Mass of Sending
Vigil Mass of Corpus Christi,
Saturday, 21 June, 7.00pm
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan
My dear friends,
During the years 1984 to 1986 Ethiopia suffered a severe famine. Cardinal Hume of Westminster describes an incident which happened when he visited Ethiopia in the middle of this famine. One of the places he visited was a hillside settlement where he was taken by helicopter. As he got out of the helicopter, a small boy, aged about 10, came up to him and took his hand. He was wearing nothing but a loincloth around his waist. The whole time the Cardinal was there the little child would not let go of his hand. As they went around he made two gestures – with one hand he pointed to his mouth and with the other he took the Cardinal’s hand and rubbed it on his cheek.
Later, the Cardinal said, “Here was an orphan boy who was lost and starving. By two simple gestures he indicated our two fundamental needs or hungers. With one gesture he showed me his hunger for food, and with the other his hunger for acceptance and love. I have never forgotten the incident.” We are reminded by this incident that hunger is a devastating fact in our world and even a slight experience of it can reveal a lot about our weakness and our need. If we are even a little bit hungry, we can get very cranky.
Reflecting on the human need for food reminds us of our responsibilities as stewards of creation. Turning to the earth to look after everyone’s physical hunger and thirst should be an exercise in human solidarity, a task which should unify the peoples of the earth. In the human experience of life there is a strong link between food and love. Giving food is usually an expression of love. In addressing the people of Israel at a time when they were on the move to find a better place, Moses reminds them that man does not live on bread alone. He reminded the people of Israel that God not only fed them for the journey but he showed them the way, healed their wounds, saved them from slavery and showed his loving care for them in many ways.
Today’s feast takes us deeper into the mystery of life. Apart from our everyday needs of hunger and thirst and how they can affect us, something similar can happen in our relationship with God. We may not realise it but being without God can attack our person at a profound level. Our deep hunger for life with God, if it is seriously diminished, may leave us unable to love as we should. Moses tells the people that their journeying under God’s guidance and protection, even allowing for bad days which we all have, had formed the people into a community. In sharing the one loaf we become a single body is how John describes it in the Gospel reading. It leads to an oneness, a unity, a deep intimacy between God and ourselves.
In the Gospel Reading, John takes us further still into the mystery in a way that many find it difficult to understand. He tells us that Jesus not only recognises the human hunger for God’s love and care but he goes further and responds to it by opening his own body and life to us as the way into the heart of God. By receiving Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, we receive a food that transforms us into what it is itself – Christ’s own life lived in joy and love.
Going to Mass can all too easily become a routine. Today’s feast invites us to stop for a while and reflect more deeply on the great mystery of the Eucharist and renew our living faith in it. To be invited to Mass is to be invited to share Christ’s life of love with the Father; it is an invitation too to recognise that here we find ourselves at one with all God’s people as Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians in our second reading.
The story of Helen Keller is well known. She was born in 1880 in Alabama, U.S.A. She lost her sight and hearing as a young child of only nineteen months. She had a life-long companion, Anne Sullivan, who taught her to speak, to read and to write. Such was the trusting relationship between herself and Anne Sullivan that she went on to obtain a degree in 1904 and become a distinguished lecturer and writer. Her biography, The Story of my Life, became a runaway best seller. It was later made into a film called ‘The Miracle Worker.’ Anne Sullivan was truly the bread of life for Helen Keller.
Laurence Oates was an explorer, born in London in 1880. In 1910 he joined Scott’s expedition to the South Pole, in charge of the ponies. He was one of the five to reach the South Pole in 1912. On the return journey the explorers became weather-bound. Lamed by severe frostbite and convinced that his condition would fatally handicap his companions’ prospect of survival, Oates left the tent and walked out into a blizzard, sacrificing his life. His last words became famous: “I am just going outside, I may be some time!” Laurence Oates was truly the ‘bread of life’ for his companions.
My dear young people of Clogher don Óige, you will set out on your pilgrimage during the Summer. Every journey has its own story to tell and some are life-changing experiences. Each of our journeys challenges us and offers us the potential to grow and to enrich our lives. Today’s Feast reminds us that, if he is invited, God is happy to walk with us. He rescued the people of Israel from slavery and brought them to a better place. He sent his son Jesus Christ to be our saviour and guide. If we allow him to, he can enable us to live eucharistically. He can teach us to be the bread of life for others, broken and shared as Christ is himself. That is the end point of all our journeys, all our pilgrimages.
May God be with you and bless you with his grace.
+Liam S. MacDaid
21 June 2014