Friends-good morning. I am currently reading a wonderful book by Archbishop Charles Chaput titled “Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics.” I highly recommend the book and have shared below an excerpt from Chapter 4 on the Eucharist that I strongly encourage you to read, reflect on and share. I hope you find it meaningful and helpful—it really got my attention!
Chapter 4, Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics, The Eucharist (excerpt from “Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics,” by Archbishop Charles Chaput, pages 62-65):
In the Eucharist, this gift of Christ’s presence is given not only so we can offer Jesus to the Father. It’s also provided to us as real food-spiritual nourishment that sustains us on our earthly pilgrimage. The Communion rite is an especially beautiful moment in the Eucharistic liturgy. The sacred character of this moment is
revealed best by the prayer we offer together just before approaching the altar: ‘Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.’ This phrase echoes the words of the centurion who petitioned Christ for the healing of his servant. Jesus marveled at this extraordinary expression of faith, which allowed Him to reveal ‘the immeasurable richness of His grace.’
The Church today asks us to have exactly the same reverent faith whenever we receive our Lord’s Body and Blood. Today the faithful come to Communion far more frequently than in the past, which is a very good thing. Yet, I often wonder if we really understand the reverence and interior preparation for which receiving the Eucharist calls. Again, this is why a regular, personal devotion to the Sacrament of Penance always leads to a deeper experience of the Eucharist.
John Paul II has said that ‘In the Sacrament of the Eucharist the Savior, who took flesh in Mary’s womb twenty centuries ago, continues to offer Himself to humanity as the source of divine life.’ Our mission today is the same as it has always been: to bring Jesus Christ to those who need Him most. This mission includes building a whole civilization of love-which has, at its center, a culture of life and respect of human dignity and rights. Part of that task is to engage our secular contemporaries in a morally compelling way. In the United States, the rugged individualism embedded in our pioneer spirit needs to be reexamined. We should also recognize that many people in our society are already secretly weary of consumerism. They know that they won’t—and can’t—find the meaning of life in acquiring more things. It’s useful here to remember the timeless words of St. Augustine, speaking about fifth-century Rome:
The only joy which they attained had the fragile brilliance of crystal, a joy far outweighed by the fear that it would be shattered in an instant.
Fear and isolation threaten the modern heart because, deep down, people are hungry for a more authentic experience of life. We yearn for the truth about our purpose in the world. We long for the deeper life that Jesus in the Eucharist makes possible. Yet, at the same time, the most serious challenge to our faith is subtler than anything in our culture. Rather, it’s our own lack of zeal, our own discouragement and doubt. Why aren’t we more vigorous in preaching and teaching the faith? It’s because the risk of taking up the cross of Christ can be arduous and embarrassing. We can evade the mission God gives us, and we often do. We can distract ourselves with toys, career, travel, and entertainment. In the process, though, we become spectators. We learn to watch life rather than live it.
Spectators don’t contribute. They merely consume. Too often, in recent decades, we’ve carried this consumer attitude into the Liturgy. Instead of losing ourselves in worship of the Trinity and love for one another, we’re preoccupied by what we are or aren’t getting out of the Mass. We expect- and even train- musicians and other ministers to entertain us, rather than lead us in prayer. In the process, we’ve often lost our sense of awe, our reverence for Jesus in the Eucharist, and our Christ-centered service to one another. In our spiritual sleep, vital moments of grace pass us by, while the young, lonely, and poor of our world suffer a new crucifixion, alone and without our support. The words of the great Eastern Father, John Chrysostom, speak to us very powerfully today, just as they did fifteen hundred years ago:
You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother…. You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food, someone judged worthy to take part in this meal….
God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become merciful.
The Eucharist is infinitely more than just a symbol, or memory, or pious ritual. Christ in this sacrament is real and present. The living, tangible, flesh-and-blood presence of Jesus in the Eucharist commits us to the poor and wounded of our world. Their hunger and thirst must become our hunger and thirst. Only a whole civilization of love can be provide for these kinds of needs. The engine by which such a civilization can be built is the Liturgy, which is the source and summit of God’s love for us. Only the love that comes from God and goes to God is powerful enough to heal the wounds of our brothers and sisters, in this and every age. If we truly believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and we act on it, then others will clearly see and want the joy that is ours. If we enter more deeply into the solidarity of love that the Holy Spirit offers us in the Liturgy, then God will use us to sanctify the world.
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