Lately, there’ve been times when I’ve felt the past three months have seemed like years.
Three years…or thirty.
And then into my petulant moments (if I’m lucky) creeps Scripture.
It happened again today, as I reflected on the readings we’re given to celebrate one of my favorite liturgical feasts: Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.
In the first reading, we hear Moses addressing a rather morose and entitled crowd (a crew that felt uncomfortably familiar to me):
[God] therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.
This people had spent 40 years – not three, or 30 – wandering about the desert, I noticed. So what exactly are my grounds for complaint?
True enough, our liturgy on this great feast day in 2020 is just a shadow of the soul-stirring celebrations I once knew. Even the Bread of Heaven seems somehow diminished – consecrated hosts distributed to the faithful after the Mass has ended, almost like an afterthought.
When I focus on what I’ve lost, though, it occurs to me that I’m missing the whole point of this period of deprivation. As the cliché intones: “It’s not about me.” In fact, on some level, I desperately need this time in the desert…as a way of reminding me that I am not the center of the universe.
I got another nudge along those lines this morning, as I was reading a bit in The Road of Hope – a collection of reflections offered by Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan from his prison cells in Vietnam. Deprived of the ability to serve in any traditional way as Archbishop, still he managed to minister to Christians there in the 1970s and ‘80s…by smuggling out almost a thousand brief teachings, written on scraps of paper.
Scraps, like manna perhaps. A few in particular helped to bless my greatly-diminished Corpus Christi celebration today…so I thought I’d share them with you:
#386. …Rest assured, when God permits you to be deprived of everything, it means that nothing is indispensable to [God’s] work. When all else is denied you, follow the example of Mary in making God present in quieter, humbler ways…
#400. …God values your heart. [God] has no need of your works, [having] created the whole universe without your help.
#354. Only an eternity of preparation and an eternity of thanksgiving are sufficient to appreciate the value of one Eucharist.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.