Justice Reflections From Fr. Claude

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Pope Francis often returns to the theme of solidarity in recognition that we siblings and children of God. This recognition includes the responsibility to live in in solidarity with rich and poor - and caring for each other. As Jesus gives us the bread, his body, we experience ‘God's solidarity’ with humanity. Our celebration can become so routine that we fail to hear the call of the Gospel to engage and commune with our suffering sisters and brothers.

The eucharistic celebration challenges any tendency to individualism, seeking self-interest and can never be a ‘religious refuge’ from problems, tensions, and relationships. It is oriented towards recognising and creating fraternity/sorority. This is not some poetic or spiritualized notion. Our faith is incarnate, sacramental, bodily, lived out in our physical bodies — and the blood that flows through the veins of every human person is one: The bodies broken daily by violence are our bodies; it is our blood spilled out.

In his most recent book, The Way We Are Lessons from a lifetime of listening, Hugh Mackay, offers an inspiring, provocative and challenging message as to who we are as a community and who we could be. He admits that life is messy, and relationships are complex.  Writing about social cohesion and our shared humanity, an epidemic of loneliness, anxiety and depression, and the impacts of entrenched poverty with great gaps between rich and poor, and ubiquitous technology can be seriously impacted. We need only see how our wealthy country and its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers deprived of welfare, health care assistance and obliged to live off charity and many people facing eviction and youth without a clear future. We can close our hearts or become more caring. 


Henri Giroux, in The Violence of Organised Forgetting, speaks of historical, political and moral forgetting practiced to foster an amnesia that assaults critical and rational thinking. The legacies of resistance to racism, militarism, privatisation, and individualism are made invisible, forgotten or punished that undermines social solidarity. At all times it is an assault on the body of our siblings that we ignore or forget via dispossession, avoidance, neglect, and other forms of violence against people with disability, the aged, First Nations people, and the people of Palestine and in all cases dialogue and civic engagement threaten the power structures.  Daily in our news feed we hear headlines of the violence rampant across the globe. Stories of bodies broken and blood spilled. We can barely comprehend the numbers that tally the destruction. Around the world the numbers stagger us. Bodies ripped open, families shattered, communities torn apart--a seemingly endless stream of violence and blood. There are many ways in which bodies are denigrated through racialisation, sexual abuse and violence, and body shaming, or because of differing ability, who we love, or gender identity. It is a matter of particularity. Whenever we celebrate the eucharist we honour every individual body that like Christ’s body, is humiliated and abused. The real presence of Jesus acknowledges every woman’s body, Black body, First Nation body, differently abled body, gay body, trans body, bodies of kinds.


Today’s feast calls us to turn our attention away from self towards others, i.e., solidarity. The one bread and one cup remind us that we cannot celebrate the eucharist in isolation from the cries of the world. We are called to become the agents of God's justice and mercy in an aching world. It seems many people focus on the real presence of Jesus in bread and wine but fail to see the real presence of Jesus in our siblings and the rest of creation. Life around the table is always meant to include everyone as an equal. Associated with Eucharist is ‘anamnesis’ the Greek word for ‘remembering’ but we tend to practice amnesia or ‘forgetting’ where we forget the humanity of the victims of this world – the poor, unemployed, asylum seekers, people living with mental illness or other disability, gay and lesbian people, people of colour or different social status, and of our enemies. The call is to undo this forgetting, this amnesia.  The German theologian, Johann Baptist Metz speaks of the ‘dangerous memory’ where Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection disrupts the world’s forgetfulness, or the ‘forgetfulness of the forgotten.’  It means championing the outcast, representing the marginalised, the poor and despised.  

On Friday we will celebrate the love of God made tangible in each one of us on the Feast of the Sacred Heart.  In saying, ’This is my body’..., ‘this is my blood’, Jesus says, ‘this is my life!’ We are meant to repeat this action to effect social change wherever systems commodify people. The real presence is God’s response to the ways in which bodies are denigrated, violated, and objectified. Jesus’ self-giving always prioritised the need and least-favoured in society. As we receive Jesus’ body and blood in the bread and wine, we commit ourselves to his way of life.


Can we imagine a world where love makes a way? According to Pope Francis, solidarity stems from the recognition that are all children of God. This recognition is not without responsibility. Recognition and responsibility go together. We are all required to live in solidarity with each other, caring for each other, both rich and poor. As Jesus’ disciples we are called to share, to close the gaps that divide people. We are called to be instruments of communion. The spirit of the world does not look kindly on a solidarity that confronts ‘the violence of organised forgetting’ where we forget that the other is flesh of my flesh and made in God’s image. So Jesus’ injunction ‘Do this to re-member me’ contains the awareness that that are one and that we must remember who we are and continually work to ‘re-member’ (as in reconcile, heal, put together) the Body of Jesus in our world. This powerful meal is where many and separate members the Body of Christi are re-membered so that all may act in a concerted way in imitation of Jesus. When we are ‘lectured’ about the Real Presence, we need to remember that the real presence is us.


May our celebration be a true anamnesis, a remembering, a consciousness raising as we move from a culture that focuses on our needs and those closest to us towards a culture that is oriented towards those people that Jesus is pointing to every day. People in all places are yearning for the healing touch and reconciling mercy of God in Jesus through us.  It is a call to solidarity where we seek to care about people some of whom we do not know. The Uruguayan poet, Eduardo Galeano points out that solidarity is ‘horizontal’ in Upside down: a primer for the looking-glass world. It takes place where others are regarded as equals. This in contrast to charity or hierarchical power which are ‘vertical’. He said, ‘I don’t believe in charity, I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom, humiliating those who receive it and never challenging the implicit power relations. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.’ Solidarity implies respect for others; recognition of difference, acknowledgment and understanding of diversity and our common humanity.


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