Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"A Eucharist Abused"

For the past several weeks, I have been preparing a talk that I will be giving to a group of Canadian liturgists at the beginning of May. The focus of the presentation is on becoming one body in Christ. In my research I came across a catechesis given by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on December 10, 2008.

Here is an excerpt:

"The second important aspect of the teaching on the Eucharist appears in the same First Letter to the Corinthians where St. Paul says: 'the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread' (10:16-17).

"In these words the personal and social character of the Sacrament of the Eucharist likewise appears. Christ personally unites himself with each one of us, but Christ himself is also united with the man and the woman who are next to me. And the bread is for me but it is also for the other.

"Thus Christ unites all of us with himself and all of us with one another. In communion we receive Christ. But Christ is likewise united with my neighbor: Christ and my neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist. And thus we are all one bread and one body. A Eucharist without solidarity with others is a Eucharist abused. And here we come to the root and, at the same time, the kernel of the doctrine on the Church as the Body of Christ, of the Risen Christ."

I have been pondering this last paragraph for quite some time, especially these two lines:

"Christ and my neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist."

"A Eucharist without solidarity with others is a Eucharist abused."

I think about sitting in the fourth or fifth row at the 9:30 Mass at Old Saint Patrick's, my parish here in Chicago. Do I too often think that the Eucharist is only about "me and Jesus?" Am I there to get the nourishment I need for the week, kind of like stopping at the grocery store for some baby spinach? Does the Eucharist sometimes become a commodity for me?

What strikes me about those questions is that it is very difficult in my own parish to adopt that attitude about the Eucharist. I feel welcomed at Mass, I connect with those around me; the preaching challenges me to see beyond my own little world; the music--both in the texts themselves and in the way the assembly is drawn into the singing--"glues" me to those around me. And all of this is done in a parish that puts outreach to the poor at the very forefront of its gaze.

I realize that it takes two realities to become wedded together in order for the Eucharist not to be abused. The parish context makes all the difference; that's the first reality. The second is all about my attitude and posture. I need to see that "Christ and my neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist." And, of course, what haunts me about this use of the term "neighbor" is that Gospel passage in Luke where the "expert in the law" asks Jesus the question:"Who is my neighbor?" And then unfolds the parable of the good Samaritan."

So, my neighbors are certainly those sitting around me at Sunday Mass. They are what I would call the "easy neighbors." But then there are those other neighbors, and you know the ones I mean here. That guy who badgers me outside of Walgreen's, looking for a handout. That person at work who never seems to have a good thing to say about anyone or anything. That person in my own life history who caused me such harm. That person on the train who has obviously just used drugs and sits next to me. The list goes on.

"A Eucharist without solidarity with others is a Eucharist abused." So, so challenging.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Jen said...

Thanks for posting this - what a challenging and encouraging reflection all in one. I am looking forward to hearing you speak in Newmarket on May 1. :)

mlou said...

Beautiful reflection.....these are all things I know but sometimes it becomes mechanical and rote and so it is nice to have the things I "know" brought back into focus....