Thursday, 7 June 2012
Corpus Christi & Lonesome George
A Homily for Holy Communion on Thursday, 7th of June, 2012, 7.30 p.m. being also the Feast of Corpus Christi for the Parish Church of SS. Mary & Nicholas Littlemore, Oxford Readings: Psalm 116:10-end & John 6:51-58 + May I speak in the name of the Divine Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen. Perhaps you are familiar with the story of “Lonesome George”? He is a giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands, and the very last of the Pinta Island species. Conservationists have searched high and low, but the prospect of finding a mate for him is slender – Pinta Island is small, and giant tortoises are, by definition, big. He is a hundred years old, and although the time may be far off, when he is called to meet his maker, that will be the end of his line. Tortoises, like most reptiles, are rather less likely than us to form firm romantic attachments, or to grieve for the offspring they never had, so to some degree when we think of Lonesome George in that way, we are projecting our own feelings onto him – what an awful thing it would be, to be so alone in the world. In his own form, his own body, he epitomises the loneliness that most of us dread, and the fear of extinction without posterity. For various reasons I have been thinking a lot about families these last few months, and how the family tree diverts, divides, branches, seeds, and spreads, so that in a few generations we may no longer recognise one another in the streets, where our great-grandparents played and fought as children. The family is all about bodies. To be born is to have been given a body by two other people, and to share their heritage with countless others, living and departed. This surely is why Jesus uses those astonishing words at the Last Supper, which we repeat every Sunday, at every Eucharist – “this is my body”. He intends for his own life and witness, his teaching and his love, to nourish us as our parents intended to do. More than that, he tells us we must love not only him, and through him, God the Father, who made all bodies, but one another too. This is what it means to be the Church, the Body of Christ, in Communion with God and all his other sons and daughters, in every generation, bound not by ties of blood, but of discipleship and of love. We are the Body of Christ; we are Corpus Christi. Christ gives us his body and says “make your home here, be nourished, be loved, be transfigured, be glorified”. There will be no Lonesome Georges in the Kingdom of Heaven; which is all the more reason for being nice to lonesome tortoises, and all other lonesome creatures, on our journey there. Amen. Richard Haggis Littlemore, Oxford June 2012 P.S. - not two weeks after this sermon, Lonesome George departed this life on the 24th of June. Sentimental about animals as I am, I trust he is lonesome no more.