Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
Sunday, June 6
Ana Cloughly, OSB, Sisters of Benet Hill Monastery, Colorado Springs, CO
The years 2020 and 21 have focused worldwide attention on the fragility of both humankind and the planet. The world has changed. I have changed as well. I have found myself reflecting on my faith in an all-loving God and on my respect for the power of nature. The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood encapsulates my thoughts over the this very trying time in our history because it brings into focus the true nature of Jesus the Christ.
The Gospel of Mark, notable for its brevity, tells only of Jesus’ words and actions. Words and actions that have been repeated in the communal prayer of the Mass for 2,000. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s billion plus Catholic people have had to forego this prayer and communion for nearly 18 months. And the fast continues. We are told that Mass is the “source and the summit” or our faith. Indeed, it is. Forced to fast, the question arises in my mind, who am I without this essential part of my faith life? Our necessary fast has opened my heart as well as my eyes to a greater awareness.
When I speak of my faith in Jesus Christ, I proclaim a twofold act of faith, in Jesus, his humanity and as the Christ, his divine nature. Richard Rohr describes this profession of faith as being “about God and the utter incarnate availability of God…Personal divine love is invested organically with all of creation.”
When I look out my window to the forest, I whole heartedly agree, God is to be found there. But not so much when I see humanity’s inhumanity to one another. Or so I think.
A few years ago, a young woman came to the monastery seeking a safe place to be while her husband was away for a few weeks. At the time, I was unaware of her circumstances. As Benedictines, we are hospitable. It is one of our charisms. Giving her a room in the monastery was a bit unusual but she was respectful and grateful, so it was fine. A few days ago, she and her husband came to visit. One of our first visitors since the pandemic began. In our conversation, she began to cry as she explained to us what spending that time with us meant to her. She said, “You gave me dignity when no one else would…You saw me.” My initial thought was, of course we saw you. But maybe not. I thought about Jesus as he endured the tortures of rejection. From our perspective, Jesus is the Christ. From the perspective of the religious leaders and the Romans, he was a problem.
A few weeks ago, someone was praying for all creation but then stopped and said, “except the COVID virus.” I laughed to myself. No, I thought, even for the virus. The virus is part of that personal divine love invested organically with all of creation described by Rohr. The virus is invested with divine love too and we need to give dignity. Viruses do not want to kill their host. It is counterproductive. They change their DNA sequencing in an attempt to live symbiotically with its host. Sometimes they get it wrong.
I know giving a deadly virus dignity is a very strange thought. This thought flows from our Land Ethic. The first paragraph reads:
“We, the Benedictine Sisters of Benet Hill Monastery, listening with the ear of our heart, hear from Holy Scripture, we are One with all Creation. Grounded in our Judeo-Christian Heritage and rooted in our 1500-year Benedictine Tradition we are entrusted by the Creator with care of the sacred gift of the land. The guiding principles that arise from our contemplative awareness inspire this land ethic which recognizes our moral obligation to respect and protect every particle that vibrates with One Life in the entire universe.”
Just like Jesus, some of us do not recognize the dignity God gives all of creation. We only see a problem. Our Land Ethic is our response to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. In it, Pope Francis says clearly that everything has intrinsic value. In other words, the value of something or someone does not lie in how much value or lack of value we impose. True value comes from God.
My challenge is to keep vigilant, seeking God where God may be found from altar to atoms.
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Sister Ana Cloughly is the Director of the Contemplative Vision Ministry at Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs, CO. She facilitates courses in contemplative prayer practices and Christian mysticism, leads group retreats and is a Spiritual Director. She is a member of the planning committee for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Federation of St. Scholastica.
Sister Ana's reflections begin May 30 and continue through August.