With all of our differences, how can we be united as one? In this reflection, George Corrigan, OFM, writes about how Corpus Christi is a time to celebrate our belief in Jesus’s real presence in the Eucharist. It is also a time to be inspired to celebrate similarities with our brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations. This article appeared on George’s blog, Friarmusings, on June 22. It is reprinted here with his permission.
There is a fine line between differences and divisions. Think about our own families — the kids are different, unique, and that is what makes them remarkable and fascinating. In my family growing up, the middle child Patricia, was very different from her older sister Kathy, and her favorite (and only) brother. Patricia was always aware of the differences and, on occasion, would proclaim, “I am adopted.” On occasion we would agree, although she was a dead ringer for Grandma Kate at the same age. Those differences were part of what made us unique and what made us family. They never became divisions.
There are many families whose differences, circumstances, choices, and more have led to deep divisions where people have cut themselves off from one another, never again to speak unless it is legally necessary or impossible to avoid.
And there are many families in the middle. Differences take each member on amazing life journeys to difference cities and places, and lead to experiences so different that after the tales have been told, there is that awkward silence in which one wonders if they have anything in common anymore with their sibling that has led a so-called ordinary life. Have experience and the intervening years caused differences to slowly become divisions? And in those awkward silences lies a tipping point — a time to remember what we hold in common is often a deeper story. A story that is the foundation of what make us family, a community, a church, to be whole, complete, to be one – the oneness for which Jesus prays.
All this and far more is at play in the book “Divergent.” The novel and its movie counterpart are set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago in which survivors divide into five factions based on their dispositions: Abnegation, for the selfless; Amity, for the peaceful; Candor, for the honest; Dauntless, for the brave; and Erudite, for the intelligent. Each year, all 16-year-olds take an aptitude test that describes the faction for which they are best suited. After receiving the results, they can decide whether to remain with their family’s faction or transfer to a new faction — never again to be family as they were. There is even a group called “Factionless” who are forced to live in poverty on the streets of the city.
The siblings Tris and Caleb are both children of Abnegation parents. On their day to choose, Caleb selects Erudite; Tris chooses Dauntless. When they later meet, their growing differences lead them to that awkward silence, when bravery and intelligence are somehow divided as though there is nothing to say to each other. Will their world ever find wholeness, oneness, unity? Will the “Divergent” storyline play out to find the deeper story, the one that will make their divided world one?
In the first reading on Corpus Christi, Moses is speaking to the people of Israel. After 40 years in the desert, they stand at the banks of the River Jordan, ready to cross into the promised land. He is well aware that right at this moment they are one, the qahal Yahweh, the people of God. Across the water, there will be amazing adventures and ordinary life — people will be dauntless, erudite, peaceful, honest, and selfless. But will they be one? And so he reminds them of their common past, the deep stories they share — especially how God cared for them and gave them manna — “that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.”Moses is reminding them there is a common story, a family story that is deeper than the stories of the tribes of Levi, Judah, Reuben, Joseph, Benjamin, and the others.
It was as St. Paul reminded a divided Christian community in Corinth that was even making the gathering for Eucharist a source of division within the community, within 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.
There is a story that is deeper than the life of the Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Thessalonians and the rest. Will they be one body, one people, qahal Yahewh, the people of God?
The Oneness of God
Today, we Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, when we honor our belief, our trust in Jesus’ words: “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.” We hold this Eucharist to mysteriously, amazingly, and wonderfully be the real presence of Christ — the source and the summit of our life in faith. And I think we Catholics rightly and truly are called to celebrate Corpus Christi — even as others in the Christian family do not share our belief. And then comes that tipping point…
We choose. We can be that sibling whose life journey has taken them to the source and summit of Christian life, who has had the amazing experience of receiving Christ in the Eucharist, and who wants our brothers and sisters to know what we know…. and in our enthusiasm create that awkward moment where we remind them we are divided, we are Catholic, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, and more. Or we can remind ourselves that the source and summit of our life, the Eucharist, stands upon something deeper; a deeper story that God so loved the world — the love of God we each are called to be to each other — that we all may be one.
There is a fine line between differences and divisions. Each family member brings his or her treasury of amazing moments from his or her journey. Every family has awkward moments. Every family has deeper stories that bind and hold safe.
On Corpus Christi, may we deeply celebrate our amazing Eucharist, may we see what we are, and become what we see — the Body of Christ. And then let us celebrate the stories of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us be one in what ways we can, that one day we will gather at the one table, forever celebrating that we are one body, qahal Yahewh, the people of God.
— Fr. George is pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa, Fla.
Editor’s note: The HNP Communications Office welcomes friars to submit reflections about holidays, feast days and other topics of a timely nature. Those interested in contributing an essay for a future issue of HNP Today should contact communications director Jocelyn Thomas by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.