternal life’? You could simply say that it is a matter of life and death. By saying this you can spread your hunger for Eucharist onto another person. Do you know what would be the most beautiful return to attending Masses in the post-Covid-19 era? If each one of us could bring to church another person in whom we planted our faith and love for the Eucharist. This is our advent season, the season of active waiting to return to our churches.