I think my favorite comic strip of all time is “Calvin and Hobbes.” It was a simple comic strip featuring Calvin, a preternaturally bright six year-old, and Hobbes, his imaginary tiger friend. The comic strip managed to infuse wondering (and wandering) on a cosmic scale into an ageless world of lazy Sunday afternoons, space adventures, and tales of befuddled babysitters, teachers, and parents. What I most enjoyed about Calvin and Hobbes was that it reminded me of our innate human ability to be surprised, to imagine, and enter into mystery – and to do it with an amazing, incredibly open wonderment. Calvin’s openness to the mystery of it all allowed him entry to even the theological arts where he mused about the combination of predestination with procrastination, finally concluding, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind that I will never die.”
Every year I am reminded to retain that imaginative wonder when I receive a notebook of letters from the young children as they ready to receive First Holy Communion. It reminds me of the one that I wrote so many years ago. It was a booklet of construction paper with my thoughts. I suspect it is a forgotten and lost relic from childhood past. What once was proudly displayed on the dinner table, eventually retired to the refrigerator, only to travel to my room, to a cardboard box with pictures and report cards, to a closet, and eventually into the vastness of time past.
What did I write so many years ago? Who knows. Hopefully something simple, not doubt confused and innocent, but hopefully full of wonder and mystery. What had the children of Sacred Heart written about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? What could they write about the theological mystery that left St. Thomas Aquinas fumbling for words to describe the mystery? It was certainly a hodgepodge of thoughts, sweet and quirky, but always thankful.
Perhaps the better question this morning is what would you write. I wonder if I would begin to write from the world of sacramental theology, quoting scholars and mystics…but those are their thoughts and words. Would I slowly realize that I have been too absorbed in the pragmatic every day and have lost touch with the “Calvin and Hobbesque” wonderment.
Think about it. We gather here on Corpus Christi Sunday to celebrate the amazing, stupendous, astonishingly awesome fact that, in the Eucharist, Christ is really and truly present to us, and give Himself completely to us in the Eucharist. We are in the presence of a miracle … but are we amazed, stupefied, or blown away by the whole “miraculousness” of it all? Or do we struggle to leap from our world of lists and logic to this moment, this place and time, when Christ is truly and really present? Will we come to receive the Eucharist with great reverence, with expressive joy… or … will we be distracted, will we be glancing at our watch beginning to think about the list of things yet to do, or will we catch ourselves in the moment of “this-is-what-I-do-every-Sunday-and-haven’t-given-it-a-lot-of-thought?”
What is it that all young children and Calvin and Hobbes know that we have lost touch with. It may be they are aware they live in a world where miracles are embraced as everyday events and everything is possible. Perhaps it is our where we do not expect that something amazing lies around every corner and every day contains an amazing gift. It is certainly not the world of wonderment inhabited by our children. Maybe we adults have lost an awareness of the world and its mystery – even as we sense there is an inner longing for what is beyond us. In that loss is an ability to be enchanted and a capacity for wonder – two traits needed to pass through the portal of life into mystery – and in so doing to join with Calvin and Hobbes and every child who knows that life is overflowing with mystery and filled with footprints of the divine. Children expect to be astonished…and they are, almost every single day.
And so back to the question: let’s think of today as “begin again Sunday” and we are about to come to Communion as though it were our first Holy Communion – what would you write about what you are about to receive. The Eucharist is overflowing with mystery, astonishment, joy, life, grace, and love – and things waiting to be imagined, then seen, and finally experienced. All working its way toward the centuries old encouragement of St. Augustine. When speaking to those who were to celebrate their First Holy Communion, he advised “Believe what you see. See what you are. Become what you see.”
Good words. So, let today be first Holy Communion. Look deeply, and see…. see with wonderment, “Believe what you see. See what you are. Become what you see.”