When I was asked if I would help out with this evening's celebration, I hadn't quite planned on giving a reflection. Being what we would call at home in west Limerick a "blow-in" to the parish of Rathmines, I wasn't 100% sure how I was going to approach the task but then I realised that this evenings celebration occurs on the evening of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi - the Body and Blood of Christ.
Corpus Christi reminds us that Jesus once walked amongst a community just like ours; that He is still present in this assembled community in and through its members and also that He is present in a special way in the Eucharist to support and nourish us.
The feast is one of my personal favourites. The songs, prayers and procession traditionally associated with it are almost a common international language for catholics, here in Ireland, or Europe or even in Africa where I lived for 30 months.
It also reminds me how catholic the parish of Rathmines is. Catholic in its truest sense of the word, not the historical sectarian mis-understanding but rather in its universal sense. And I think in that context we can all agree that Rathmines is universal in terms of its membership as evident from the many nationalities present here this evening.
But it is also universal in its outlook and concern of which I myself am a beneficiary with the support received for the maternity unit at Bukulammuli in the diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana in Uganda.
The feast and our celebration this evening area a public manifestation of what was given to us at the Last Supper which we recalled and celebrated at Easter. This gift of communion and love which we as a parish share with all believers is centred on the Eucharist - we are a Eucharistic community.
The Eucharist units us to Christ; it also opens us to others making us members of one another, reminding us again of Pentecost where we as a community must share the Good News of God's love with all peoples. Those who recognise Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, recognise their brother and sister who suffers, who is hungry and thirsty, who is a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned and they are attentive to every persons need. (Pope Benedict XVI - Corpus Christi June 2011)
But what is Rathmines parish? Who are we gathered here this evening?
We are a prayer community gathered around the alter of the Lord to participate in what we call the mysteries of faith. Together as community - that is people in communion with each other - we gather to break open the Word of God which guides and sustains us in our daily life journey.
Together as community, we break open the Body of Christ, the Bread of Life. Not just the physical bread but also ourselves for as St Paul reminds us in todays second reading from Corinthians, "we form [that] single body because we all have a share in eth one loaf."
As a parish community, we must be open to being transformed, being broken open. As the parish mission statement reminds us, "we aspire to work for the Kingdom of God by building a caring and inclusive community of faith". Such a mission implies that like the wheat grain that dies to grow again, then to be crushed into flour to produce the Bread of Life; or like the grapes that are crushed to produce the wine that becomes our Spiritual Drink, we must be open to being transformed even when that might cause us pain.
On Thursday night during the Corpus Christi procession in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that in the Eucharist, we are not trying to change Jesus into us, but rather we are being changed into Him.