This year we celebrated Corpus Christi on Thursday the 26th of May. Corpus Christi which in English translates as the Body (Corpus) of Christ (Christi), serves us as a good reminder of what is central in our Catholic Faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life. The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.” So after we have reflected on the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist, it makes sense to reflect on how the feast started, as a celebration in liturgical calendar. The idea of a feast in memory of Christ’s Body was initiated by St Juliana of Mont Cornillon, in Belgium. Juliana from her youth had great veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, and always longed for a special feast in its honor. Later on, she made her idea known to Robert de Thearete, then Bishop of Liege, to the learned Dominican Hugh, later cardinal legate in the Netherlands, and to Jacques Vantaleon, at that time Archdeacon of Liege, afterwards Bishop of Verdun, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and finally Pope Urban IV. Th most famous theologian in the Catholic Church history, St Thomas Aquinas, wrote the liturgy for Corpus Christi when Pope Urban IV added the solemnity in the liturgical calendar. The sequence for Corpus Christi is Lauda Sion Salvatorem. In addition to writing this sequence St Thomas also wrote a hymn: Pange Lingua. His hymn for Matins, Sacris Solemniis (Sacred Solemnity) include the great Panis Angelicus. Saint John Paul 2, wrote an encyclical on the Holy Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, apart from presenting the Catholic Doctrine on the Eucharist, the first Polish pope, also praised St Thomas Aquinas contribution to Corpus Christi by writing: “Let us make our own the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an eminent theologian and an impassioned poet of Christ in the Eucharist, and turn in hope to the contemplation of that goal to which our hearts aspire in their thirst for joy and peace”. In the end may we all remember that Corpus Christi is a time for us to contemplate on Christ’s love for mankind.
Before one starts to answer the question “ What is the Trinity?” one must first define what Catholics believe about God. As Catholics we believe that God is love. On the other hand the Jews and Muslims believe that God loves, we as Catholics also believe that God loves. But the radical Christian difference is that we believe that “God is love” Thus love is not something that God does, but its who God is. The claim that God is love, is the ground for the Trinity. G.K Chesterton once said that a lot of people are uneasy about the Doctrine of the Trinity, but everybody gets enthusiastic about the claim that God is love, in fact, those two claims are the same. If one says that God is love, you have to mean that within the very being of God there is the play of a lover, a beloved and the love that they share. Yes, God loves the world that is true, but more importantly God is love that there is a play of one, two and three, within the one God of Israel. Something which amazed me was that John, Peter, Paul all of them were proclaiming the God of Israel, thus no Christian for one second denied the unity of God. In the Nicene Creed we reflect about the Trinity, when we say: ”We believe in in one God” Thus the God of Israel revealed himself to have a play of a lover, beloved and love. We know this because Jesus is the Son who was sent by the one he called Father is himself God. Abraham was sent, Isaiah was sent, Jeremiah was sent but they were sent just as human prophets, Jesus was sent, but He is God. Therefore withing God Himself there is the play of sender, sent and the love in which the love was sent, this is the ground for the Christian claim of the Trinity.
When one looks at Church history, one can very easily conclude that today’s feast, marks a pivitial and crucial moment in Catholic history. Why? The answer to such a question lies in today’s first reading from the book of Acts; the Holy Spirit. When one sees a before and after picture, one can easily spot various differences. Before Pentecost, the followers of Christ were all afraid to go out, afraid that they would be killed by Christ’s enemies. After Pentecost, they not only had the courage but also had the ability to preach. Such courage and ability that the Holy Spirit gave the appostles was necessary in order to accomplish Christ’s mission to the them, the mission of Evanglization. Surely the appostles were still pondering about what Christ had said:” Go and make diciples of all nations” Gathered together they wondered how they could accomplish such a daunting and colossial of tasks. But they found hope in the Lord’s words:”…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you” When the Holy Spirit had filled them, they began to speak in tongues. In fact this is another indication that Christ’s plan for salvation includes everybody, not just Galileans but people from all nations. The letter to the Romans speaks about the spirit of God. In this letter the central theme is that those who are in the flesh cannot please God but those who have the spirit of God can. What does this mean? Aren’t we all men and women of flesh? It is true that we are people of flesh but the spirit of God is what fills us with all that is necessary to be citizens not of this Earth, not to be men and women who please themselves with things that end, but be filled with love for that is eternal, love for God our Father. But such a love comes at a price, in fact the sacred author wrote:”….in fact we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” The world has mocked, is mocking and will continue to mock Christians, the Church has been, is and will continue to be persecuted. Such moments of difficulties, serve as tests of our love to God, a father to his children who sends a spirit of adoption and not of slavery.
This Sunday’s reading focuses on the Ascension of the Lord into heaven. One might think that this is the end of the story, much like seeing the end of the movie whereby the credits roll and you leave the cinema. On the contrary, the story hasn’t finished, in fact it marks the beginning of the Apostles’ mission that of Evangelization, which means the spreading of the Good News among all nations. In fact the Lord says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”But Christ doesn’t stop there, in fact he says something which as a Catholic, living here and now, hit me like a thunderstruck. “And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.” What is the importance of such a sentence? In fact, it plays a huge part when it comes to seeing Jesus, no just as a man who lived 2000 years ago but as a integral and at the heart of the Church’s mission. At the heart, not only in the Gospel, but also with his presence in the Church till the end of time. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, a key question stands out: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?” In order to understand this question, one must be aware of the fact that the Jews were waiting for the Messiah, so that he will lead them in their fight against the Romans. The Messiah they wanted was a fighter, a man of arms, a man of violence. In his response Christ showed us what kind of a Messiah he was:”It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the world.” Let us look closer at Christ’s response. He didn’t tell the apostles to be his fighters, his companions in destroying the Romans. On the contrary he told them to be witnesses. Witnesses not only among the Jews or the Samaritans (Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria) but to all nations and to all people. In the end Christ showed them that their duty was not to fight against a physical army be it Roman or otherwise but to fight against the devil’s army, which seeks to destroy Christ’s message of love and hope.