Today is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi - the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist is the centerpiece of Roman Catholic life. May our lived-understanding of Christ's Presence continually evolve and mature.
In a kind of conversational prayer with the Eucharistic Christ, Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara (1909-1999) said:
On this feast of recognizing Christ in the Bread and the Wine,/ may we discern his presence in the lives of the countless persons who are un-employed, homeless and hungry,/ who live in flight,/ insecurity,/ anxiety,/ pain and grief./ We pray to the Lord. The cup Christ offers is poured out and emptied,/ the Bread is broken./ We pray for the sick,/ the exhausted,/ the ones who give themselves away in service to the needy and the helpless./ We pray to the Lord. We join Pope Francis prayerfully in his recent heartfelt appeal to the international community/ to make every effort to favor dialogue and peace in the Middle East/ where tensions are once again very great./ We pray to the Lord. We ask strength and courage for those who are with us at Mass today,/ and our families and friends./ For our own growth in humility and hope when we are tempted to discouragement./ We pray to the Lord. For the President of the United States,/ our Congress and all who are in positions of authority./ May they be people of good conscience,/ authenticity and service./ We pray to the Lord. However early,/ another election time has begun./ In our own thinking and deciding,/ may we keep alive an urgent and broad belief/ in what is best for others,/ and not just ourselves./ We pray to the Lord.
Much of life is uncertain: What will this new day bring? How will the kids turn out despite our best efforts? How long will I be at this job? Will this person be true to me? Will this medication bring the healing and health I seek?
But one thing is certain - every day I am a little older. And while "they say" the person who will live to be one hundred and fifty years old has already been born - we know we don't have forever. The author of Psalm 70 understands. Here, in old age, back and forth, back and forth, he reviews his life, praises God, expresses his distress, makes his petition, struggles to allow God to teach him to the end, then praises God yet again. I expect many of us will be able to identify with the struggle.
Verses 1-3: How eager the psalmist is. Such an inner sense of urgency, calling God a refuge. We're reminded of those who are in trouble and run into a church seeking sanctuary. We don't know if the poet is sick, worn out, or who might even be pursuing him. What matters is that he is throwing his life upon God in a heart felt dependency. He makes the point with words like: deliver, rescue, save, rock, fortress.
Verse 4:"Rescue me from the hand of the wicked." He believes God can make things right, that God is in charge, that God's rule is stronger than the might of the persons he calls wicked. The wicked are those who think they are self-sufficient, who trust in their own machinations, schemes, power, money, influence, deals and connections. There are wicked people in every age.
Verses 5-8: Here the psalmist calls God his hope. He declares that he has belonged to God from the day he was born, even from when he lived in his mother's womb. He declares this relationship will carry him through till the end. When I turned fifty I made a pilgrimage to the Bronx, returning to the church of my Baptism. I stood at the white marble font, consciously grateful for the parents and godparents who brought me there and the priest who introduced me to God in Christ - in the water. When I know my life belongs to God, life is not a Sunday Mass, but everything is changed - my life becomes a continual act of praise and thanks.
Verse 9-13: Happiness is fleeting. Here the psalmist returns to expressions of anxiety, stress and complaint. We have to free ourselves of any thinking that suggests our suffering is God's punishment. This fellow can't understand the cause of his suffering, but he's not blaming God. Instead, he again leans into praise and trust. Can I feel the struggle?
Verse 14-17: I love how this verse begins. He wants God to see his life as lived in contrast with the wicked who are a source of grief, "But as for me..." he says. He seems to say, "The more I'm troubled and burdened, the more I will praise you; trust you." He never says this confidence is going to be easy, but it is his intention and desire. He wants to remain as faithful to God as God has been faithful to him - from his youth. He is the image of the elderly person who has outlived or lost everything: money, property, strength, health, family, security, recognitions, life-achievements, even the consolations of youth, but who still clings to God in loving trust.
Verse 18: Here the psalmist says he's going to be a proclaimer of God's greatness for generations to come. Catholics have to get better at doing this. Many of us were raised to leave the proclaiming to the priests and nuns. As if they were God- specialists. Is the old expression about the laity still true, that they exist to: pray, obey and pay. How sad is that! And what a waste.
Verses 19-24: Indeed, we are living in difficult times. One could easily become depressed, cynical and bitter. I might even be tempted to think of God as the big loser. May the psalm's last verses encourage us with their themes: God is faithful. God is a soul-rescuer. God is the righteous helper who wills life in the midst of all the death, darkness and destruction.