As we approach Holy Mass (and indeed the Church and all of her Sacraments), each of us does so in different ways. Hopefully we share the same agenda and expectations, but to be realistic we are here with differing views as to what we are doing.
Each of us comes bearing our own personal histories, both near term and long term, carrying our own burdens of personal problems, hungering and thirsting in our own personal wants and needs. We arrive with multiple expectations.
Many of us come with overburdened, complex lives filled with intractable problems, simply seeking the comfort and peace of Christ. Many of us hunger for the humble little flock, and want to experience the close and intimate family of faith, seeking out the faces of friends whom they know, feel close to, and whom they admire and love. All of us hunger for closeness with others and the comfort of being among them.
Then there are those who come seeking fellowship, a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves, seeking a greater extension of themselves, and an actualization of social concern for others. The crushing burdens of human poverty and deprivation cause them to want to be part of the answer for the world’s malnourished, oppressed, and forgotten. We know we are all part of the problem; we want to be, as a Church, a part of the answer.
Others come seeking the orderliness, the regularity, and the lasting structure of the Church. They seek inspiration and a portion of courage in order to go out in the forthcoming week and do what is morally right, humanly decent, and good in the transactions of business and in the affairs of the public square.
Then, too, we have folks among us who are personally floundering, who have issues that hold their hearts and minds in an unforgiving bondage. Such folks are likely to come to Mass with ultimate questions, questions such as: Who am I? What am I doing? Why am I doing what I am doing? They hunger and thirst for reconciliation with God, seeking personal authenticity, integrity, and responsibility.
The symbols, the gestures, the music, and the form of our liturgy are all here to unite us. We are Republicans, Democrats and Independents, we are liberal and conservative and indifferent, we are old and young, male and female, traditionalists and innovators, saints and sinners, single and married, guardians of the past and social revolutionaries. All of us are here forming the Body of Christ, by receiving His Body and His Blood. We are here to be sent out those doors and be Christ’s very presence here on earth. “Ite, Missa est” were the final words of the priest in the Latin Mass. Go! You are sent. You have a mission to accomplish in our world.
So why am I here?
First of all, we need to see that the prayers of the Mass are directed to the Father. We are here giving praise and thanksgiving to the Father. In Jesus Christ we are addressing our Father in heaven, His Father and your Father and my Father. In Christ, we are praying to the Father. Those prayers are all prayed in the setting of the Lord’s Supper. We are joined into what Jesus did at the Last Supper.
You and I are also here to receive Christ, the whole Christ, the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. You and I are here to receive Him not in a passive receptivity but in an engaging activity. It is extremely important that we recognize that fact. We are here to receive in order that we might give, to receive Christ in order to give His love and concern in His real presence to those whom we will encounter throughout the days of this coming week. We receive Christ in order that through Him, with Him and in Him we can reveal the presence of God’s kingdom out there in our world.
God the Son, Christ Jesus, is a God of compassion, concern and love. All that He is stands in stark contrast to all our world is in its separation from Him. I am here to receive His real presence and then take it into that part of the world in which God is not present. What do I get out of coming to Mass? I receive the self-emptying, self-sacrificing Christ so that I might be like Him and give my life and my love to those around me who are lonely, alienated, cast aside, hurting, and forgotten. In a world that gives them bad news, I am here in order that I might be, in my living, good news for them.
Jesus Christ came among us to reveal His Father and to do His Father’s will. Not only that but Jesus gathers us all up into Him taking us into Himself and bringing us back home with Him to our Father in heaven.
On the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Church causes us to focus on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. But why? Just so that we might passively adore Him? Obviously not! The Real Presence of Jesus Christ is given us in the Blessed Sacrament so that we might recognize His presence in the Sacrament of the Church, in the Mystical Body of Christ. Christ did not come among us in order to be contained. Christ came among us in order to be emptied out into the whole world, in order that we might bring His Presence in our presence to the world in which He is not found, into that world that contains His absence, not His presence.
Down through 2,000 years of human history the spatial, material, sacramental Presence of Christ in Holy Communion has upbuilt, encouraged, supported, sustained, and energized countless millions of souls. It has inspired artists, musicians, and intellectuals to reach down deep within themselves to find new levels of the Presence of Jesus Christ within them who is there to sustain us in being, to inspire us in living, and to call us into further becoming. Jesus Christ has suffered for us, died for us, and risen from the dead for us in order to bring to us all that His Father and our Father had in mind for us when He created us in the first place.
There is only one thing I can tell you about Corpus Christi: All that the Father has He finds in His Son, Jesus Christ. And all of that, including His only-begotten Son, He gives to you in Holy Communion, so that He, our Father, can see it all, and love it all, in you, in me, and in all of us who are cells in the Mystical Body that is His Church. Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament and in the Eucharist so that we can, with Christ, be sent into the world not to condemn it but to save it. I cannot understand Corpus Christi in any other way.