By: Father James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends,
A young Catholic woman taught little children in a public school. There were a few Catholics in her class. Most of the students were non-Christian.
One day she brought a red delicious apple to school. She placed it upon her desk. She announced to her students that she was going to quiz them. The first person who answered correctly would receive the apple.
The teacher said, “I am looking for the name of the greatest man who ever lived.” Several hands went up immediately. The first was a little Italian boy who suggested Leonardo da Vinci as a possibility. The teacher said, “I am sorry. But he was not the greatest.” Then, and Irish child waved furiously and offered the name of St. Patrick. Again, the teacher shook her head, saying, “I am sorry.”
The next child was a Jewish girl. She said, “The greatest man to ever live was Jesus Christ.” The teacher was amazed. She said, “You are right. Jesus Christ is the greatest man ever to live. But tell me. I know you do not believe in Jesus as the Christ – but why would you say that he was the greatest man who ever lived?”
As the little girl took the apple she said, “Actually, I think Moses was a much greater man, but business is business!”
Albert Schweitzer had enough genius and talent for three or four lifetimes. In his time, he was a world-renowned doctor and an accomplished musician. He was also a note theologian, and earned five doctorate degrees. With his talents and abilities, he could have earned huge sums of money and been the center of attention wherever he went.
But Schweitzer gave up his esteemed career and his comfortable lifestyle to open a hospital for the desperately poor citizens of Lambarene, in French Equatorial Africa. When he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 he used the awarded money to expand his hospital’s services to lepers, the outcasts of the community. Over his grave in Africa is a modest stone inscribed simply with his name and the dates of his birth and death. Albert Schweitzer gave himself away on behalf of the poor and powerless of the world.
In an interview, someone once asked Schweitzer who was the greatest living person in the world. Rather than referring to a celebrity or world leader, Schweitzer replied, “The greatest person alive at this moment is some unknown individual in some obscure place who, at this hour, has gone in love to be with another person in need.”
This week we are celebrating the solemnity of Corpus Christi. The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ), is the celebration of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ on our altar – the greatest person who ever lived. The real presence means that the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is ‘really’ present on the altar.
When we reflect on the Last Supper, we see Jesus taking bread, blessing it and breaking it, saying, “This is my Body.” He took the wine, blessed it and said, “This is my blood.” Even though it looks like bread and wine, Jesus Christ is truly present in those species. The bread and wine are not signs of Jesus’ Body and Blood. They are not symbols, or figures. After the priest consecrates the bread and wine, the bread no longer exists as bread and the wine no longer exists as wine – even though they look like bread and wine. Instead, the Bread and Wine are truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Imagine, Jesus Christ is truly present with us.
Leonardo da Vinci painted ‘The Last Supper’ over 500 years ago. It is considered to be one of the classic masterpieces in the history of art. According to Michael J. Gelb, this painting was done in a circular motif. Everything on the table is round, such as the bread and the plates. Also, the disciples are arranged in a half-circle on either side of Jesus. There is a distinct purpose behind Da Vinci’s use of the circular theme. As Gelb writes, “Like a stone tossed into the still pond of eternity, Leonardo conveys Christ’s influence rippling out to change human destiny forever.”
What’s the worst thing about buying a new boomerang? Throwing away the old one.
The teacher said to the little kid, “This is the fourth time this week that you’ve been so bad that I had to punish you. What do you care to say about your actions? The kid responded, “Thank God it’s Friday.”
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.