My favorite comic strip is “Calvin and Hobbes.” If you are not familiar, it features Calvin, a preternaturally bright six year-old, and Hobbes, his imaginary tiger friend. The comic strip manages 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 enjoy about Calvin and Hobbes is that it reminds me of our capacity to be surprised, to imagine, and enter into mystery and 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.”
When I was pastor, each year I received a notebook of letters from the young children as they prepared to receive First Holy Communion. There was always a Calvinesque tone to their letter as they were replete with wonderment and awe, excitement and joy. I remember the folded card I wrote at my First Holy Communion. I don’t remember my artwork or what I wrote. I do remember it 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 things remembered.
What did I write so many years ago? Who knows. Probably something simple, no doubt confused and innocent, but hopefully full of wonder and mystery. The same as today. The children of my former parish did not write about the theological mysteries that left St. Thomas Aquinas fumbling for words to describe the mystery. Their words were a hodgepodge of thoughts, sweet and quirky, but always grateful, always excited.
If I passed out pen and paper this morning, what would you write? What would I write? If I had to, I could begin with the world of sacramental theology, quoting scholars and mystics…but those are their thoughts and words. What would my thoughts be? Would they reveal a “Calvin and Hobbesque” wonderment? Would they be excited and grateful? Would they show a willingness to live the mystery without a need to expertly explain what, in the end, can’t be explained?
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 gives Himself completely to us in the Eucharist. We are in the presence of a miracle … a flat-out, are-you-kidding, no-way, oh-yes-it-is 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.”
Children and Calvin, Hobbes too, are aware they live in a world where miracles are embraced as everyday events and everything is possible. Perhaps a casualty of growing older is that we do not expect that something amazing lies around every corner. We forget that every day contains an amazing gift. We have lost an awareness of the world and its mystery – even as we sense there is an inner longing for what is beyond us. Even sometimes unaware of what is truly right here in front of us – Christ truly and really present.
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 concerning the Eucharist you are about to receive? Do we still have the capacity to see again with eyes open to mystery, joy, life, grace and love? Will we be able to more fully understand St. Augustine’s encouragement to others at their First Holy Communion? “Believe what you see. See what you are. Become what you see.”
Good words. So, let today be your First Holy Communion. Look deeply, and see…. see, believe and become.