In the weeks after my dad had passed on five years ago, I remember feeling a void in my life. Even though I would only see him once a week, the days went by with this feeling of missing the physical presence of a loved one. Somewhat at the back of my mind, I was being reminded that I no longer have access to him, and this troubled me. Some months later, I was at a conference and I shared this sense of loss with another priest who also had lost his dad a year earlier. He shared something with me that I have remembered ever since… “your relationship with your dad does not have to end because now, it is no longer physical but spiritual.”
In these last three months, for all of us, our relationship with the Holy Eucharist also has moved from physical presence to spiritual union. We have been introduced to the idea of “spiritual communion” during these months but we know that the feelings are not the same as compared to being physically present and connected with the Church and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
For this reason, the feast that we celebrate today, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, a day to honour the Holy Eucharist, calls us to reflect through a different lens. While on this day where we should have been exalting the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ, the reality before us is that we cannot be physically present for Mass, or the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and even no procession to walk.
For many, the Holy Eucharist is the most profound and tangible connection with Jesus. Cognisant of this fact, being deprived of the sacrament has left a vacuum in our lives. We must however consciously remind ourselves that despite what we ‘feel’, the relationship with the Christ who is truly present in the Holy Eucharist must neither change nor waver.
In many ways, what we are going through is somewhat similar to the experience of the disciples of Jesus right after His crucifixion – the loss of a physical connection. The resurrection of Jesus establishes a new relationship between Jesus and His disciples and that which will give meaning to this new relationship is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that now transforms the lives of the disciples and adds a new foundation to this relationship. It is no longer just physical, spiritual, but also missional.
To celebrate the “memory of Christ” in the Holy Eucharist is to renew us as disciples for mission, an important aspect that we often forget. Our longing to receive the Holy Eucharist should not be because of a sense of nostalgia. It must also be for the mission that the Eucharist impels us. Many are saying that they miss going to Mass and cannot wait for the Churches to be reopened. While this is true, let us not forget that the Holy Eucharist is missionary in its nature. How the mission will be carried out in this new normal must be a critical lens through which we reflect and celebrate the feast today.
If our longing to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus is simply reduced to fulfilling a sense of nostalgia, we will easily lose our sense of mission for Christ especially in this new normal where we are going to be socially distanced from one another. I read this recently which I thought was a good analogy: “The Eucharist is both a dine-in and a take-away experience”. Our focus these days has been on returning to the “dine-in experience” but let us not lose sight that there also needs to be a “take-away experience” that is equally integral. When this “dine-in experience” is currently not available, let us not sit at home and mope but seek new pathways in the new normal to express the “take-away experience” – the mission of Christ.
The Church in her beginning drew life from the Eucharist, not only as a source of holiness, but also a source from which flows her mission. May our celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi this year remind us of this mission in which we are called, chosen, and sent to partake in. Amen.