Last weekend we celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. It is a feast of hope in our unity, our ‘communion with Christ’, even when we can be keenly aware of our weakness and brokenness as members of that same Body.
It was fitting that, on their feast day, the community of Corpus Christi in Greenvale, Vic., was able to gather with Fr John Wilcken SJ and celebrate his long years of presence and commitment.
This community formed around supporting homeless men more than 40 years ago and John has lived there for most of the last 30 years while also teaching theology in Parkville. Facing serious health issues, he has now moved to the care of Caritas Christi Hospice. We all share the sadness of that leaving.
As this feast day celebration was taking place, I was in Perth. I had been there for some days visiting and meeting with the Jesuits, Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, and with members of the Holy Rosary Parish’s Pastoral, Finance and Liturgy Committees.
I then spoke at each of the weekend parish Masses and announced our withdrawal from the parish at the end of this year. We now face the sadness of a further leaving [see news report].
Both events evoke within me feelings of sadness, but also gratitude. I am sad that John’s time at Greenvale has come to an end, and that the Jesuits who served in Perth will no longer do so. But I recall with much gratitude the ministry all have provided.
I wish to link those feelings of gratitude and sadness with one another. They are key emotions I also experience in the celebration of the Body of Christ. As people and as a Church we are all in need of healing and the promise of hope.
Pope Francis encourages us with hope when he says: ‘The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.’ Our weakness draws us into the mystery of Jesus; our suffering and brokenness draw us to seek to be held, healed and nourished with and by him.
The community of Greenvale offers hospitality to newcomers, as does the Holy Rosary Parish in Nedlands. They may seem a long way from each other both in geography and, in many ways, lifestyle. But in other ways they are similar, as both try to hold that mystery we experience within the feast of Corpus Christi.
Whatever the situation of our lives, whatever our weakness, sadness and brokenness, we are all welcome at the table of communion. And it is in that moment of unity that we find ourselves gathered as God’s people, in a place where gratitude and sadness can meet and draw us closer to one another and to him.
Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ, Provincial