The great thing about being a child is that you can grow up to be a fire truck (my ambition at one point in life), not be concerned with gravity and the laws of physics, and your world in not limited by “that is not just the way things work.” It is a world of imagination and wonder that sometimes befuddles babysitters, teachers, and parents. It consumes lazy summer afternoons, creates space adventures, and can conjure up a most challenging collection of wisdom and insight. Nothing captures it better than my favorite comic strip of all time, “Calvin and Hobbes.” Calvin is a preternaturally bright six-year-old; Hobbes is his stuffed toy who, in Calvin’s imagination becomes into his best friend, the innocently wise Hobbes. To read Calvin and Hobbes is to be infused into wondering and wandering on a cosmic scale; to engage the innate human capacity to be surprised, to imagine, and be absorbed into mystery. No topic in the universe is closed to such capacity – not even the theological arts. Calvin mused how predestination is molded by 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.”
To engage the innate human capacity to be surprised, to imagine, and be absorbed into mystery – all wonderful traits for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi – our celebration of the mystery of the Eucharist.
Years ago, on my first Holy Communion, we were asked to write a little booklet about what it all meant to us. I produced my book. What was 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 absorbed 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 can children write 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? No doubt it will be a hodgepodge of thoughts, sweet and quirky, but ever imbued with wonder and amazement.
Perhaps the better question this morning is what would you write? The ushers will be coming down the aisle to distribute pen and paper…. Just kidding… but it they did, what would you write? What would be the first line?
I wonder if I would begin to write from the world of sacramental theology, quoting scholars and mystics. That’s what I did in the pastor column in today’s bulletin. But what if I was called to set pen to paper in this moment? Would I slowly realize that I have been too absorbed in the pragmatic every day, shaped by the seminary, absorbed by the technical language of theology, and have lost touch with the “Calvin and Hobbes” capacity of 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, mystified and blown away by the whole “miraculousness” of it all? We are easily lost in a good book, an engaging movie, or the lure of social media. When were we last lost, taken up in the miracle of the Eucharist?
It’s a busy life. Perhaps your list to things-that-must-be-done is knocking loudly for your attention. 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 other things? Will we fall into the quicksand of habit that beckons us: “this-is-what-I-do-every-Sunday-and-didn’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 the adult burden is 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.” Amen