I want to offer a reflection on our recent parish experience and relate it to this Sunday’s feast of Corpus Christi when the Church celebrates the mystery of our communion in the Body and Blood of Christ. Over one hundred parishioners participated over the last few months in our pilot project of Small Group communities. St. Paul, one of our parish’s patron saints, rightly puts his focus on the Christian community as our primary experience of the Body of Christ: “You then, are the body of Christ. Every one of you is a member of it.” “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10 & 12) That community in the Body is what the Small Groups are all about! Thanks to all who generously participated in this adventure-in-the-time-of-Covid; and thanks to those who completed the recent survey to provide feedback. The initial results show overwhelmingly positive experiences. The time span was perhaps too short for the groups to grow in depth, and some faced practical difficulties – still any positive group experience can invite us to encounter Christ in one another and in who we are together – as we pray and study together, serve together, play together. This summer we will digest the survey feedback and consider how it can guide us to become more truly the Body of Christ, not just in theory but in our actual experience.
The image that dominates Sunday’s scripture readings is blood – blood as a sign of covenant commitment, and the complete gift of self for others. Through the blood of his suffering Christ was joined in communion with the sufferings of all human beings throughout history. The horror of these sufferings, of all this blood, shakes us and calls us beyond all the hatred, fear and violence of our human condition. Important milestones in this vein have passed in the two weeks since my last column. May 25 marked one year since the killing of George Floyd, which has accelerated our country’s reckoning with the legacy of the sufferings of slavery that still shape our culture today. May 31, Memorial Day, reminded us of the tragic sufferings and losses of war. It was also the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre (on “Black Wall Street”), the single worst instance of racial violence in U.S. history. More victims and sufferings to recall; the blood of Christ flows all around us. In our Eucharistic faith, this suffering and blood is not in vain, but rather is joined to the saving blood of Christ poured out for us, that cries out to us and can move us to be converted to the will of God for our human family. Sunday’s second reading: “how much more will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”
Finally: this Eucharistic feast is a fitting time to announce the ordination to the priesthood of Jesuit Bobby Karle, son of parishioners Barbara and Bob Karle, on June 12 in Milwaukee. I will join them and the other seven Jesuit ordinands for the celebrations. Pray for them as they learn with us, as the ordination rite states, “to imitate what you celebrate”: to give our body and blood for the life of the world.