May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Last month, I launched a book. I tend not to like book launches very much as I hate being the centre of attention. If you write a book, and launch a book, you can’t really avoid being at the centre of attention, at least at during the launch itself. I tend to try to invite friends and people to whom I want to listen, so that if I have to be centre of attention at least I’m surrounded by people I love and am witnessing conversations which I think are interesting. It went rather well. People were nice about the book. The white wine was comfortingly and traditionally warm. I even signed a few copies. Not all of them for my mother.
The next day, I was on the bus, sitting upstairs in clericals. I felt a finger poking me in the back, and turned round to find two teenagers trying to get my attention. ‘My friend thinks you’re an author’, one of them said.
‘Um, well, yes, actually’, I said, wondering if
they’d seen a poster outside the Church, or their parents came to the launch, or I was looking particularly bookish, still basking in the previous day’s authorial glow. ‘Yeah, I’ve read some of your books. You’ve written three haven’t you’. ‘Well, yes’. I said. I have. But I really don’t think you’ve read them’. ‘Nah, I have. They’re good. One about chavs, right?’. Ah, I thought. They think I’m Owen Jones. The Guardian journalist. What to do. I refrained from signing anything “Owen” or leaving them impression that Owen Jones had made a sudden and unexpected career move.
My teenage fans were mistaken about who I was. Today’s feast of Corpus Christi is primarily about who we are, and who we are called to be.
It’s a feast which celebrates our identity as members of the Body of Christ, and Christ’s gift of himself in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Communion, the Eucharist, the Mass – the celebration of our identity as members of the Body of Christ, and the means by which we are nourished in our calling as Christians, by which we grow into the fullness of all that God is calling us to be.
St Augustine famously wrote that when we celebrate the Eucharist, when we receive Communion we receive what we are, we see what we are called to be. When the Eucharist is elevated we gaze upon our destiny. When the Sacrament is placed into our hands and we hear the words “The Body of Christ”, we are reminded not just that we are receiving the gift of Christ himself, but that this gift calls us to allow ourselves to be shaped into the fullness of what Christ is calling us to be, to take the place prepared for us in Christ’s body. To “be what we see; to receive what we are’.
This is the essence of a/the famous passage of writing by the Anglican Theologian Gregory Dix,
reflecting on Christ’s command to say the Mass, to celebrate the Eucharist, to ‘do this’ in remembrance of him:
‘Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth… one could fill many pages with the reasons why Christians have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make (the plebs sancta Dei) the holy common people of God’
Dix’s language is a little dated but his examples
remind us that today’s feast is a feast of who we are, of who we are as the holy common people of God, of who we are as Christians, of who we are as the people of God is calling us to be.
At those points in our lives when we celebrate who we are – our baptisms, our confirmations, our marriages, our ordinations, our funerals – we feed on Christ in the eucharist and are nourished to be who we are called to be.
At those points in our lives, when we are unsure of who we are – at moments of grief, of doubt, of sorrow, of uncertainty, of anxiety – we feed on Christ in the eucharist and are nourished to be who we are called to be.
At those points in our lives when we mistaken about who we are, when we mistake ourselves for something we are not, or are mislead by others into becoming what we are not called to be – we feed on Christ in the eucharist and are nourished to be who we are called to be.
In a few moments we will gaze on Christ in the Eucharist during Benediction. We will see held
aloft the promise that God is calling us, is shaping us into the person and people God is calling us to be? As we look upon Christ, may we see clearly who God is calling us to be as we celebrate that calling in this great feast.
May God strip away the types in our lives that get in the way of the person God is calling us to be.
May God shed God’s light on the shadows in our lives that get in the way of us taking the place God is preparing for as members of the body of Christ.
May we leave this place refreshed in our callings and vocations, sent out as renewed people, more confident of our place in God’s Body, of what we are called to do and who we are called to be. Amen.