For the vast majority of the world’s Catholics the last three months represent a eucharistic famine. Priests count themselves uniquely blessed that they can receive Holy Communion each day as they celebrate Mass. Those who are self-isolating or in quarantine, as well even as people in countries where the lockdown is being relaxed, find themselves still unable to receive Holy Communion and this deprivation is creating great pain and distress. One of the great miracles of the Covid – 19 induced lockdown is that the supply chain for food has continued to function remarkably well. Food is available virtually everywhere. The only problem is that for an increasing number of people – those who have lost their jobs and their families, for example – they cannot afford to buy the food on the well-stocked supermarket shelves. The economies of every country in Europe are in deep recession: poverty and hunger are knocking at many doors, including in neighbourhoods close to where we ourselves live. For countless Catholics the mounting concern about being able to feed themselves and their families is made all the more real and the more painful by the knowledge that it may still be some time before they can again receive the nourishment which the Eucharist provides. Jesus was not only keen that those whom he fed by the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes should be provided for on that particular day during his public ministry, he also desired that all those who believed in him and were to be his disciples should continue to be fed. Right from the earliest days of the Church Christians met to “break bread”: food was central to Christian fellowship. When he fed them at the Last Supper, Jesus asked that the bread and the cup be taken – take and eat, take and drink – in memory of him. Today, on this feast of Corpus Christi, we give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist, we pray for a deeper understanding and appreciation of what the real presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine means, and realizing that in normal circumstances we would be making the Lord’s Day holy by receiving the Eucharist for ourselves, we pray that we may soon be able to receive Holy Communion again. In the Church’s theology of the Eucharist there is always a link between being fed the spiritual food which the sacrament provides and the Christian duty to see to it that those who are physically hungry get the food they need or are helped to grow it for themselves. The way in which lockdown has affected Church life and the circumstances which have conspired to keep church doors closed and the people of God away from Mass and sacraments has whetted the appetite of the faithful for the Eucharist. Covid – 19 has made us all think about so many different hungers: our own for the Eucharist, also the hunger of those countless millions whose countries risk being inflicted with famine but whose distress can be alleviated by our concern and generosity.
Father Patrick Daly