The first movie I saw after my years in mission in Kenya was “Shakespeare in Love.” There is a scene between Philip Henslowe, the theatre owner and producer, and Hugh Fennyman, the investor, which I have always remembered.
Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Fennyman: So what do we do?
Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery.
One thing I have learned is that while Divine Mystery seems furtive and cryptic, it is very real. Hard to explain, but real. It works out. Even if it leaves me perplexed. Church history, Christian denominations, differing doctrine and emphases sometimes seem like the theatre business: insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Today, we Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, when we honor our belief, our trust in Jesus’ words: “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” We hold this Eucharist to mysteriously, amazingly, and wonderfully be the Real Presence of Christ – the source and the summit of our life in faith. We celebrate Corpus Christi – even as others in the Christian family do not share our belief.
Within this last year, I was asked by a non-Catholic Christian why she could not receive Eucharist in a Catholic Church. We were the closest church to where she lived, and she wanted to be part of the community since it was convenient. We had a nice discussion about what the Catholic Church professes. At least I thought it was nice. I was told that we were a “pretend church” where not all were welcome and who invented things to keep people out. So, what do we do? Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Within the Christian family of churches, we are mostly not given to labeling others “pretenders.” Chrissie Hynde excepted. Christians in one “church” have encountered those of another “church” and found genuine faith, piety, the movement of the Holy Spirit, grace, and good works. We are all worshipping communities who share the same Scripture: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 17:20-21) Occasionally there are insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster, but we are bound in our belief in Jesus, and we have Jesus praying for us. No mystery there.
There is a fine line between differences and divisions. Every family member brings their own treasury of amazing moments from their journey. Every family has its awkward moments. Every family has it deeper stories that bind and hold safe. This day, may we deeply celebrate our amazing Eucharist, may we see what we are, and become what we see – the Body of Christ. Tomorrow let us celebrate the stories of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us be One tomorrow in what ways we can, that one day we will gather at the One Table, forever celebrating that we are one body, the people of God. It’s a mystery, but in faith, it turns out well.