Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son
of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh
and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. (Jn
Once a middle aged gentleman was complaining to his friend, “Look, I have been attending
mass daily for the last 32 years. Thousands of homilies I have heard. But then,
I do not remember a single homily today. I think, I have been wasting my time.”
To this, his friend replied: “See, my dear friend, I have been eating my food for
the last 35 years. I do not know, how that food was prepared, what ingredients were
added to them. But one thing I know for sure: If at all I am healthy today it is
because of the food that I ate. Similarly, you may not be remembering the homily.
Yet, I am sure; it is the mass that has kept you spiritually fit till today.” Yes,
friends, Eucharist has tremendous effect on our lives.
And this is why the year 2000, the year of “The Great Jubilee”, was celebrated as
the “Year of the Eucharist.” Thereafter, again the Holy Father Pope John Paul II
took initiative to declare October 2004 – October 2005 as the Year of the Eucharist.
This shows how he values high the importance of the Eucharist in our lives. The
Year of the Eucharist, guided and introduced by the Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum
Domine (Oct 7, 2004) offers us an important occasion further to sensitize the Christian
community, so that they make this wonderful Sacrifice and Sacrament the centre of
our Christian lives. The Encyclical prior to this: Ecclesia de Eucharistia leads
us to the ‘source’ and ‘height’ of Christian life, inviting us to renew our fervour
in the celebration and adoration of the Eucharist.
The Gospel text which we heard just now reminds us as clearly as possible of the
centrality of the Eucharist to our Catholic Faith. The Eucharist is, in the simplest
yet most profound of terms, the source of life. In giving us the Eucharist at the
Last Supper, Jesus gave us his very own body and blood, a priceless gift, one that
enriches our spiritual lives here on earth and leads us eventually to the perfection
of eternal life in heaven.
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church" teaches us again of the importance of the
Eucharist in the life of the Christian:
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life... For in the blessed
Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself...
By the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy
and anticipate eternal life... In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of
our faith. (#s 1324-1327)
Eucharist is present from the beginning of times. In the Old Testament times Eucharist
was present in symbols. In Jesus, Eucharist lived here in the world in the form
of man. In our days we have Eucharist in the sacrament.
Eucharist in Symbols:
From the beginning of human history the Eucharist was present in symbols. The ‘Manna’
that our ancestors ate in the desert (cf. Jn 6:31) symbolizes that the bread of
life came down from heaven.
Isaac, the only son of Abraham, who was laid at the top of the Mount Moriah (Gen
22), is the symbol of the only begotten Son of God who was sacrificed at the top
of Calvary. The lamb that was provided by God to Abraham represents the Lamb of
God sacrificed. Gods priest Melchisadek offered bread and wine in sacrifice (Gen
14). The bronze serpent, lifted high in the sky by Moses in the desert for the serpent-bitten
people to look at and be saved, symbolizes the Son of Man who was lifted high in
the sky for the world to look at and be saved (cf. Jn 3:14).
The greatest symbol of Eucharist in the Old Testament is the Passover (Ref. Ex.
12) The Passover used to be celebrated on the 14th day on Nissan month. Four days
prior to the celebrations they had to choose one lamb. The lamb was to be observed
for four days. On the fourth day, if found without blemish (eligible for sacrifice),
the lamb was sacrificed.
In the New Testament we have the Son of God becoming flesh. This was the Eucharist
in the Human form. The Son of God became man and offered Him to be sacrificed for
the salvation of the whole world. The letter to the Hebrews describes the sacrifice
in OT and the sacrifice in NT as the earthly sacrifice and the heavenly sacrifice.
Jesus instituted the memorial meal and moreover he laid down his life in Calvary
for salvation of the whole world.
Today, we celebrate Eucharist using symbols, as guided by our Lord and which are
meaningful to us. Through that Eucharist we receive Jesus in the form of bread and
wine. The early community was ‘of one heart and body’ (Acts 4:32) because of this
celebration of the ‘breaking of the bread’. The Eucharist was earlier known as the
'breaking of the bread'. At the Last Supper, Jesus broke the bread and gave the
broken pieces to the disciples saying, "take and eat, this is my body" (Mt: 26-26).
By the word 'Body' he meant - his whole being - His life His personality in whole.
He himself was broken, for us to have fullness of life. While giving the cup filled
with wine, He said - "this is my blood which will be shed for many" (Mt.26: 28).
'Blood', when shed, resembles death. Jesus meant to say that His blood must be shed
for the salvation of the world. Thus we are saved by the 'life' and 'death' of Christ.
The teaching and the lived experience of the Church have helped us to understand
more fully the many dimensions of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is understood in
the following dimensions:
Eucharist is a sacrifice: The sacrifice of Jesus is a complete
and totally gratuitous offering of himself to God the Father for the salvation of
the world. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium tells: “priests...exercise their
sacred function in the Eucharistic liturgy or synaxis, where, acting in the Person
of Christ and proclaiming his mystery, they join the offering of the faithful to
the sacrifice of their Head. Until the Lord comes again (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26), they
re-present and apply in the Sacrifice of the Mass the one sacrifice of the New Testament,
namely the sacrifice of Christ offering himself once and for all to his Father as
a spotless victim (cf. Heb 9:11-28).”
The Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, in treating the Eucharist as sacrifice,
also teaches that the Church re-presents Christ’s sacrifice as an act of intercession;
namely, the Son offers himself in his flesh and thereby becomes the mediator between
humanity and the Father (12-13). This understanding is helpful in reading the following
reference from the Encyclical: “The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross;
it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it.”
Eucharist is a sacrament: It is a sacrament in which we have the
real presence of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. The Catechism of the
Catholic Church teaches: "In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, 'the body
and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore,
the whole Christ is truly, really, substantially contained'." (Catechism, #1374).
Jesus instituted the sacrament of Eucharist to be with His people always in a visible
and accessible form. The bread that God gives is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world (cf. Jn.6: 33). In the Eucharist the Father receives
the sacrifice of Christ and He together with the Holy Spirit gives himself to us
as our eternal food.
We talk of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist because Jesus’ presence in
the Eucharist is a presence in the fullest sense, where Jesus is wholly and entirely
present. The consecration at Mass changes the whole substance of the bread into
the substance of the body of Christ and the whole substance of the wine into the
substance of his blood and the Church calls this change transubstantiation (EE §15).
The Pope in Ecclesia de Eucharistia says those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist
need not wait until the next life to receive eternal life, they already possess
it on earth as the first-fruits of future fullness. In the Eucharist we receive
the pledge of our bodily resurrection at the end of the world (EE §18) and when
we celebrate the Eucharist we are united with the liturgy in heaven where the angels
and saints are continually praising God (EE §19).
Eucharist is a meal: No doubt, Jesus had lots of meals with his
disciples. But then the episode of the Last supper was the most important event
in their life, for in it he broke himself for others and taught us how to break
ourselves for others. And this is a meal that nourishes our soul.
Eucharist is a liturgical celebration: It is a public proclamation
of our faith in sign and symbol. In the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist
we re-present the sacrifice offered on Calvary and ponder on the death and resurrection
of Jesus. So, every Eucharistic celebration should be a new Calvary for us. If we,
as the body of Christ, are not offering ourselves, the offering of Christ remains
Thus, Eucharist is a sacrifice—the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross;
it is a sacrament—the real presence of Christ under the forms of bread and wine;
it is a meal—the same memorial meal Jesus shared with his apostles at the Last Supper;
it is a liturgical celebration—a public proclamation of our faith in sign and symbol.
Because of human nature, we often take our gifts for granted, even the most special
of our gifts - our life, our health, our family, our friends and our faith. It is
even possible, because of our weakness and perhaps because the Eucharist is so readily
available to us, to take the Eucharist for granted and to become less than clear
about its meaning and importance.
Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament
Dear Friends, Pope John Paul II in the encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” and
the Apostolic Exhortation “Mane Nobiscum Domine” laid out for us certain lines of
Eucharistic spirituality. In reading these texts we feel profoundly touched, especially
if we have had this experience before the Tabernacle. Christ continues to speak
today, from heart to heart.
When we enter into the mind of Christ, in his heart, especially in the celebration
of the Most Holy Eucharist, we experience the call to continue this intimate relationship
during the day, without being able to exclude ‘spending a certain amount of time
in dialogue with the Eucharistic Lord.’ (Mane Nobiscum Domine 30). Jesus in the
tabernacle wants you to be at his side, so that he can fill your hearts with the
experience of his friendship, which alone gives meaning and fulfillment to our lives.
Speaking to the youth in Cologne on 18 August 2005 he urged them to turn to Christ
present in the Tabernacle of mercy and in the Sacrament of the Altar.
Because we love Jesus in the Eucharist so much, in the Catholic Church, we have
the privilege of being able to adore Jesus in the Eucharist outside of Mass also.
Concerning adoration of the Blessed Sacrament the Pope says,
“The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the
life of the Church… It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast
like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in
his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art
of prayer”, how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time…in silent adoration,
in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear
brothers and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation
and support!…Saint Alphonsus Liguori…wrote: “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus
in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to
God and the one most helpful to us”. The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not
only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled
to make contact with the very wellspring of grace… In the course of the day the
faithful should not omit visiting the Blessed Sacrament…”(EE §25)
The Pope says the annual Corpus Christi procession with the Eucharist is a grace
from the Lord and that unfortunately in some places Eucharistic adoration has been
almost completely abandoned (EE §10).
I feel happy to hear that Jesus becomes a reality to lots of people in the Eucharist
and in the Blessed Sacrament. Recently when I went to Delhi I got a feedback from
the priests there that there are lots of groups emerging with tremendous love for
Christ. Many parish youth have begun the so called night vigil. They would voluntarily
come and spend time with the Lord. I am sure that they have experienced the Risen
Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Dear Friends, I can cite lots examples where people loved Eucharist more than their
life. We have an exemplary model for this in the Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkota
who witnessed to the love of Christ with the strength gathered from the Eucharist.
The communities of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity start the day
with the Eucharistic adoration and the Holy Mass. Eucharist is the ‘bread of life’
which sustains those who, in turn, become ‘bread broken’ for others, paying at times
with martyrdom, their fidelity to the Gospel.
Blessed Alexandrina and her love for the Eucharist:
Some of the pilgrimages which go to Fatima visit the town of Balasar many miles
north of Fatima. It became famous in 1832 when the earth changed to form the appearance
of a large cross which you can still see today inside a chapel which has been built
over it. That was preparing for events one century later, Alexandrina Maria da Costa
suffering the passion of Jesus and living on the Eucharist alone for thirteen years.
Alexandrina was born in April 1904. A dreadful thing happened to her in 1918 which
left her life shattered ever afterwards. When her sister Deolinda, another girl
and she were in the house three men knocked at the door, one of whom had previously
tried to molest Alexandrina. They broke into the house. Alexandrina wanting to preserve
her chastity jumped from an upstairs window. The men fled but Alexandrina’s spine
had been irreparably injured. Six years later she had to remain in bed for the rest
of her life. The slightest movement caused her intense pain. She began to grow closer
and closer to the Lord and realised that she was suffering in a special way for
the salvation of souls. She received Holy Communion every day and her thoughts frequently
turned to Jesus in the tabernacle. She went into her first ecstasy in 1931 when
she heard Jesus say to her, “Love, suffer and make reparation.” She saw her vocation
to be that of a victim soul, to make reparation for all of us. Under the order of
her spiritual director she was dictating her life’s story to her sister but many
times the devil threatened her not to write any more. In 1936 Our Lord asked her
to spread the message of Fatima and to urge the consecration of the world to the
Immaculate Heart and she offered herself as a victim soul for this.
In one of her ecstasies Jesus said to her,
“Keep me company in the Blessed Sacrament. I remain in the tabernacle night and
day, waiting to give my love and grace to all who would visit me. But so few come.
I am so abandoned, so lonely, so offended…. Many…do not believe in my existence;
they do not believe that I live in the tabernacle. They curse me. Others believe,
but do not love me and do not visit me; they live as if I were not there… You have
chosen to love me in the tabernacles where you can contemplate me, not with the
eyes of the body, but those of the soul. I am truly present there as in Heaven,
Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.”
From October 1938 Alexandrina began to suffer the passion of Jesus every Friday.
She suffered the passion of Jesus 180 times. Until 1942 she was suffering in silence
without fame but after a report appeared in a newspaper from then on she was besieged
by pilgrims asking for prayer. During the Holy Week the same year Jesus said to
“You will not take food again on earth. Your food will be my Flesh; your drink will
be my Divine Blood …”
So on Good Friday 1942 she began an absolute fast which lasted for the more than
thirteen years until her death. The only nourishment which her body filled with
pain received was Jesus in Holy Communion every morning. News of her fast spread
and the crowds became even bigger. Some people had doubts and suspicions about her
fast and accused her, her sister and mother of fraud. Therefore she agreed to medical
observation. The doctor asked her, “Why do you not eat?” She replied, “I do not
eat because I cannot. I feel full. I do not need it. However, I have a longing for
food.” It was decided that she should be admitted to a nearby hospital for a thirty
day observation of her fast. While she was in the hospital some tried to persuade
her to take food. The doctor in charge of the examination was nasty to her and at
the end of the thirty days said the nurses watching her must have been deceived
and decided she was to remain there for a further ten days. They even showed her
tasty food to entice her to eat. When the test was finally over the doctor said
to her he would visit her at home not as a doctor-spy but as a friend who esteems
her. Part of the medical report reads as follows:
“Her abstinence from solids and liquids was absolute during all that time. We testify
also that she retained her weight, and her temperature, breathing, blood pressure,
pulse and blood were normal while her mental faculties were constant and lucid and
she had not, during these forty days, any natural necessities…The laws of physiology
and biochemistry cannot account for the survival of this sick woman…”
While medical science could not explain, the explanation was simple. Jesus had said
“You are living by the Eucharist alone because I want to prove to the world the
power of the Eucharist and the power of my life in souls.”
She died on 13th October 1955, having received nourishment only from Holy Communion
for more than thirteen years. Some of the pilgrimages to Fatima visit her town Balasar
and you can visit her house, see her room and visit the local Church where she is
buried to the left of the altar.
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; He who believes
in me will never thirst.”
To the world it is irrational and stupid to think that bread changes to become the
body of Jesus. It is equally irrational and stupid to think that a human can survive
for thirteen years only being nourished by Holy Communion. But one is not more irrational
than the other. Alexandrina is a sign given to the world by Jesus to remind us of
his presence in the Eucharist. In 1996 Pope John Paul II declared Alexandrina Venerable
and on 25th April 2004 declared her Blessed. (Alexandrina: The Agony and the Glory
by Francis Johnston You may not be aware that in our time there is another sign
similar to Alexandrina given to our world, Olive Dawson, who is also nourished only
by the Eucharist and I was privileged to attend a talk she gave in 2003.)
The life of Blessed Alexandrina is indeed edifying to each one of us. Besides this,
there are quite a few Eucharistic Miracles to strengthen our faith.
Eucharistic Miracles: In the year 1263 a priest from Prague was
on route to Rome making a pilgrimage asking God for help to strengthen his faith
since he was having doubts about his vocation. Along the way he stopped in a Bolsena
70 miles north of Rome. While celebrating Mass there, as he raised the host during
the consecration, the bread turned into flesh and began to bleed. The drops of blood
fell onto the small white cloth on the altar, called the corporal. The following
year, 1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus. The
Pope asked St Thomas Aquinas, living at that time, to write hymns for the feast
and he wrote two, better known to the older members of our congregation, the Tantum
Ergo and O Salutaris. That blood-stained corporal may still be seen in the Basilica
of Orvieto north of Rome.
Although that is the Eucharistic miracle that led to the institution of this feast,
a more famous Eucharistic miracle is the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano, also in
Italy, which took place many centuries earlier, in the year 700. A monk who feared
he was losing his vocation was celebrating Mass, and during the consecration the
host turned into flesh and the wine turned into blood. Despite the fact that that
miracle took place almost 1300 years ago you may still see the flesh in a monstrance
which is exposed every day and the blood in a glass chalice. The blood has congealed
and is now in five clots in the glass chalice. In 1971 and 1981 a hospital laboratory
tested the flesh and blood and discovered that the flesh is myocardium, that is
heart muscular tissue, so we could say it is the heart of Jesus, the Sacred Heart,
and the blood is of the blood group AB positive. In 1978 NASA scientists tested
the blood on the Turin Shroud and interestingly also discovered that it is of the
blood group AB positive. (The Sudarium, Face Cloth of Christ, mentioned in John
20:6 is also of the blood group AB positive.) Despite the fact that human flesh
and blood should not have remained preserved for 1300 years the hospital lab tests
found no trace of any preservatives. One final interesting point about the five
blood clots in the chalice is that when you weigh one of them, it is the same weight
as all five together; two of them together weigh the same as all five. In fact no
matter what way you combine the blood clots individually or in a group to weigh
them, they always weigh the same. (This shows that the full Jesus is present in
a particle of the Eucharist no matter how small.)
These Eucharistic miracles and many other have been authenticated by the Church
after investigation. In spiritual books you will read of many more Eucharistic miracles
throughout the world which have been authenticated by the Church. All of these authenticated
Eucharistic miracles throughout the world are surely an answer to any doubt we may
have about Jesus in the Eucharist. Jesus is really with us in the Eucharist. Jesus
comes to us in every Mass under the form of bread and wine. The Eucharist is a celebration
of the love of Jesus for us, his blood shed for us in love and his body scourged,
crowned with thorns and crucified for us. The wine poured and the bread broken is
the love of Jesus for us, body and blood given for us. Because the Eucharist is
the love of Jesus for us we always approach Jesus in the Eucharist with great respect.
My dear friends, I am sure, you will have lots more living examples, inspiring you
and promoting in you the love for the Eucharist. All the same, we have the greatest
of the examples in the person of Mary, our Mother.
Mary, the Woman of Eucharist
There is no doubt that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Woman of the Holy Eucharist.
Pope John Paul II considered Rosary and the Eucharist to be the two strong pillars
on which our Church is built upon. That’s why immediately after the Year of the
Rosary (Oct 2003 – Oct 2004) he declares Oct 2004 – Oct 2005 as the Year of the
Eucharist. Moreover, the Holy Father makes it clear that Mary was the woman of the
Eucharist throughout her life. Why is she called the woman of the Eucharist?
Besides, Mary has all the attributes of the Holy Eucharist such as attitudes of
self-emptying (kenosis) and self giving, sense of dedication, sharing, readiness
for immolation and above all unconditional love.
What is my relation to the Eucharist? Do I make mass for people and to me a moment
of encountering Jesus in the Eucharist? If given an option, would I partake in the
Eucharist willingly and happily? Do I find fulfillment of my religious life in Christ?
How much do I love Christ in the Blessed Sacrament? Do I give prime importance to
the Eucharist in my life? What do I do/have I done to spread the love of the Eucharist
in this Year of the Eucharist? Do I draw inspiration from Mother Mary for my love
for the Eucharist?
Fr. Isidore D’Souza
There is a caption hanging in the sacristy of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Allahabad.
It reads: “O Priest, celebrate this mass as if this is your first mass, last mass
and the only mass.” The first time I read this caption was in the Bishop’s House
chapel at Bhopal, a few years ago. I was really edified by the deep rooted call
it gives us for a meaningful celebration of the Eucharist.
The question now is: why do we speak of a meaningful celebration of the Eucharist?
Does Eucharist have any effect on our lives? Can it give any meaning to our lives?
The Eucharist is not a matter of intellectual knowledge but a mystery to be lived
with and experienced through our lives. It must also be kept in mind that the real
goal of all catechesis can never be merely knowing or understanding the sacrament
of the Eucharist and having an active participation in the liturgy. The real goal
is to move the faithful to turn to God and to realize in their day-to-day lives
the values of the Eucharist. In other words, there must exist a close connection
between lex orandi and lex vivendi.
The celebration of the Eucharist in the Church impels the believers to live their
Christian vocation in society. We become signs of hope to one another. We deepen
the bonds of friendship among us, simply because of the Eucharistic Lord, here present
in this most holy sacrament of the altar. The Eucharist thus creates communion and
fosters communion. Sunday Mass in our parishes is fundamental for the life of the
Church and the lives of individual believers. At each Sunday Mass we are sent forth
to build communion with those who are not at the Eucharistic table. We must go forth
to those who are left out - to the poor and the hungry, to those who are unemployed,
those who are sick and feeble, those who are lonely, those who are slaves to drugs,
alcohol and other vices. We are sent forth, empowered by the Eucharist, to live
our goals and values of charity and love.
We have the documents of the Church constantly strengthening our view telling that
the Eucharist is the source and the summit of our Christian life. It was first expressed
the Vatican Council II through the document on the Dogmatic Constitution of Liturgy.
Pope John Paul II further strengthened this notion through his Encyclical Ecclesia
de Eucharistia. He introduced the Year of Eucharist with the Apostolic Letter Mane
Ever since Vatican Council II, drastic changes are made in the celebration of the
liturgy. Yet, it is sad to note that we have made changes in the liturgy, but the
liturgy has not changed us. Quite many of us think that the liturgy is a wasting
of time. Why such reaction? What, indeed, is wrong with our liturgy today? Following
are some of the drawbacks that are found in our liturgy today.
Our Liturgy is too Vertical
We still celebrate liturgy according to our traditional way of understanding: liturgy,
a worship offered to God. Thus, our worship is always oriented to God. A liturgy
which is too vertical does not have much to do with the lives of the people. Therefore,
we ‘find it hard' to take interest in a liturgy in which there is gap." between
life and worship.
Routine Way of Celebration
Variety is the spice of life. This is very much true with the liturgy. Variety in
liturgy is necessary not to make it interesting but an experiential one. Unfortunately,
our liturgy today is celebrated in a routine way. The priest performs it mechanically
without any feeling or emotion, sometimes even without knowing what he says and
does. At times, the priest performs the sacraments in hurry without any devotion.
Our liturgy lacks silence, a time for interiorisation.
Symbols used are not meaningful
Symbol is a media of communication which goes beyond the reality, creates experience
and provokes response. It is through the symbols that we celebrate the Paschal mystery
of Christ in liturgy. Often, our liturgy is celebrated by merely following the letter
of the law. The symbols that we use do not help us for the emotional sharing of
our faith. They are not intelligible to us, mainly because they do not spring from
our life situation. They are taken from an alien culture. Fr. Paul Puthanangady
observes, "Most people are attracted to worship not because of the transcendent
greatness and beauty of God; they want to meet God who can be experienced as their
personal saviour, answering the deep-felt desires of their heart. To evoke such
a feeling, it is necessary that we use meaningful and intelligible symbols in liturgy.
It is also note worthy that most of the homilies are bookish or highly theological.
At times they appear to be lectures on biblical exegesis.
Lack of Cooperation from the Community
At times it is possible that the community is not open to the creativity. It may
not be cooperating with the call given to the active cooperation, rather remains
passive. This indeed will kill the enthusiasm and creativity of the priest. For
example, say a priest is calling the members of the community to pray for a member
who is celebrating her Birthday that day, or asking the members to speak out some
of the good qualities, and the community is totally indifferent or passive will
it not affect the creativity of the priest?
Gap between liturgy and life
The liturgy that we celebrate, most often, does not help people to know themselves
better. There is an excessive stress on verticalism and an absence of concern for
temporal realities and human experiences which should be part and parcel of our
life. Our liturgy, quite often, does not address to the present with its challenges
and problems. Fr. Joe Mannath is very clear in saying: "The liturgy does not make
sense to a young person in a vacuum. He/she gets involved in it to the degree it
celebrates what the Christian community is doing the rest of the time.”
Gap between the Minister and the Community
Quite often, the relation between the minister and the community is restricted to
the chapel only. The community is concerned only about the mass, the shortest. They
are content if the daily obligation of mass is fulfilled. On the other hand, if
the minister becomes the part of the community it becomes a family. In such cases
the life with its ups and downs could be brought to the liturgy.
Liturgy lacks active participation
Most often, we are mere spectators in our liturgies today. Primarily, it is because
the liturgy makes no sense to them. On the other hand we see, either the people
refrain from active participation or their active participation not sufficiently
encouraged and promoted. At times, the president dominates and performs all the
functions by himself leaving no room for the participant. Sacrosanctum Concilium
is very clear that the faithful should be present in the liturgies not as mere spectators
but as active performers of the act of worship. We need to ask a question to ourselves:
even when the minister is open are we ready for an active participation with some
meaningful varieties? Recently, I asked the superior of one of the communities,
where I go for mass, whether somebody could give, in turn, reflection for mass once
a week. The answer was very blunt, “No Father, it is the duty of the priest.” Yes,
very few of us want to come prepared for mass. We are comfortable to be a ‘kaddu’,
I mean a vegetable, in the chapel. Vegetable has no life in itself. It does not
have feelings. We are happy with that sort of participation. Quite often instead
of answering the prayers we comfortably ‘nod’ and say ‘oh Father, all that you are
saying is true.”
Besides the factors affecting the liturgy itself there are also extra-liturgical
factors affecting the liturgy. To name them a few: the relationship between priest
and people, dichotomy between preaching and practicing, counter witness by the Church,
lack of cordiality among the people, lack of faith formation, deteriorating sense
of sacredness, etc.
So, the Eucharist becomes meaningful if it is creative and calls for active participation.
Vatican II has given us a good amount of chances to improvise, to compose, and thus
bring in spontaneity, and relevance in the liturgy, leading to a creative liturgy.
“To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by
means of acclamations, responses, psalms, antiphons, hymns, as well as actions,
gestures and bodily attitudes. And at proper time reverent silence should be observed.”
What do we do to make the Eucharist meaningful to us? What creativity do we bring
about? Isn’t it the fact that we stress more on externals for any celebration of
our Christian feasts? Don’t we spend lots of time in decoration of the Church, etc.
What preparations do we make for the liturgy, except just the singing practice?
Liturgy should not be a one-man show. Therefore, all need to work hand in hand to
make Eucharist meaningful.
What are the Effects of a Meaningful Eucharist?
The effects of the Eucharist are like the effects of food for our body. Food sustains
life, and the Eucharist sustains the life of the soul. It gives us the grace we
need to deny ourselves and to live for Christ. The more love we have for Christ,
the less self-love we have. The more we love God, the more we can resist temptation,
and so the Eucharist strengthens us spiritually.
Boylan, the author of the book “The Tremendous Love”, tells us that the results
of reception of the Eucharist can be considered in three ways: union with Christ,
spiritual nutrition, and its special signification with the Passion of Christ.
Eucharist: Union with Christ
With regard to the first effect, union with Christ, St. Paul tells us in 1Cor 10:16-17,
that we do in fact receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. He refers to it specifically
as communion, not as participation. For St. Paul, it is a common union of God and
man. St. John Chrysostom says, referring to St. Paul, that we do not just participate
with Christ in receiving communion, we unite with Him. This union is not mere metaphor;
it is reality. A reality that calls forth from us the three theological virtues
of faith, hope and love.
Boylan also tells us that when we receive the Eucharist, mindful of what is taking
place, we should take this opportunity to give Him our heartfelt thanks for the
privilege of receiving him, recognize our need for His love and express our love
for Him, to request the grace to conform our lives to His will for us, and offer
ourselves to Him for Him to take of us that which He wants us to be.
Eucharist: Spiritual nutrition
As our spiritual food, when we receive the Eucharist we participate in the mystery
whereby we become that which we consume, instead of that which we consume becoming
us. It is by means of the Eucharist that the Mystical Body is put into effect, for
it is through the Eucharist and the effect of its transforming union of us with
Christ that we become full members of this Mystical Body. In Baptism we receive
that which is essential and sufficient for our salvation. In the Eucharist, we receive
that which is essential for the perfection of the Mystical Body and our individual
perfection as Christians.
If we consider again the words of Christ in John 6:57, “He that eats My Flesh and
drinks My Blood, abides in me and I in him”, we see a profound expression of His
love for us. If we love another, we desire to be identified with that other. This
expression of Jesus’ love for us reported in John tells of His desire to be united
with us in a most intimate, and eternal, way. He could only express this desire
if He also had the love which calls it forth. He gave his all of Himself on the
Cross for the sake of this unity, and continues to give of Himself every day in
the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass.
Eucharist: Signification with the Passion of Christ
St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, “There is nothing in our selves or in our past that
one Communion cannot more than repair – if we have but enough faith.” He further
says, “This sacrament contains in itself Christ crucified. Whence whatever is the
effect of the Passion of Our Lord, all that is likewise the effect of this sacrament.”
St. Thomas also tells us that all the sacraments receive their power from the Passion
of Christ, but “the Eucharist is ‘the perfect sacrament of the Passion’ for it contains
Christ and the whole power of His Passion.”
Boylan so aptly puts it, “whatever our sins have done to us, the Holy Communion
can repair; and whatever our sins have done to God, the Mass – which is part of
the Eucharist – can restore.”
Pope Leo I tells, “The effect of our communion in the Body and Blood of Christ is
that we are transformed into what we consume, and that he in whom we have died and
in whom we have risen from the dead lives and is manifested in every movement of
our body and our spirit.” The Eucharist is the visible presence of Jesus our Redeemer.
Receiving the Eucharist calls for a transformation of self to the real nature of
Jesus. Is there a transformation in me?
Eucharist in my life
I said, by consuming Jesus in the Eucharist we become what we consumed. To speak
in terms of Indian philosophy, it is “aham brahmasmi”, ‘I am the Brahman’. I receive
‘brahman’ and the whole of my self becomes ‘Brahman’. Similarly, by consuming Christ
in the Eucharist we become “Christ.” If so, we should be able to say like St. Paul,
it is not I but Christ who lives in me. Do I have the courage to say that? Do I
really have Christ within me? Do I see Jesus in each other? It is required that
we reflect upon our lives and see the reality within me.
Does my daily Eucharist become a living experience for me and for others with whom
I live, work, talk, meet, share etc? The people experienced ‘the Abba’ in every
action of Jesus. Can I say that the people are able to experience the love, kindness,
forgiveness of Jesus through me? Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
“The Father is in me and I in Him.” We religious are supposed to be witnessing to
this fact. When I look into my life – can I say that the people encounter Jesus
when they meet me?
Do I give Christ to others? Once I was discussing the conversion issue with my friend.
He asked me why I would think that in India conversions now are less compare to
yester years. Instead of answering his question directly, I just put a counter question
to him. I asked; which milk do you think is nourishing and life giving: pure milk
or the diluted milk? He said, “Pure milk.” I said, “You are right.” There was a
time in the Church in India when the priests, sisters and catechists involved in
the direct evangelization. They enthusiastically went to the villages and proclaimed
Christ. I would say that they gave them ‘pure milk’, Christ to them. Now we are
giving the ‘diluted Christ’. We have entered into something called ‘comfort zones’.
We now play safe games.
My dear friends, whether you agree with me or not, most of us have become the victims
to this ‘safe game.’ Recently while going to Ajmer, I went to Gurgaon on my way.
I met a Claretian priest who was narrating me the amount of devotion to Christ in
the Blessed Sacrament taking place in the Family of Mani in Faridabad. The bishop
of Delhi has permitted them to keep the Blessed Sacrament there in the family. The
Claretian priest said that besides the people who gather there for the 24 hours
adoration, about 7000 people gather every Sunday in the School there, most of who
are non-Christians. It is a fact that lots of people are healed there from various
infirmities. It is said; once a priest from Delhi was called to offer mass there.
He had a wonderful opportunity to preach Christ to them. But then he was a bit afraid
and so played the ‘safe game.’ When it was the time for homily, he told the people
gathered there to close their eyes, to call to mind their own gods and to pray to
them. The people really felt unhappy with the incident. They seem to have told him
that they had already left their gods and come there to believe in one and the true
God. They have come to receive Christ.
My dear friends, to play our safe games we have invented the alternatives ministries
like education, social work and health ministry, where we give only the diluted
Christ. Some times I wonder whether we really speak about Christ openly in such
ministries. Most of you present here are involved in education, health and social
work ministries? How often do you speak about Christ to the people in contact with
you? At times we confine ourselves to the four walls of our building and say that
we are on house arrest. Friends, let us get out and give Christ to others vigourously.
Last year I was speaking to the Junior Sisters in Allahabad on renewal of religious
life. I asked them. ‘Some of you are teachers, some nurses and yet some social workers.
How do you differ from other co workers?’ They were trying to give me some points
which I was not very happy with. Then I said, ‘My dear sisters, you are called to
be committed and to make a real difference in the lives of the children or people.
You are not there as an additional source of income to your congregation or community.
You are there to witness to Christ to whom you have dedicated your lives. If you
are not convinced with this, you better take off your habits and go home.’ I know,
friends, I was a bit hard with my reply. But don’t you think there are so many of
us who just go about lethargically, without taking our call and mission seriously?
Quite often we don’t realize that we tread on the wrong path. Once, a Sardarji wanted
to go to Mumbai from Delhi. He boarded a train and slept in his berth. In the night
he felt very thirsty and so got out drinking water. By the time he returned the
train on which he was traveling had already left. And the train going to Delhi was
at the same platform. He got into the train and slept on the berth which he thought
was his. After some time, he asked the passenger on the lower berth where he is
traveling to. He said, “To Delhi.” And the Sardarji exclaimed, “What a tremendous
progress India has made in the field of Railways! The lower berth is going to Delhi
and the upper berth to Mumbai.” Friends, are we off the track? Is the zeal within
us dying out? Is the flame of commitment in our religious life quenching?
It is worth reflecting how many of us are really pastoral? You may ask me, what
is the measuring stick to consider whether some one is pastoral? I would say, the
more people come to you to receive Jesus or to solve their life problems, the more
pastoral you are. How many people come to you for faith-direction? I know people
come to us to seek direction in temporal matters. For example, if someone has to
put up a building people might come to you to consult what kind of bricks are good,
which cement and which iron is better, etc. Similarly, if some one is planning to
open a school, he/she might come to you to discuss the method of going about or
the method of maintaining discipline, etc. We have proved to be good administrators.
Are we good animators too? Do people come to you to receive Jesus? If not, perhaps
they do not see Christ in us. When I shared these notions with some fathers and
sisters, they counter questioned me: you are saying we are good administrators.
Are we really good administrators? At times, the good name of our institutions is
founded on the goodness built up by the previous people. Aren’t there many others
who run the institutions, may it school or hospital, better than us?
Wherever Jesus went he built up relation with the people. Even the tax collectors
and sinners became his friends and disciples. With how many people have you built
a good relationship? Isn’t our relationship only superficial?
Eucharist brings about a union: a union with God and union with people. Is there
unity among us? Do the people, especially the teachers, doctors, nurses, animators
who are working with us see us united? Is there a common planning and sharing of
the responsibility? Recently, during the Vocation Sunday celebration at St. Joseph’s
College, Allahabad I met a sister who was appearing very sickly and exhausted. I
asked her why she did not rest and ask any other sister to accompany the youth.
She said that nobody else was ready. Isn’t it something surprising? Even when a
member is sick we are not ready to shoulder and share the responsibility. We think
it is her/his duty, let her/him do it by herself/himself. It’s worth asking yourself:
Do I love my sisters and safeguard their good name? Do I allow my sisters to use
their talents to do some good to the society? Am I the victim of crab mentality?
Is there a kind of collaboration within us? Do you collaborate with the Church and
the Church personnel in your common mission? Many a time, there are religious who
are aglow with zeal and want to give their best to spread the love of Christ. But
the community in which they live is not open for such a reach out. Once, a sister
asked her Mother Superior whether she could go for prayer service in the families
with the parish priests. “Why not? Please go. But then be back by 6.30 for our community
prayer.” “Mother, the prayer service is at 6.30 only.” “Oh! In that case I don’t
advise you. You will miss the community prayer.” Friends, this is how, at times,
we make options for our ministry.
Jesus broke himself to be shared with others. The bread that is offered today at
the altar represents each one of us - our life, our personality, our body, our desires
and convictions, our expectations and happiness - our whole being. If we wish to
offer ourselves in sacrifice we have to be broken. Breaking ones' personality is
much painful than breaking the body. When broken for the sake of becoming Eucharist,
no personality is destroyed rather it is made whole through Christ. St. Paul considered
everything as rubbish, so that he may gain Christ and be found in Christ. (Cf. Phil
3:7-9). Though He was in the form of God, Jesus emptied himself, taking the form
of a slave. Therefore God exalted him high (cf. Phil 2:6-9). Let us also earnestly
desire and pray that we get the grace to consider the gains of the world as rubbish
and fulfill the will of the Father. For God wants all those whom he called to be
confirmed to the image of His son (cf. Rom. 8:29).
Do I break myself for others? At times our selfishness blinds us so much that we
forget that we are religious who have sacrificed our lives for the sake of Christ?
Have you ever thought: what indeed have you sacrificed in your lives? Make a list
of all that you are having and all that you are not having in comparison with the
people. I am sure, we have not sacrificed anything except the fact that you don’t
have a husband and I don’t have a wife. We hear at times people making comments:
What do fathers and sisters lack in life? They have every thing … they have comfortable
houses to live in, food on time set at tables to be eaten with forks and spoons,
fashionable clothes to put on, variety of vehicles to move on, invertors and generators
when the electricity fails, go home whenever they want etc, etc … It is indeed worth
reflecting what actually we are sacrificing? If God has endowed us with all that
is necessary am I bringing out a good result in utilizing my energy for the spread
of God’s love. How committed am I to the responsibilities that are given to me?
Quite often as priests and religious we say that we have dedicated our lives for
God and others. In addition to it we say, we have the preferential option for the
poor. Is it really true? We have quite a number of our institutions which are a
source of income to our diocese or congregation. The question is, for what purpose
do we use the money which we collect through our institutions? Is it for our comforts
or for the poor? How much of this money is really spent for the poor?
The wine that is offered resembles our daily sufferings- our pains, sicknesses,
helplessness, the blames and criticisms we bear, the persecutions we undergo - our
every day death. "For while we are still alive, we are always being given up to
death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our own
mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:11).How do we take our daily sufferings? How do we react
when we are criticized, blamed, not given importance or misunderstood? Do we accept
all these with the spirit of Christ, the innocent, yet silent sufferer? Mother Teresa
used to tell the priests, "Father, the drop of water you add to the wine is me."
She wanted to offer herself - her concern, her pains, the passion that ever ignited
within her for the downtrodden and the lost - in the Eucharist, for her to become
the Eucharist. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim
the Lords' death until He comes" (1 Cor 11:26).
I would like to end my reflections with an anecdote: Once there was an estate sale
for a wealthy man who had just died. Among the items up for bid was a painting of
a young man. As the auction progressed, all the furniture and antiques were sold
off at pretty high process. But when the painting of the young man came up for bid,
no one was interested, and the painting remained with the auction house. A maid
whose job was to clean up the auction gallery saw the picture of the young man,
liked it, and asked if she could have it. The chairman of the auction was all too
happy to be relieved of it.
When the maid took the picture home that night, she found a piece of paper hidden
underneath the matting on the back of the picture. On this paper, she found an inscription
that said, “This is a painting of my only son, who died at a young age. Whoever
owns this picture is entitled to all of the proceeds from my estate sale.” Now the
maid who was freely given this picture was very much rich overnight.
God “gave his Son,” for us. Those who take Jesus into their hearts are entitled
to a great inheritance from God.
Dear friends, let us make Eucharist meaningful to our lives. Let us LIVE EUCHARIST.