Sunday, 14 June 2009

Corpus Christi 09

Some people this morning asked me to post my sermon on this blog, as promised here it is:

A bright star remains bright and awesome even when it cannot be seen with the naked eye because of the sun. A hidden gem is no less precious because we cannot see it. The first part of today’s gospel is like the hidden gem and the star taken over by the sun. We tend to focus on the second part and quite rightly so as it is a most important part of the whole life of Jesus, but the first part contains some very important truths that it would do us no end of good to discover them again as they indeed are a bright star and a hidden gem.
The day is Maundy Thursday morning, the last full day in the life of Jesus; there is a buzz in Jerusalem with all the pilgrims that have arrived to celebrate the Passover. The disciples ask Jesus how they are going to celebrate this most holy event. Jesus chooses two of them and sends them on a most unlikely errand. They are to go to the city and wait to be greeted by a man who is carrying a jar of water. The eyes of these two disciples must have popped out of their sockets. Go to the city means to enter the main gate by Gethsemane. Every day of the year that area was taken over by the hustle and bustle of the crowds, can you imagine on that particular day when all those pilgrims descended on the city? They had to wait there for someone they did not know, a hidden disciple of Jesus. The sign with which he would be recognised is a jar of water. Now this must have made the disciples very uneasy, no self respecting Jewish man would carry water in a jar. Men carried water in skins; it was only women who carried water in a jar – it’s like how we carry money today – men carry it in wallets and women in hand bags or their equivalent. This was odd as odd can be. What is happening here? The first thing we learn is that Jesus had disciples whom the other disciples did not know, there were people who had a relationship with Jesus and it is within that relationship that Jesus sought help to establish the first church building and the first Mass ever. He agreed with these hidden disciples to prepare a room on Mount Zion for him. Mount Zion was the place where David lived and established his own city on the old city of Salem. The Psalms are full of verses about Zion and how salvation will flow to all corners of the earth from that mount. It also shows the fulfilment of the prophecy about the line of David, Jesus establishes this link by choosing Mount Zion. In fact, underneath the room mentioned in this gospel, there is a synagogue which holds the tomb of King David. Can you see the Old Testament coming together in Jesus? Jesus took all the steps to prepare for the Last Supper and the choice of its venue.
The disciples had to wait for a man. The first attitude that the disciples are given by Jesus in preparing for the first Mass ever is waiting. Waiting involves being still and being patient, in this case expecting the unknown. When we prepare for Mass, we need to find stillness amidst the hustle and bustle that surrounds us, we need to find a holy time of preparation to meet Jesus. Many times alas we take Mass for granted as if we do not appreciate who we are about to meet – the Risen Lord. This stillness and waiting are manifest in a quiet church before Mass when we still our minds and hearts to be able to focus on who we are about to meet and receive. The one we meet and receive will lead us to the unknown, but his rod and his stick comforts us, as David said, even when we walk in the shadows of the valley of death, there and here he prepares a table for us.
Secondly, the disciples had to follow someone who did not fit in the culture of their time, who made them uncomfortable, who challenged them – a man carrying a jar of water. This must have been difficult to that disciple himself. Can you imagine the looks he got and the comments he attracted? Following the way pointed to us by Jesus takes us out of our comfort zones, it makes us stand out – as you know in our context, it is not popular to come to church and be a Christian. And yet the disciples obey, as we do, and their obedience makes the Mass possible for all generations across the nations down the centuries! The attitude involved here is obedience and humility. When we come for Mass we do it out of obedience to him who told us Do this in memory of me! We need to do it in humility, accepting God’s word knowing that it will blossom in us in his time and on his terms, especially when no one can understand what really is going on.
Thirdly, the hidden disciple carries water, a symbol of baptism. Baptism leads us to Mass, our full union with Christ himself. On this day when we think about the Mass – Corpus Christi – let us examine our preparation for Mass and our thanksgiving after we receive communion. Receiving communion and living it is living out and fulfilling our own baptism.

Today we are asked to join in procession with the body of the Risen Christ. It is a real manifestation of Jesus walking with us in our life, in good times and not so good ones. Let us join the procession in faith, asking Him to stay with us.
When we receive Jesus in communion, we aspire to become what we receive. When we pass in front of Jesus and genuflect, we claim him as the only Lord of our lives. When we walk with Him in procession, we acclaim him as the foundation stone on whom our existence as Church makes sense. The procession is meant to take us out of our comfort zone in silent obedience and joyful union with the angels as we sing with them and they sing with us: Blessed and praised be Jesus Christ in the most holy sacrament, hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest. Highest then meeting Jesus in the Mass, highest then receiving and adoring him in the Blessed Sacrament we can never be this side of the grave.

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