“The Eucharist is central to the Church and is fundamental to our Catholic belief and life … The Eucharist assures us that God is present with and for us even in our dismay and displacement” – Archbishop Neary
I feel privileged to join with you this evening in your Corpus Christi procession as we welcome Christ here on the streets of this city which is so dear to your hearts. These very streets down through history have welcomed famous personalities of Church and State. They have welcomed victorious Cork teams holding the Liam McCarthy or Sam Maguire aloft. These streets have welcomed returned exiles and people who have made Cork their new home. Today we join together in dignified welcome and an expression of faith in Jesus Christ as he is carried through the streets of this city. The Eucharist is central to the Church and is fundamental to our Catholic belief and life.
The Church is no longer the dominant intellectual influence in society, can no longer count on cultural or political support, and is frequently dismissed and disregarded. Not surprisingly in this situation greed overcomes gratitude while selfishness frequently displaces compassion. In our culture today perhaps the real challenge is not atheism but rather idolatry, that is the worship of false Gods whether it be money, a selfish and self-centred life-style or pleasure. There is a huge temptation to assimilate, to accept and conform to the dominant values which are at variance so often with our faith. In this situation it is so easy to pick and choose between different aspects of our Christian faith, to acknowledge publicly what may be popular at a given time but to discard what is no longer regarded as “cool” in our culture. As we move further along that road we find ourselves confining our faith and Christian values as a matter of private personal beliefs which do not impinge on our public behaviour or attitudes. In this we live a kind of double standard, having a private faith but not allowing that faith to be expressed publicly. In many respects we see this attitude borne out in many interviews where people are shy about acknowledging their faith, their value system, particularly if that value system has a religious basis. I am not referring to the uninformed, superficial and negative criticism of faith which does not merit serious consideration. I am referring rather to the kind of expediency which is afraid and ashamed to acknowledge the place which religious faith plays in the market place of our world. If we attempt to separate faith from life then we do an injustice to both. Faith and life impinge on each other, influence each other, challenge each other.
Our Corpus Christi procession ought to be both a reminder and a challenge to us of the fact that Jesus Christ can never be confined to a tabernacle or a Church building. He breaks out of all attempts to circumscribe him. As we accompany Him through the streets of our city in this Corpus Christi procession we are reminded of the fact that He accompanies us as we travel those same streets whether on our way to work, recreation, studies or shopping. On Easter Sunday evening over 2,000 years ago and well over 2,500 miles away wasn’t it on the road that two disciples were joined by the Risen Lord? You will remember their reaction when they said “was not our hearts burning within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us”? As we journey in these streets, whether today in our Corpus Christi Procession, or in our work, recreation or studies, we journey not on our own but as men and women who are accompanied by Jesus Christ.
In the Eucharist we adore Jesus Christ as the one who provides us with a sense of direction, who enables us to pick up and put the broken pieces of life together again in a new way. The Eucharist assures us that God is present with and for us even in our dismay and displacement. It is He who enables us to step out in courage and to go forward in faith realising that no matter how chaotic and disjointed our world might seem to be, the Lord is still in control. The Eucharist provides nourishment and strength for ourselves to reach out beyond our own cares and concerns. The sustaining power of the Eucharist, Christ the Bread of Life, stands in sharp contrast to the fast food of social ideology and consumerism. It prepares us for surprising turns in our life.
A principle symbol in the Eucharist is that of a journey. The Eucharist is intended to nourish us and strengthen us for continuing faithfully on the road of life. It nourishes the faith and the hope to move forward on that road rather than resort to the distraction of the various bye-ways which may seem so attractive. Recognising the difficulties and challenges of the journey, the Eucharist nourishes us through the wilderness where no one can survive alone. It enables us to move forward as a people, a parish, as a community who support one another.
Jesus describes himself as the way, the truth and the life. He is the way for all who in the confusion of today’s world are losing their sense of direction and getting distracted by various events and who find themselves in the layby of life. He is the truth for those who deny that there is any such thing. He is the life for those whose prevailing philosophy today is one of despair and death.
- Archbishop Michael Neary is Archbishop of Tuam. This homily was delivered during Cork’s Eucharistic procession, yesterday on Patrick Street, Cork city.
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