I’m Catholic born and raised. So I know most of the major feast days of the saints, the major holy days of obligation, and the occasional random Thursday dedicated to the Eucharist.
Corpus Christi, meaning “Body of Christ” in Latin, is on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which is 60 days after Easter. Corpus Christi is meant to celebrate the actual transformation of the bread and wine into the body of Christ during Mass, and is one of the bigger sticking points between Catholicism and most Reformed churches.
With the current circumstances, I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and I am willing to say that the body of Christ in the Eucharist is probably just fine without celebration, but the body of Christ in the world is in serious need of lament and healing. The body of Christ in the world is broken, and not in the lovely metaphorical way a priest cracks the big wafer in two above his head. I mean seriously b-r-o-k-e-n.
So I’m not in the frame of mind to shout a nice loud hosannah for the feast of Corpus Christi today. The body of Christ is broken and wading waist deep in trash.
In my children’s choir, I spend a lot of time trying to teach 7, 8 and 9 year olds about caring for one another, and not just their friends. I try to teach a little “cause and effect” too, such as when we have snacks together and the floor starts to have more left over foodie parts than carpet visible underneath.
One of the rules of the choir is that, whenever we have snacks, the kids are required to pick up their own trash, then at least two pieces of trash on the floor that is not their own. At the beginning of the year, they balk. “Why should I have to pick up someone else’s trash? What if some of it was already here when I sat down? It’s not fair!”
But then I tell them, “Well, the trash might not be yours, but the floor is, and so is all the room. And it’s not fun to sing in a dirty place. So every one of us has to take care of it all the time the best we can so it can be ready for you when you come to sing.”
Once they get the logic of that, they usually try to one-up each other in picking up other people’s trash, and lickety-split, the floor is clean.
With this whole explosion of Black Lives Matter and the dismantling of White Supremacy, and all the other sub-phrases that go with it, there are a lot of people, (let’s face it – white people) who don’t understand why reparations need to be made to this generation of people of color, especially since they don’t feel like their history intersects with it directly. “Why should I have to provide reparations? My family immigrated from Eastern Europe in the 20th century, we never had slaves and we were poor!” Or, “I have nothing against black people, and I never did anything on purpose to hurt them. I don’t see why I have to be involved in this. It’s not my problem.”
I have had a hard time refuting that for the people I know personally who are loving, kind, generous and really unsettled with all the changes in our lives right now. I get it. I turn that thought over in my mind like a pebble myself. But it doesn’t really move us anywhere and we’re already uncomfortable here, so let’s move a little maybe and see what happens?
What if we simplified the vision and thought of ourselves as people who are just willing to pick up the trash we see? What if we put ourselves in the same room with 7, 8 and 9 year old kids trying to understand why it’s in their best interests to not only own and pick up their own trash, but pick up other people’s trash too?
Our history has built up much too much racist trash. We know that. In fact, history seems to show that we built a lot of the foundation with the trash as building material. But a foundation built with trash will not stay strong, so it’s no surprise it’s caving in. The trash needs digging out, new soil laid in, new solid foundation laid. We need a new floor to our classroom, and a lot of kids willing to pick up trash that kids long gone left for them to pick up, along with their own. Two pieces of someone else’s trash for every one piece of your own trash. And then we can sing.
How long would it take to convince us all that maybe it’s not fair but it’s more fair than letting the floor and the whole room go to rot?
Which brings me again to Corpus Christi. The body of Christ.
We are the body of Christ whether we like it or not. I don’t like thinking that the body of Christ is broken, because I try with all my might to take care of that left little toenail that I have been given charge to keep. The thought that parts of the body of Christ have been enslaved, impoverished, imprisoned – well, it’s so painful and overwhelming that I just prefer not to think about it. But they don’t have that luxury. Not those other body parts.
But hey, if my little toenail is ok, isn’t that enough of a responsibility for me? If my little toenail is clean, does it matter that everything else is covered in sores? Can’t I just keep this little part safe? And if the right leg is broken, and the left leg has to carry more weight, am I willing to share that, or will I protest that too much pressure is being put on my little toenail? What if it hurts? Will I try to push that extra effort off to some other part of the foot, far away from me? And really, how much would my extra efforts make a difference anyway? Couldn’t the whole body just limp along without my having to change? Maybe it could…but is that enough to let me off the hook?
Ugh. I hate having these thoughts. I’d so much rather have a brownie and a nap.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not woke. I am not a brave protester, or a brilliant sociologist, or a preacher, or a political influencer, or a voice of the people, any people. I am the current Keeper of A Toenail (well, actually, just the very tip – someone else with more smarts is in charge of the fleshy part.) I am one of the millions upon millions of the body of Christ who go along our merry way trying not to stub ourselves on the rocky world. I am wrestling with this just like everyone else, and probably not nearly as bravely or intelligently. But it’s where I am. And there is not a brownie within reach to distract me with yummy goodness.
I am wrapping my heart and mind around the idea that if the body is broken, it just needs mending and that’s all there is to it. And it should stand to reason that the parts that are needing healing shouldn’t be carrying the weight. Which means I should be carrying the weight – at least in part. Even over here in Left Toenail Land, it’s time to take on my share. Maybe more, if permitted. (Oh, I don’t like that idea. At. All.)
No one likes having sore armpits from their crutches when they break a leg, but they know that the arms have to take over if the leg is to rest enough to heal. And no one likes having stitches after surgery but they know that the incision was essential so that the doctor could reach and repair the internal wound. The arms ache so the leg mends. The skin is torn and pierced so the internal organs revive. A littler pain necessary to heal a bigger one.
I think maybe there are a lot of us that are the parts of the body of Christ that are not used to being stressed out so much. The armpits. The toes. The softer parts of the skin. But when injury happens, repair is essential. And so those less-stressed out parts are suddenly much more stressed out than they were meant to be. They get bruises and blisters and they really hurt. Which sucks, from their point of view, quite reasonably. But it needs to suck for awhile, for the body to mend.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just in my own little toenail world right now. But it feels like the body of Christ needs some serious propping up, and if that means my toenail is gonna get dirty, I hope I can deal with that. I really pray I have what it takes to just do the next right thing. The next little toenail appropriate, body-healing thing.
Because the whole body, like the whole floor, is ours.