Try this out the next time you and your partner have an argument: Hold his or her hands while you argue. I first heard about this idea from Wedding Encounter years ago. Holding someone’s hands or even hugging that someone while trying to be mad at him or her is, believe it or not, very hard to do. There is something special about physical touches. And that extends beyond the scenarios of confrontation. Couples, siblings, parents and their children – those who are in constantly physical contact grow to be more like each other. Yes, there is this ‘couple-look’ when two people from different family backgrounds become similar in gesture and look. It is as though the regular act of touching someone facilitates an exchange of positive characteristics between the two. I am not suggesting that you should all of a sudden go out and hug everyone you see. We have to be mindful about something called cultural norm. When I was working in Malaysia, I found that the people in general are a lot warmer. Guys and girls, they like to hug each other. Or perhaps I was blessed with warm people around me. What I know is that I do enjoy getting hugged once in a while.
To me, this idea can be elevated to a spiritual level. How so? While it is easy to have physical contact with our loved ones, how do we have physical contact with God in today’s world? We could say, God is everywhere and similar to love, we cannot see God but we know God exists. Well and good. But can we touch something we cannot see?
Catholics faith has quite a few mysteries. The transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is one. The bread would taste the same after the transubstantiation. So would the wine. But during the Eucharistic celebration, the bread and mine is made holy. If we believe that the bread does become the Body of Christ, the act of consuming the bread – to me – is a powerful physical contact with divinity. Now, what do I get out of this? To be more like Jesus would be a good start.
Last weekend, Catholics around the world have celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi, or in English, the Body of Christ. In our Church, we have a guest priest to deliver the sermon. He seems old and he has a caring voice. I wish he could speak louder because the kids at the back of the Church were yelling non-stop. Once in a while, I come cross good sermons. Recently, I have started this habit of writing down a good sermon for my future reference. And for sharing too, because I reckon some of you may be able to benefit from it.
The story started with the priest being assigned to India. In his spare time, he looked after the honey bees. Every day, he took out the honeycombs, cleaned them up, and removed the moth eggs if any. According to him, the honeycombs can be eaten away by the moths if left unattended. One day, while he was meticulously cleaning the honeycombs, he felt something knocking at his knees. Because bees do sting, he carefully put down the honeycomb before finding out what it was. It was a lamb. Since then, every day at the same hour, the lamb would come up to the priest and they would play with each other. This went on for quite some time. It was soon known to the community that our priest has a new friend – a lamb.
One Easter morning, the priest did a round of making sure that everything was in order. Inside the kitchen and from a distance, he saw a meat dish with a decoration that resembled a sheep. His heart sank. As he approached the kitchen table, he saw balls of cottons surrounding the dish. The priest smiled to the cook and said, “You nearly got me there. I thought it was a mutton dish!” The cook replied, “Father, it is your lamb. We do not want to tell you because we know that you would not let us.”
It was meant to be a day of celebration but the priest could not help but feeling down. The mutton dish was delicious, judging by how delighted the dinners looked. The priest could not bring himself to eat that dish. I can only speculate the conflicts on his mind back then. Towards the end of the meal, the priest took the last piece of mutton. He ate it with gratitude and reverence. At that point, he realized that he would not have felt the same had he not had a special bonding with the lamb. The relationship he had with the lamb has triggered this sense of gratitude and reverence.
The question back to us is: When we receive Holy Communion, are we filled with gratitude and reverence? This is an important question because how we receive the Body of Christ says everything about our relationship with God. Think about it.