'...the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”'
It's as if God has been placing young people with autism in my path for a purpose in recent times. I admire their direct honesty, saying exactly what they think, expressing the exact truth of a situation in which they find themselves.
Jesus has the same direct, simple truthfulness in Him. He says it as it is, saying exactly what He means. And this is what is offered by Him on this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. In the above quote from the first Eucharist, Jesus takes the bread and says, "this is my body." Plain and simple. Holy Communion is the Body of Christ.
We cannot understand or explain how but, because He is God, Jesus can do all things including turning bread into His body, giving Himself to us in the form of bread. The child in me trusts Him and accepts what He says and does.
It's a beautiful feast, evoking memories of former times - first Holy Communion, Corpus Christi processions, childhood innocence. It is a day for loving adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, a loving that is expressed well in the prayer of Thomas the doubting disciple - "My Lord and my God" - a prayer that echoes in the history of Irish Catholicism for centuries. It comes instinctively to the heart, mind and lips of people of my generation and older. It has been embroidered on altar cloths right across the country.
A moment of silence after holy Communion is precious to me - no matter how tired, weary, bored I may be - because it puts me directly in touch with the miracle of Jesus, the real presence within me. It stirs love and adoration.
And then we go out from the experience of receiving Holy Communion to have communion in our encounters with those we meet in the course of a day. We are asked to find Jesus in those encounters, to see Him in those people.
Eucharist happens when the need and hunger is met by the welcome of Jesus. He welcomed them, talked to them and healed those who were sick. And then, with the help of his disciples, he fed them.
Welcome, talking, listening and feeding are part of the ordinary eucharists of everyday life. Jesus present to us in a different way when we are present to each other.
On Friday last I went to see my niece on her eighth birthday. When I pull up outside the gate, Tom, a boy with autism is standing there looking wistfully into the garden. He is very direct in his questions to me, direct in his comments about what I'm doing. Nothing is filtered. Everything is simple, direct - as he sees it, as he feels it.
He thinks Katie is having a party but I tell him the party will be on Sunday. Still he wonders where are the balloons and the banners. Still he wants to go in.
Following me into the house he announces, "I'm hungry. Can I have some cake?" There's a small cake for the day and when the candles are blown out Tom gets his share. It's not long before he announces his hunger again - more cake, an apple, grapes. The demands are clear and they succeed in drawing deeper levels of kindness from all of us. He is welcome into the family and he is fed.
At one stage he sits at the table opposite me and - to my pleasure - he announces to me, "I like you! Are you my friend?" And there in that moment he is Jesus for me. Sitting there at the table I encounter Jesus without the name of Jesus being spoken, without Tom even being aware of the sacredness of what is taking place.
An aspect of Tom's personality that attracts me is his simple awareness of his physical hunger and his expression of it. I wonder if we are as keenly aware of our spiritual hunger; do we have the skills for announcing that hunger or knowing what to do with it or where to go with it.
A comment made by Jesus has been going round in my mind and heart for the past while, "if you only knew what God is offering you..." I think we haven't even begun to appreciate the amazing gift that is given to us by Jesus in the Eucharist, in holy communion.
It's something I want now - to be as straightforwardly honest as Tom and to be as keenly aware of my spiritual hunger as he is of his physical hunger, to find a better way of expressing that hunger.