I’ve written before about Trevor Noah of The Daily Show, and how he serves as a court jester for the privileged.
I’m now reading his memoir, Born a Crime, about growing up colored in apartheid-era South Africa. The book is light, winsome, and heartbreaking at equal turns. I’m learning a lot about what life was really like for people under apartheid, and Noah is a likable, capable narrator.
Noah went to Catholic school, one of only a few colored students in a sea of black and white, and a non-Catholic. As a poor child of a single mother, he didn’t have much to eat, and it always bothered him that he couldn’t even partake of the bread and juice in the sacrament. This bit made me laugh, then took my breath away.
“Only Catholics can eat Jesus’s body and drink Jesus’s blood, right?”
“But Jesus wasn’t Catholic.”
“Jesus was Jewish.”
“So you’re telling me that if Jesus walked into your church right now, Jesus would not be allowed to have the body and blood of Jesus?”
They never had a satisfactory reply.
One morning before mass I decided, I’m going to get me some Jesus blood and Jesus body. I snuck behind the altar and I drank the entire bottle of grape juice and I ate the entire bag of Eucharist to make up for all the other times that I couldn’t.
In my mind, I wasn’t breaking the rules, because the rules didn’t make any sense. And I got caught only because they broke their own rules. Another kid ratted me out in confession, and the priest turned me in.
“No, no,” I protested. “You’ve broken the rules. That’s confidential information. The priest isn’t supposed to repeat what you say in confession.”
They didn’t care. The school could break whatever rules it wanted. The principal laid into me.
“What kind of a sick person would eat all of Jesus’s body and drink all of Jesus’s blood?”
“A hungry person.”
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.