Yesterday was the Feast of Corpus Christi, the feast day when we celebrate the ultimate sacrifice that our Lord Jesus Christ gave to us, his own body and blood as our food and drink. He gave us this not just as nourishment, but also as an act of transformation. As Saint Augustine said when we consume the Eucharist (body and blood of our Lord) we consume it so that we can become it.
When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist we become the Body of Christ. We are here to do the work of Christ in order that his kingdom be fulfilled on this earth. Each one of us is an integral part of that body, and when one of us rejoices we all share in that joy.
At Mass yesterday at Our Lady of The Desert Catholic Community Mass at the Base Chapel at China Lake Navy Base, Fr. James Dowds C.Ss.R. made that very clear by announcing as part of his homily all of the joyful bits of news concerning the members of the small tight knit community.
A little 6 year old girl was able to to return to Loma Linda Children's Hospital last week to present a check for $2000 from the parish community as a gift of thanksgiving for all they did for her there while she was recovering from a grave illness in their Pediatric Intensive Care Unit a year ago.
A young newly married Lieutenant just back from Afghanistan and his bride were sitting just in front of us at Mass. He was welcomed home at Mass with a special blessing and cheerful greetings from the parishioners.
There was a nice recognition of the Base's Rear Admiral who is a member of the parish and has been reassigned and will be leaving to take up a new post soon at another base on the east coast.
There will also be a send off of another kind, a longstanding member of the community had lost her battle with cancer and would be laid to rest with a Mass of Resurrection next week. The prayers of the community go with her on her final journey.
All of these little reminders of how interconnected we are, helped me to remember just why it is that I love to attend Mass with this small community when I come to Ridgecrest, CA with my husband. But there is one other aspect of the Mass that really made the aspect of all of us being one body in Christ very real to me yesterday.
At the end of the Prayers of the Faithful the lector says a special prayer for those men and women of the allied armed services who lost their lives as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom (or in any other capacity around the globe) in the last week. Then the church bell tolls once as each name is read along with the age, rank, branch of service and field of deployment. The names are read slowly and reverently. It had been two years since the last time I had experienced this, and I had forgotten just how powerful it is.
by the time the final name had been read and the final bell tone was fading away, I was wiping tears from my eyes (as were many in the congregation). This is not something that was done simply because this is Corpus Christi though, this intercession happens each and every Sunday so long as their are names to be read. And I imagine that each Sunday that I am here I will be affected in the same way by the beauty and solemnity of this small tribute to those who have offered the ultimate sacrifice to the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God.
We are all connected, we are all one, we share joy and sorrow.