Do this in remembrance of me...Bishop Helen-Ann reflects on the Feast of Corpus Christi
I recently re-watched the film 'The Martian.' Based on the 2011 novel by Andy Weir, it tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney who is left behind on Mars by his fellow crew-members who, following an accident presume him to be dead. The narrative follows Watney's survival, his discovery and eventual recovery by his crew. Early on in the film, Watney manages to grow a crop of potato plants. He does this by using his own waste matter as fertiliser, with a flame-filled balloon providing the moisture. As NASA (for obvious reasons) banned all hazardous material from the mission, Watney is stuck for ideas until he discovers a wooden crucifix belonging to a crew-member, a personal item that was allowed to go on board. Watney takes the crucifix, and makes a comment that in the circumstances Jesus probably wouldn't mind helping him out. The wood provides the fuel that enables the flame to ignite and over time, the crops to grow. By the end of the film, Watney has lost weight, his body has taken the toll of months of poor nutrition and exposure to the radiation of Mars. But he survives.
Many people know that I am endlessly fascinated by space, something I have my father to thank for. He instilled in me a passion for astronomy when I was a girl. Even though science wasn't my forte in school, arguably I've charted a heavenly path of another variety, and my love of space hasn't lessened; if anything it has grown. On a clear night, step outside and look up. How can we not be moved by the sight of stars and planets, and by the tiny bright dot of the International Space Station as it flies overhead on its 90 minute orbit of our planet earth?
Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, when we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist. Jesus took bread and wine, gave thanks, and commanded us to do likewise in remembrance of him. The fragility of Jesus' body, broken on the cross, became the tool for salvation, the bold reality of his resurrection brought hope and life to the early church, as it continues to do so today. Ordinary things: wood, bread, wine took on new meaning. Like so much of the story of our journey with God, life in its rawness became life in its fullness.
It is that fullness of life that we remember today. Christ's body, in bread and wine, becomes part of us when we participate in the Eucharist. This being 'in Christ' is something that the Apostle Paul talks about a lot in his letters to the various communities who received his letters. Paul was well aware of the frailty of humanity and its tendency to divide rather than unite. His answer: that as long as we commit to being 'in Christ' then we can make progress in participating in God's mission.
At the end of the film, Mark Watney is safely back on earth; he sits on a bench and spots a tiny shoot coming out of the ground below; 'hey there' he remarks. The scene then shifts to an astronaut candidacy class. Watney tells the class that facing the reality of death in space is an inevitability. He tells them to accept it, to get to work, and solve one problem and then the next, and then you get to come home.
At the end of our lives we will 'come home' to God, and the mystery of our lives will reach a fullness beyond our understanding. This day as we remember Christ's body, we give thanks that we can participate in the continuing of his mission on earth. We pray for all those who are caught up in the distress of this world; may we reach out to one another in love and compassion. May we have the courage to notice the little things, the tiny signs of new life; in Christ may our brokenness become whole.
Story Published: 15th of June - 2017