Tag Archives: Corpus Christi

The Eucharist nourishes, transforms, and impels us

I will probably preach two or three times this weekend – in Spanish. But I wanted to share what has inspired me this week as I prepare for preaching.

The two lectionary texts that most inform my preaching are Paul’s account of the institution of the Eucharist in 2 Corinthians 11: 23-26 and Luke account of the feeding of the multitudes (Luke 9: 11-17)

I will obviously preach something a bit different – depending on the congregation and what is happening here in Honduras this weekend, but I think my English-speaking friends might find something helpful in these initial thoughts.

I had a little time this week and watched an interview by Salt and Light TV of my friend Jim Forest. At one point, Fr. Rosica asks Jim what has sustained him. Jim didn’t even let Fr. Rosica finish the question but blurted out, “The Eucharist.”

Does the Eucharist sustain us? Is it what we need to go on and live?

Yes, for it is an intimate way in which we encounter our God. It is the food that sustains us – for it is the God who gave himself, who emptied himself to become human, who handed himself over, even to death, out of love. He is the bread that is handed over, given for us. The Eucharist is the Blood of the one who poured himself out for us – to the point of shedding, of pouring out his blood.

Do we long for this Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation that sustain us?

I recall a photo I took in 2008 at a Mass in a village. The priest is offering the Body of Christ to a man with his hands outreached. You cannot see the priest’s face – only the Body of Christ in his hands. This picture speaks to me of a longing for the Bread that sustains us.

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When we really long for this Bread, we will be transformed by the Body and Blood of Christ. No longer alone, separated with others, when we receive the Eucharist Christ wishes to transform us into Himself, so that we can pour ourselves out like Him.

There are two actions of the deacon during the Eucharist which often move me profoundly.

During the Preparation of the Gifts, the deacon pours the wine into the chalice and then a few drops of water. The prayer, which I always pray in English, is a call to let God make us like himself:

By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share our humanity.

God wishes to transform us into His very being, his divinity. This is what is often called theosis, divinization – found clearly in Eastern Christian theology, but also found in Saint Thomas Aquinas.

The Eucharist can transform us.

But how are we transformed?

I am also often moved when I , as a deacon, I raise the chalice with the Blood of Christ at the end of the Eucharistic prayer. How often I recall how this is the Blood poured out, shed, for us; am I willing to pour out my life, to shed my blood in the footsteps of Jesus?

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This transformation is not just something “spiritual.” I believe it is a transformation of our whole way of being. Am I willing to let myself be poured out?

For me, the Gospel of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes reveals how we are called to be transformed.

The disciples see the hungry crowd, but they tell Jesus to send them away. They looked for an easy way out, the ultimate call for “each man for himself.” Not only do they not want to take responsibility; they want Jesus to send them away, so he gets the blame.

But Jesus responds, calling for a real transformation, “You, yourselves, give them something to eat.” Don’t look to me for an easy way out; do not ignore the needs and look away. You have been transformed by my love, now do something.

And so, transformed, we are called to share. We are pushed by God to share.

This is the message I hope to share this weekend:

The Eucharist sustains us, transforms us, and impels us to share.

Corpus Christi meditations

Corpus Christi Procession meditations for the Dulce Nombre Parish 2017

We stopped with the Eucharist at five altars where these themes, reflecting the recent pastoral letter of Bishop Darwin Andino, were used as the basis for our prayer and meditation.

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1. Deepening our encounter with God through the Word of God.

2 Timothy 3: 15-16

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 174:
All evangelization is based on that word, listened to, meditated upon, lived, celebrated and witnessed to. The sacred Scriptures are the very source of evangelization. Consequently, we need to be constantly trained in hearing the word. The Church does not evangelize unless she constantly lets herself be evangelized. It is indispensable that the word of God “be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity”. God’s word, listened to and celebrated, above all in the Eucharist, nourishes and inwardly strengthens Christians, enabling them to offer an authentic witness to the Gospel in daily life. We have long since moved beyond that old contraposition between word and sacrament. The preaching of the word, living and effective, prepares for the reception of the sacrament, and in the sacrament that word attains its maximum efficacy.

2. Living the sacraments as encounters with God.

1 Corinthians 11: 23-26

Pope Saint John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, 29
Christian spirituality is nourished above all by a constant sacramental life, since the Sacraments are the root and endless source of God’s grace which believers need to sustain them on their earthly pilgrimage. The sacramental life needs to be complemented by the values of popular piety, values which will be enriched in turn by sacramental practice and saved from falling into the danger of routine. It should also be noted that this spirituality is not opposed to the social responsibilities of the Christian life. On the contrary, in following the path of prayer, believers become more conscious of the Gospel’s demands and of their duties towards others. Through prayer, they are strengthened with the grace they need to persevere in doing good.

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 47
The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself “the door”: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.

3. Strengthening the family as “domestic church,’ gathered around the Table of the Eucharist.

Joshua 24: 14-15

Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 317:
Family prayer is a special way of express­ing and strengthening this paschal faith.376 A few minutes can be found each day to come together before the living God, to tell him our worries, to ask for the needs of our family, to pray for someone experiencing difficulty, to ask for help in showing love, to give thanks for life and for its blessings, and to ask Our Lady to protect us beneath her maternal mantle. With a few simple words, this moment of prayer can do immense good for our families. The various expressions of popular piety are a treasure of spirituality for many families. The family’s communal journey of prayer culminates by sharing together in the Eucharist, especially in the context of the Sun­day rest. Jesus knocks on the door of families, to share with them the Eucharistic supper…. The Eucharist is the sacrament of the new covenant, where Christ’s redemptive work is carried out. The close bond between married life and the Eucharist thus becomes all the more clear. For the food of the Eucharist offers the spouses the strength and incentive needed to live the marriage covenant each day as a “domestic church”.

4. Caring for our “common Home” where God reveals his glory.

Psalm 19: 2-7

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 236:
It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsur­passable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living center of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God.…  The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adora­tion…. Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.

5. Living the Eucharist in lives of charity and justice.

Acts of the Apostles 4: 32-35

A reading for Pope Francis’ Message on the World Day of the Poor 2017:
If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist. The Body of Christ, broken in the sacred liturgy, can be seen, through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. Saint John Chrysostom’s admonition remains ever timely: “If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments, and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness”.

 

 

Saturated with the presence of Christ

Today we Catholics celebrate Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Eucharist, Christ becomes present in bread and wine, ordinary elements, “the work of human hands.”

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Corpus Christi procession 2013, Dolores, Copán, Honduras

In 2001 when I was in Suchitoto, El Salvador, working on a study of the role of the church in that conflictive region, I brought along William Cavanaugh’s Torture and the Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ.  It’s a rather dense work, treating the Eucharist as Body of Christ and the Church as Body of Christ in the context of the understanding of the church in Chile during the cruel Pinochet dictatorship.

Looking back at the work yesterday, I came across this quote on page 14:

The point is not to politicize the Eucharist, but to “Eucharistisize” the world.

The Eucharist is not a mere sign which points to some more concrete political reality. Christ’s Eucharistic body is both res et sacramentum, sign and reality. Christ does not lie behind the Eucharistic sign but saturates it. Christians do not simply read the sign but perform it. We become Christ’s body in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the true “politics,” as Augustine saw, because in it is the public performance of the true eschatological City of God in the midst of another City which is passing away.

What first strikes me is his statement that “Christ does not lie behind the Eucharistic sign but saturates it.” What a marvelous way of talking about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

But Cavanaugh goes on to note that “We become Christ’s body in the Eucharist.” And so we should become saturated with Christ, offering the world a different vision of reality, a vision made real in the way we live and love.

The Body of Christ

Today the Catholic world celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ.

The feast originated in the thirteenth century but expresses the faith of the Church in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Here in Honduras there will be processions in the streets, as an expression of their deep devotion to the Eucharist. I’m going out to the village of Dolores where people will be walking in from neighboring villages for Mass and procession.

It is important, though, to remember that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not the only place we encounter Christ.

In The Word Encountered, Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J., quotes C. S. Lewis, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

Last year I was in El Zapote de Santa Rosa for Mass and procession, a chance to encounter some of the holiest objects – the Eucharist and the poor – as you can see in this photo.

May Christ touch us today, in the Eucharist and in the people we meet, especially the poor.