This week sees the Feast of Corpus Christi – which the Church of England marks on Thursday 7th, whilst the Roman Catholic Church marks it on Sunday 10th. The Gospel reading set for this Sunday in the Church of England is Mark 3.20-35. This blog includes a brief reflection on both themes.
The Feast of Corpus Christi enables the Church to give thanks for the institution of Holy Communion. Every
Communion service, whatever its name, reminds us of the central fact of Christian life – that our lives flow from, and find their meaning in, the life of another.
We can only feed because we have been fed; we are sent out in the power of the Spirit because have first been called together as Christ’s Body. For Christians, spiritual renewal and social action must go hand in hand. It was amidst the cholera epidemic of the 1840s that the Sisters of Mercy in Plymouth asked their parish priest for daily Communion, to strengthen them for their work amongst the poorest in the city. This was the first time since the Reformation that an Anglican church had a daily Eucharist. Worship and action each inspired a deeper engagement with the other.
As we give thanks for Jesus’ passion and resurrection – and for the gift of Holy Communion as a memorial of that self-offering and a sacrament of that new creation which has dawned in him – let us pray for grace to hold worship and action more closely together. May the new creation we celebrate in the Eucharist (a feast in which all can share, and all are fed) give us the grace and strength to work for transformation here and now.
Binding the Strong Man: Mark 3.20-35
This Sunday – after the special cycle of readings for Lent and Easter, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday – we return to Ordinary Time, in which we read through the Gospel of Mark. One of St Mark’s favourite words is ‘immediately’. The opening chapters of his Gospel are incredibly fast-paced. Jesus’ ministry is shown to have a focus on those the world ignores or condemns (1.21-8, 40-5; 2.1-12, 15-17). He reminds the religious leaders of the purpose of the Law: not to be another burden on the vulnerable, but a means of protecting them from injustice (2.23-3.6).
These chapters have an insurgent feel – today’s Gospel most of all. For here, Jesus compares himself to a thief, whose purpose is to ‘bind the strong man’ and ‘burgle his property’.
However, Jesus’ insurgency is utterly unique: his purpose is not to turn the world upside down, or to steal someone’s rightful goods. Rather, Jesus turns an upside-down world the right way up, restoring just stewardship to a creation which is being pillaged and misused.
Today’s reading reminds us that such transformation is not a comfortable thing. It necessarily involves tension and conflict. This is where today’s Gospel brings us back to Holy Communion, and the feast of Corpus Christi. It is only by feeding on, and abiding in, Jesus Christ that we gain the needful courage and grace for this work. Only then can ensure that it is inspired by him, and not reliant on our own energies and driven by our own agendas.
Pray for the staff and supporters of the Church Urban Fund as they prepare for a service of rededication with Archbishop Rowan Williams – to be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on June 18th. And pray for the growing co-operation between CUF and the Contextual Theology Centre, in helping the wider church both to see the urgency of social action, and to ensure it is rooted and grounded in Christ.