Need

I wonder if  you have been watching the TV drama series Broken, written by Jimmy McGovern, about the ministry of a Catholic priest in a tough parish in the north of England. The priest, played by the actor Sean Bean, supports his parishioners through some difficult experiences. In one episode he supported a police officer, following the fatal shooting a young schizophrenic man by the police, who struggled to show integrity and tell the truth to an enquiry. Eventually he buckled under pressure from fellow officers, needing to keep his job and look after his family. At Mass one day, the officer came up to the altar and put out his hands to receive communion. Afterwards he asked Fr Michael why he had given him communion. Fr Michael asked him why he asked for it. ‘Because I’ve never needed it so much in my life,’ answered the police officer. ‘That’s why I gave it to you’, replied Fr Michael.

'Lord, I am not worthy to receive you', we say before receiving communion, 'but only say the word and I shall be healed.'

The Blessed Sacrament that we give thanks for today is Christ’s great gift to us of himself, all of himself; the gift of himself, just as he is, to us, just as we are. When we receive Jesus, we receive all aspects of him: Christ the bread of life, Christ the teacher, Christ the healer, Christ Son of God incarnate. We are not given him because we deserve to receive him, but because we don’t. How blessed are we when we are poor in spirit, when we know our need of Christ.  

Today we are mindful that there are many people North Kensington in terrible need. Some of their needs can be addressed more quickly than others: the need for clothes and food and money has been addressed with spontaneous generosity from their neighbours; the need for a home will take longer to satisfy in that very expensive area of London; the need for news of the fate of family and friends may not be able to be met for some time yet; the need for answers as to why the fire happened will take a long time; the need for justice may take years, and may never be fully satisfied.  

Yesterday, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster went to North Kensington, and he said Mass in a nearby church. By doing so, he probably helped to ground the grief and the distress in the assurance of Christ’s presence, there among those people. In his address he likened the terrible dark feeling of abandonment of those trapped in their flatswith the same feelings Christ experienced on the cross, when he cried out, asking his father why he had abandoned him. He reminded the congregation that the abandonment and death of Jesus was followed by his rising to life, and so it would be for the victims of the fire: life would follow death.

The great blessing for catholic Christians is the visible and real presence with us of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. He’s here when we need him, he’s here when we don’t. Whatever is going on in our lives, whatever disaster befalls us, he is here. He is our rock, our firm foundation.

Christ makes life complete. He came to bring life in its fullness. Jesus declared that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood, will have him living in them. So, for the catholic Christian, the eucharist is so much more than just an act of remembrance, but a literal living out of Christ’s words in John chapter 6. We receive Jesus into ourselves; his life and our lives are combined, they are tied up together. It is quite an undertaking when we come to receive Jesus in Holy Communion: it is a commitment to live for Christ and with Christ.

The fictional ministry of Fr Michael, in Broken, sees him responding to need in many forms. The churches around Grenfell Tower, have performed admirably following the disaster. People have responded in whatever way they can, they feel the need to do something. I received an email from a fellow member of the Company of Mission Priests who is also head teacher at a school not far from Grenfell Tower. One of his teachers, who lived in a flat in the lower flowers of the tower, escaped with her family. Her brother, his wife and three children, who lived on a higher floor, have not been found. The staff collected £3,000 for their colleague.  Lots of people have asked about practical support, but presently he says that donations to the funds are the best course of action. Our immediate needs, he says, are prayer, which is the very least we can do for them.

On this Feast of Corpus Christi, let us be mindful of the great blessing of Christ’s constant presence with us, given most intimately in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us know our need of him, and of the life he brings. Let us share the blessings we receive, in love, prayer and support for those who are truly in need.