Corpus Christi – “You got the picture but did you get the message?”

Robert Pace, an internationally known Christian preacher, told a story about a photographer working for a religious journal. The editor commissioned him to photograph someone that characterized the destitute condition of humanity. After a great deal of searching, the photographer captured the perfect picture. From a shadowed alley, he spotted a beggar pleading for food. The beggar lay stretching from his side toward a grocery store that displayed freshly baked bread. The photographer got into position and excitedly snapped the picture. Moments later, he rushed the picture to his editor.

The editor agreed that it perfectly depicted humanity’s misery. After congratulating the photographer, the editor peered deeply into his eyes and asked: “And what assistance did you give the beggar after the photograph?” With a twist of discomfort, the photographer softly confessed that he had done nothing. The editor responded: “You got the picture but you didn’t get the message.”

The question of Corpus Christi celebrations and processions

I am not at all against processions. They proclaim what we believe. Any more than the editor was against the picture. The question is whether we live what we proclaim.

Javier Chento recently reminded us of the powerful words of Ozanam about the body of Christ in our midst.

….the poor we see with the eyes of flesh; they are there and we can put finger and hand in their wounds and the scars of the crown of thorns are visible on their foreheads; and at this point incredulity no longer has place and we should fall at their feet and say with the Apostle, “You are my Lord and my God!” You (the poor) are our masters, and we will be your servants. You are for us the sacred images of that God whom we do not see, and not knowing how to love Him otherwise shall we not love Him in the person of the poor?”

Implications for our systemic change initiatives

But Frederic goes further and states the problem very well…

The problem that divides men in our day is no longer a problem of political structure; it is a social problem; it has to do with what is preferred, the spirit of self-interest or the spirit of sacrifice, whether society will be only a great exploitation to the profit of the strongest or a consecration of each individual for the good of all and especially for the protection of the weak.

There are a great many men who have too much and who wish to have more; there are a great many others who do not have enough, who have nothing, and who are willing to take if someone gives to them.

Between these two classes of men, a confrontation is coming, and this menacing confrontation will be terrible: on the one side, the power of gold, on the other the power of despair. We must cast ourselves between these two enemy armies, if not to prevent, at least to deaden the shock.

And our youth and our mediocrity does not make our role of mediators easier than our title of Christian makes us responsible. There is the possible usefulness of our Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Questions

  • Do we recognize Frederic’s words are an invitation to engage with the systems of our day?
  • Do we see these change efforts as tending to the Corpus Christi or the Body of Christ?

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