Corpus Christi 14th June 2020
St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
“Do this in memory of me”
China is in the eye of the storm in these Covid 19 times – for a number of reasons. Not least the city of Wuhan being the source of what is now a global virus which has spread with the speed of a wild fire. Right now, it is destructive beyond words and indeed beyond the calculation of experts.
China is increasingly feared because of its huge economy, growing military capacity and its thinly disguised efforts to control and influence so many nations through its spending on infrastructural projects by way of road, rail and shipping. Its recent intervention in Hong Kong many believe to be the first step in that expansionist plan.
Apart from those political developments China has also exercised and been exercised by the Catholic Church and its development within its borders. This is on one level most surprising when you consider that Catholics comprise less than 1% of the population of China’s 1.3 billion citizens. The Catholic Church in China is thought to be roughly 10 million which is made up of two groups, the “underground” Catholic Church which suffered greatly but still endured through decades of suppression and persecution, the other group being the so-called Patriotic Catholic Church – which is promoted and controlled by a government agency. There is ongoing tension between these groups as to the best way forward which I will not go into now.
I raise these wider issues about China which is an avowedly atheistic State and its intense discomfort with religious faith and practice. Why should such a powerful State / Government feel so threatened by a relatively small number of Christian disciples? The answer is remarkably simple they understand more than we realise the seemingly simple invitation of Jesus “Do this in memory of me”. Put that beside His declaration “Where two or three are gathering in my name, there am I in the midst of them”. – that is their worry.
Celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi in the middle of the Covid 19 lockdown whereby our gathering for Mass was greatly restricted we ourselves have felt the void of not being able to gather as Jesus invites us to. We genuinely look forward to getting together again in person on June 29th and thereafter (details from the parishes). For all kinds of reasons our gatherings will be tentative and different. Understandably, we continue to have some anxiety and fears around the risks there may be in doing so. We will do everything necessary to ensure a safe environment for all.
The absence from Mass over these last months has impressed upon us the importance of Holy Mass in our own lives and in the life of the Church. Our gatherings in Eucharistic Prayer express our faith, strengthens it and sustains and supports one another in faith and life. Governments are uneasy with people of Christian faith because they know that they are guided by the Word of God in Scripture and nourished by His self-gift in Eucharist.
This gives us a wonderful freedom of heart which no government can bless us with nor take from us – a freedom of heart that is fired by love. It blesses us with a joy that is deep within, enabling us to gratefully celebrate our blessing and sustains us to bear patiently our times of sorrow and sickness.
During this time of limited prayer gathering there are many for whom it made no difference whatsoever. We must accept that reality and respect their freedom.
In that context some commentators wonder about the impact of Covid 19 will have on the Church in the long term. It is impossible for us to know precisely. But there is a core reality at the heart of the life of the parish community which will remain so and that is the gathering for Mass and celebrating the Eucharist “the source and summit of the life of the Church” (L.G.).
This Covid time will always remind of that core reality which in a strange way has made it a time of new appreciation and understanding of the Eucharist in our lives.