The Sunday Project
Being Manna for One Another
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ |
By Gabe Reeder-Ferreira
And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."
In today’s reading, Moses reminds us of God’s spiritual nourishment, the manna or bread of life needed to lift us up and empower us to carry on through our difficulties and trials. When for forty years the Israelites journeyed through the desert to the promised land to escape the slavery of Egypt, they were also brought an unfamiliar discomfort, uncertainty and anxiety about what was ahead for them. In these last several months, we have experienced and witnessed significant changes that have brought us to a place of a familiar doubt about our own future in the readings. Events are unfolding at an alarming pace. Our entire world continues to adjust to the pandemic and the ‘new normal’, our leaders, economy, and communities are continuing to be frayed under the pressure. But, God has a plan for us and we must trust the process and keep to our faith.
During the week leading up to Pentecost, the Holy Spirit can be seen in the midst of the chaos, upheaval and civil unrest. Moving through peaceful protests, and fighting against racial inequities. God has shown that our systems are too hardened to sustain life, like the desert, a seed may fall but it’s unable to break ground. If Jesus were here today, he would be with his people, protesting on the streets, bombed with tear gas and beaten with police batons, pepper sprayed and shot at with rubber bullets. If one thing has been made clear in the events that have unfolded recently, it is that we don’t have a common union among us and we are not equally vulnerable to the same levels of disparity on the social ladder. In calls to reforming our criminal justice system it has also brought light to the oppressive systems that have been built into all our institutions which are still negatively affecting black lives. Historically for instance, while Catholic immigrants to the U.S. from European countries often faced discrimination, it paled in comparison to what slaves and their descendants went through.
As if advocating for social justice is too radical for Catholic leaders, during the civil rights movement of the sixties the leadership of the Catholic Church remained largely complicit, favoring to remain silent for the sake of a racist social order. Although there are some accounts of racial equality, it varied from Diocese and region, much like the Catholic LGBTQ ministry does today. Although since that time great strides have been made, just this week, the Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington D.C. was attacked by a Catholic fringe group, Church Militant, with anti-gay and racial slurs referring to the Archbishop as the “African Queen”. Collectively the USCCB have once again chosen to remain silent leaving it up to the remaining faithful to speak out against racism and homophobia to fill the void of their deficits. There is nothing for our black and brown LGBTQ brothers and sisters to be ashamed of. They are our teachers in learning to love the way Christ does, and have been at the front of the fight for social justice from the very beginning.
Fr. Bryan Massingale’s work, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, grapples with a Catholic’s engagement on social teachings of racism and argues that we as the faithful have a, “valuable and essential role to play in the effort to bring about a more racially just society.” His recent homage to the iconic Harriet Tubman shares the sentiment of the Corpus Christi, in his recent essay as a guest contributor for New Ways Ministry, he beautifully explains the importance of being manna - the Bread of Life - for one another. In lifting our spirits up and chasing away the shadows, we participate in the blessings of the body and blood of Christ.
To celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, we seek to reconcile ourselves in communion with each other, as Christ once did by turning his body and blood into bread and wine among sinners and saints. We reflect upon Christ’s sacrifice for us and what we may sacrifice in our own lives to bring us closer to our community and God. We are moved to love others as Christ did when receiving Communion. Pope Francis once said, “The Eucharist affects the way we see others. In his life, Christ manifested his love by being with people, and by sharing their desires and problems. So, too, the Eucharist brings us together with others - young and old, poor and affluent, neighbors and visitors. The Eucharist calls us to see all of them as our brothers and sisters, and to see in them the face of Christ.”
To learn more about the Eucharist, Fr Steven Bell answers questions on what Catholics believe in a Busted Halo introduction to the Sacraments 101.
Fr. James Allison released “Praying Eucharistically” in response to social distancing practices inviting us to a queer affirming space where we may prepare the ritual of the Body and Blood of Christ from virtually anywhere.
For suggested organizations to donate to supporting Black Lives Matter and recommended readings to learn more about what you can do to combat racism please go to Vine & Fig Stands with Black Lives Matter.