One of the things I was thinking about on this past Sunday, the feast of Corpus Christi, is the fact that like many Catholics of my generation I suffer from Felt Banner Rejection Syndrome.
This syndrome is characterized by the unreasoning desire to reject as untrue anything which has ever appeared on a felt banner, been written across a smile-face button, or been featured prominently in a song by Marty Haugen.
"God is Love?" Yeah, right. "Peace?" Sure. "Lord, Send out Your Spirit?" Oh, please. "We are the Body of Christ?" Don't get me started.
The problem with FBRS is that sometimes the felt banners are right. True, sometimes they're only telling part of the story, which is part of the reason why we may want to reject their misleading oversimplifications. But sometimes they reveal some aspect of the truth that we don't really want to have to accept; it's easier to snarl about modernism or pray for the Restoration of God's True Holy Catholic Church which has been operating in absentia for the last forty or sixty or hundred or nine hundred years, depending on which schismatic group appeals to us the most.
But God really is Love. Peace that passes all understanding really is a Christian experience. We need the Holy Spirit, sent forth, helping us to grow in wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord.
And we are the Body of Christ. The mystical Body. The Church.
This teaching, of course, does not in any way minimize or detract from the Eucharistic reality, the fact that the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord through the Holy Sacrifice on the altar. It is, in fact, our partaking in the Body of Christ which unites us in Him.
In practical terms, this means that Christian unity isn't just a felt-banner slogan. It's a reality.
The bossy woman who scolded your children before Mass for no good reason? She's one with you. The nice man who has been involved with the local Knights of Columbus chapter so long he jokes about having come over on the Santa Maria? He's one with you. That girl with the sleeveless top? She's one with you. The lector who mumbles? He's one with you. And your job is to be one with them, and to love them as you love your own self, with the same focus, the same depth, the same level of interest.
As we kneel and pray after receiving Communion, we are one. With each other, with all the other Catholics in our city, our nation, our world. We are one with those who've gone before us, the Church Suffering, the Church Triumphant. We are one with more Knights than those of Columbus; we are one with the knights who kept vigil throughout the lonely hours, in service to both an earthly and a Heavenly Lord. We are one with women who prayed and wept over their children, who rejoice with them now in the holy Court of Heaven, beside St. Monica, beside Our Lady. We are one with our holy Queen, caught up in her joy, close to her as we draw close to her Son.
How petty our little divisions seem at that moment! How short-sighted our criticisms and complaints! How ungenerous and ungrateful our willful separation from those who kneel beside us, for no reason other than our own faulty human judgment of them!
We rise, and pray, and are blessed, and depart.
The world crowds in again, and before we know it, we are annoyed or irritated or exasperated with each other once more. Our selfish natures come again to the forefront, despite our best efforts; we seek the sacrament of Penance again, knowing how far we've fallen short of the Kingdom. Knowing, in our hearts, that "We Are the Body of Christ" isn't just a felt-banner slogan; it's a sign along the road that both points to and reveals one of the great mysteries of eternal union with God.