Corpus Christi – June 14, 2020

There is a scene in the gospel a few days before Jesus is executed where he prays and weeps over the city of Jerusalem.  He weeps because the Temple leadership and many people did not recognize what He called “the hour of their visitation” and the grace of God’s presence that He was offering to them.

Can you imagine Jesus weeping over Antioch or wherever you are.  Many people are being led to believe and to recognize this particular moment of our national history as a divinely appointed time for putting into action real Gospel convictions about justice — the real Gospel, not just the part that we like but all the other parts that make us feel uncomfortable.

The call to live in the grace of the pandemic and now the call to live in the grace of racism and who knows how God will continue to intervene.  

Last Thursday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff apologized for the misuse of his presence at a presidential photo op.  “I am not immune,” he said, realizing that 21% of all armed service people are black.  He felt that he had betrayed them.

Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist asked a question: “Is our “E Pluribus Unum,” out of many one, becoming “out of many, none?” or even worse, “Out of many, ‘me’?”

He asserts in his opinion piece, that “if we’re to thrive in the 21st century it needs to be “Out of many, ‘we.’”

That is also the meaning of Today’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ .  Today, the Catholic Church rereads what St. Paul wrote to the new Christians of Corinth:

The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?  Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”

I wonder how many Catholics have no idea of how they are connected to everyone else, those who are certainly racist in their attitudes toward people of color, of different cultures and different languages.

I grew up with the image of the United States as a “melting pot” of people and culture, but long before Black people were marginalized, we remember that we have placed the [Native American] people to reservations.

Have you seen any interviews on TV listening to how young black fathers and their sons or children have to have “The Talk,” about how a black man has to behave and what expectations they have to carry.  Their parents carry the worry: “Will they ever come home?”

The Black police chief of Minneapolis who spoke as well, quoted his wife: “They do not think that we are human.”

St. Paul wrote also: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ?”

Next week is June nineteenth which commemorates the 1921 race riot provoked against an enclave of 10,000 Black citizens in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The white citizens burnt the enclave, left 8,000 homeless, and several hundred dead Black citizens.

The Blood of Christ is more than consecrated wine in a cup.  It is also the blood of real people who gave their lives that others might be saved.

Many social commentators and journalists and opinion writers suggest that the essential quality that white people need to exhibit and foster is the desire to dialog and to learn and to share experiences.  This is what it means to be a good human and to acknowledge everyone else as human beings.  And of course, we are going to have to cultivate great patience with each other as we do that.  As difficult as it is, we need to be able to distinguish a person as a person from their behaviors, and speech, which can be very difficult to do.

I want to ask everyone who is listening to me this morning: do you experience in yourself racial attitudes, misunderstandings because of differences, fear caused by experiences that require you to step out of your comfort zone?  Do you experience yourself as hating others because they are black, yellow, brown, red, etcetera?  (Or even white, like yourself?)

Racism begins when I don’t really believe that all of us are children of God, called to love and respect one another.  Racism denies that we all are human.  There were and still are people today who believe that black people are inferior because of DNA and intellectual abilities are inferior — an alternative reality to keep them in place.  The old genteel South has knelt on the necks of Black people for a very long time.  May “no more” be the grace that God is causing to happen.

More than celebrating a Eucharistic feast to honor Holy Thursday and the gift of the Eucharist in the Church, today’s feast of Corpus Christi (Latin), which means the Body of Christ, is a moment to recognize who is the Body and Blood of Christ, all who recognize the presence of God in each other.

Today’s Gospel is a perfect example of how people deliberately misunderstood what Jesus was teaching — taking literally what he said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven and whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus invites us to ingest his life, imbibe his Spirit, his Godliness, to become someone more than ourselves and our prejudices, blindnesses, and shortcomings, to become the dream-makers for Jesus of his dreams for all people’s lives.

What is happening at this moment is more than “Black Lives Matter.”  All lives matter.  We have to break out of colors and break open new attitudes.  Black lives are sacred, and so are Latino, Asian, African, and Indian, and Jewish and Muslim and Protestant.

Labels do not matter.  Old ways of thinking and relating do not matter.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him,” Jesus says.  Just as the Living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

The Eucharist, the consecrated host, is not a charm or an amulet that will protect me from harm.  The Eucharist is the presence of God, who enters our lives and nourishes [us] to become life, His life– where everyone matters, where everyone has the opportunity to succeed in life, to be safe, to be happy, to cultivate fraternity, and interracial fraternity and understanding.  And it takes more than bending the knee.  It requires opening the heart and emptying ourselves of bad attitudes and thinking.

Something to do — if you live in a multicultural neighborhood, why don’t you organize a zoom bubble to listen to each other’s stories of racism, of your racist thinking, and honor each other’s stories.  It is not a question of “Them” and “Us.”  We may wonder about persons who are different than you are or I am, but we will never know until we say hello and talk to one another.  I would be happy to join in any zoom conversation that some neighborhood sets up. 

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