Sunday Reflection with Father Terry Tastard - 6 June 2010

The feast of Corpus Christi combines two elements:  thanksgiving for the Eucharist itself, and also for the real presence of Christ among us made possible through the Eucharist.  I suppose to outsiders the care and attention that Catholics give to the Mass must sometimes seem extraordinary.  But it doing so we are being completely faithful to Jesus himself.  In celebrating the Eucharist we do what he told us to do.  And in this act of faithfulness, we know in a way beyond words, the mystery of his presence among us.

Just think of it for a moment what it means to say that we have Jesus present among us.  Can you announce the presence of a car, a table, a rock?  You cannot.  To speak of presence is to say that we have among us someone who is also aware of us, who knows that we are there ourselves.  Someone who acknowledges us.  And so, when we come to the Eucharist, we come to Christ who knows us and indeed loves us.  This is what Catholics sometimes struggle to put into words and perhaps hesitate to say, because to outsiders it can sound so strange, but here it is:  that when we come to Christ present on the altar, we have an extraordinary sense that not only is he present to us, but also that we are present to him.  As we come into his presence all distinctions of class, race or wealth disappear.  We are all equally beloved by him.

One of the signs of this love is his desire that his people be nourished.  Nourishment speaks not just of eating, but of being fed in a way that builds us up and strengthens us.  Food, after all, is about more than eating.  You can eat at a fast food restaurant any time, but how much the food will nourish you is an open question.  Corpus Christi is a wonderful chance for us to reflect on how Christ nourishes us.  Think, for example, how important it is for people who are in hospital or in prison to have visitors, how we all yearn at times for someone to visit us.  Christ comes to us in the Eucharist and afterwards, in the tabernacle, he stays with us.  Quite simply, he gives us his company.  He is always there to hear us and to spend time quietly with us.

Through the Mass Christ also nourishes us by giving us the gift of community.  Every altar is a place of meeting.  We meet Christ, but in that meeting we greet the one who once told a parable in answer to the question ‘Who is my neighbour.’  At Mass, therefore, we are not there on our own but part of a community of people with shared faith and values.  We belong together.  But remembering that parable, we cannot stop there.  The community of faith needs to be able to help others in need, sometimes people who are literally our neighbours.  In this and every parish there are different ways in which you rise to this challenge.

Finally, let us remember that we are nourished in communion through the gift of grace.  Christ who comes to us in the Eucharist feeds the deepest part of our soul, he builds us up and encourages us in that part where we are most open to God, the part where we can learn to work in co-operation with the Holy Spirit.  Grace works with all that is good in us and encourages us onwards.

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His new book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, on ICN's front page. To read Sr Gemma Simmonds' review on ICN see:

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