Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Homily: Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
Two stories in the news this week have struck me at a deep level, beyond the headlines they generated.
Firstly, there was the near tragic, but ultimately happy story of the finding of young William Callaghan, lost and alone in the mountain ranges of north-east Victoria. As a boy with acute autism, and not able to vocally communicate, William’s circumstances, and that of his family, have highlighted how the preciousness of each person’s life needs to be recognised according to their particular reality. We believe, as Christians, in the absolute dignity of each person, as each of us are endowed with the image of God. But each person is different in that image, and each of us are vulnerable in particular ways. Therefore, the dignity we are to recognise and foster in one another needs to be attentive to life’s circumstances by which each of us live.
The other story that has grabbed my attention has been the various protest actions which have drawn our collective attention to the dark history and present injustices that continue to contribute to the corporate loss of dignity and identity of the First Peoples of our land. It is not the headline aspects of this story that I am drawn to – not whether certain actions or political positions were justified. Again, it is the deeper dimensions that strike me as more important. There is a lost people here as well, who seek to be found. But any search can only happen when we are attentive to the particular conditions in which they have become lost. Not all treacherous terrain is physical.
What unites these two stories for me is the presence of a deeper hunger in each, a hunger for a renewal of life, and a pathway to life. In William’s case, it shows up in the hunger his parents have for his wellbeing, such that his life may flourish in the midst of the condition in which he lives his life. In terms of our Indigenous people, it shows in their hunger for a just presence, recognition and participation in this land we share. In two very different stories, the hunger of God’s children is evident, as they have traversed the wilderness before them.
But let me also acknowledge your own hunger. On this year’s feast of Corpus Christi, when most of you are unable to partake of the sacramental Body of the Lord, you are like God’s First People, the Israelites, having been led into a wilderness that humbles you, tests you, and reveals your inmost heart. This hunger of yours was not looked for, and it is quite disorienting. Might we admit to our sense of being lost, and our hunger to be found?
Perhaps this forced hunger offers us a moment of spiritual closeness to the God who loves us, a moment of re-commitment in our longing for his saving death and resurrection. Pope Benedict, some years before he became pope, said: “Sometimes we need hunger, physical and spiritual hunger, if we are to come fresh to the Lord and understand the suffering of our hungering brothers [and sisters]. Both spiritual and physical hunger can be vehicles of love. Sometimes we need hunger to come fresh to the Lord’s gifts.”
On this year’s feast of Corpus Christi, the particular words of Jesus in today’s gospel that speak to me are the ones where he says: “The bread that I give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” Jesus gives his life, so that we may have life. But it is not ours in some sort of private and individual way. The bread that Jesus gives, the hunger he feeds, is a gift of life for all in the world.
May William’s hunger, the hunger of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and our hunger, be fed by our sharing in the life of Jesus Christ, given so that all may have life.