Friday, June 20, 2014

In My Hands, In My Heart--Corpus Christi, Honduras and the World

  This past Sunday I returned home after having made, for the third year in a row, a mission trip to Trujillo, Honduras with Christ the King Parish in Little Rock, Arkansas. Over those three years I have visited several small towns whose residents are poor but who are filled with faith.  I have celebrated Mass in those places and visited some of those confined to home due to illness. Those visits range from a 22 year old young woman suffering from cerebral palsy whose smile warmed our hearts two years ago, to a little boy  of 7 years old suffering from the effects of encephalitis to a 101 yr old man whose smile was radiant simply because a priest was visiting him. I also visited the local hospital  where I anointed several patients awaiting surgery and got to see the bright smile of Victor, nine years old, who received a prosthesis for his amputated leg two years ago and who now plays soccer.  Adding to the list of memories are the celebrations of Mass at an orphanage there, a place where the Franciscan Sisters and their staff bring love, care and good education to many children, truly a place of hope, but also celebrations of Mass in the Trujillo jail, a place of darkness and despair, but one graced by the faith of a small group of residents for who the Mass meant so much.

   With all of this in mind I am preparing to celebrate Corpus Christi--The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, a feast of the Eucharist.  Over the years this feast has taken on ever greater importance for me not only because I believe that the Lord is indeed truly present in the consecrated bread and wine which I hold in my hands but because through the wonderful gift of the Eucharist I am one, not only with the Lord but with the people of Honduras and all of the people that I have had the privilege of serving over the years.

   This year I will be especially mindful of the people of Honduras as well as the missionaries from Arkansas that I had the privilege of serving with.  I will hold them in my hands, and in my heart, because they, along with people everywhere, are part of the Body of Christ.

   This is a dimension of the Eucharist that I feel is sadly neglected.  The term Body of Christ was first used by St. Paul in reference to the Church that he had been persecuting.  He would later connect the mystery of the Body of Christ with the Eucharist and in his first letter to the Corinthians he writes, "Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread." (1 Cor 10:17)

   It seems that unfortunately there are many who truly believe in the real presence of Christ in the bread and in the wine but they do not make the connection to the entire mystery which is the Body of Christ. There are others who do not believe or who think it is just a symbol.  Perhaps their faith would be strengthened if this connection were made more clearly.

  At any rate when I celebrate the Eucharist I try to be mindful that in Christ I am one not only with the people of Honduras mentioned above, but also with suffering Christians all over the world, with people who are victims of war and violence and with people of all cultures who celebrate the same Eucharist.

   One final note--the above message is clearly laid out in my book, The Wandering Friar. It is available on Amazon and also at

  The Body of Christ.   Amen.

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