Eucharistic Procession, Cork
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Sunday, 18th June 2017
Bishop William Crean, Bishop of Cloyne
A Chairde, Dear Friends,
Around the time of marking the new Millennium – there was a lot of looking back at the progress made over the centuries. There was justifiable pride in the achievements and accomplishments across the centuries. There was also a strong strand of what C.S. Lewis called the “snobbery of chronology” which encourages us to presume that just because we happen to have lived after our ancestors and can read books which give us some account of what happened to them we must also know better than them. We certainly have more facts at our disposal. We may have more wealth, better technology and more skilful ways of preserving and extending our lives. But whether we today display more wisdom or common humanity is an open question. Every change is not necessarily a sign of progress.
Our time is marked by its intensely competitive nature where we must be “at the cutting edge” and “ahead of the curve”. Otherwise you or I will be left behind. Even the Church is warned by the gurus of contemporary trends that if it doesn’t get its act together it is doomed to oblivion. I can understand a person arriving at that conclusion if you take a short-term purely ‘worldly’ perspective. As people of faith our perspective is different. It’s of a different nature that incorporates not just our life journey but also our eternal destiny. How we travel life’s journey is more important than how fast we make the journey. This perspective nurtures calm, compassion and serenity. This Eucharistic Procession is an expression of that vision and hope.
Our focus in gathering and praying together ‘round the Eucharistic Presence, the Blessed Sacrament, is meant to be a humble witness to our faith in the Lord Jesus as companion and guide on life’s journey. The offering of Mass, the celebration of the Eucharist is the wellspring of our life in Christ. From Him we draw the water from “the well of salvation”. The reverence we show to the Blessed Sacrament in prayer and adoration is an extension of our celebration of the Eucharist from which we are sent forth into the circumstances of our daily living “to love and serve the Lord”. Our communion with the Lord is therefore integral to our participation in the life of the community. This is the truly a wholesome and rich spiritual vision which inspires and empowers us.
Following the profound reflection on the Eucharist in Chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel we speak the language of food and drink as an expression of our spiritual thirst and hunger.
“I am the living bread that comes down from heaven, Anyone who eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51).
“Unless you eat this bread and drink this cup you cannot have life in you” (Jn 6:53).
“It is the spirit that gives life . . . The words that I have spoken to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jn 6:63).
These verses from St. John can only be fully understood through the lens of faith.
Food is always understandably at the top of our agenda. Food for the body, of course, but also food for the soul for without it we will quickly suffer malnourishment and the ills of soul and spirit. This malnourishment of the soul/spirit is the great personal affliction of our time. It is to be seen in the high levels of anxiety, confusion and addiction. The reasons for our plight are many and complex.
In the middle of the roaring Celtic Tiger Fr. Harry Bohan asked “Are we missing something?” in our rush for growth, ‘progress’ and development. There is a sense that we have moved too far too fast so that our soul/spirit/mind is struggling to keep up!
Just as the body is ill served by poor quality food – we call it ‘junk food’. So likewise, the soul and spirit is poorly served by “psychic processes” that portrays itself as a spirituality for our time. Many of these spiritualities distance themselves from religion or any Christian denomination.
Such spiritualities while well intentioned do not satisfy our spiritual thirst simply because the focus is on ourselves alone and do not open us up to the greater mystery of the Divine Presence, to the world and to care for one another as ourselves. To focus only on our own minds and our wellbeing is not an adequate spiritual nourishment. It’s akin to the infant being kept on milk when they should be put on solids.
So, participating in the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament and thereby celebrating this day of festival of the place of the Eucharist in the life of the Church is a witness to our faith and experience of the Eucharistic Presence in our individual spiritual journey and in the life of the Church. For all of us gathered here this exercise in celebrating our faith in the Eucharist is precious element of our Christian faith in the Catholic tradition. That is why we feel deeply offended by those who think little about pouring scorn upon it.
Making these observations about spirituality and religious practice, I respect and value the freedom of choice. I do not wish to live in a theocracy. Nor do I wish to hark back to another era. However, as a Christian in the Catholic tradition and as a citizen I and many others have a deep concern ‘round our participation in society. Presently, it seems like a tiny minority with a strong secular ideology are dictating the national agenda. It is important for the rights of all citizens that a proper balance is achieved.
We are an ancient people but a young nation. As such we rightly have a modern focus. In our development, we need an ongoing critique of what is proposed to us as progress. All change is not necessarily progress. The propensity to view all things religious and spiritual as private and peripheral to society is regrettable. History is a good teacher. Many societies who have taken such a path have lived to regret it.
Our prayer today on this Feast of Corpus Christi is that we as a young nation seeking to forge a new vision for our people we be enabled to draw from our heritage the best of the old and with creativity and imagination reshape its richness and wisdom for a new generation.