The Radical Eucharist
I have been trying to understand the Eucharist better offering my take on my learning, reflection, and contemplation of this rite of the Christian Church. The Eucharist is something that some churches do once a week, twice a month, or once a month. Many different ways of understanding this ritual of interacting with this shared meal with this act of remembrance. Each of us probably has our own favorite or preferred way of understanding it.
I see the Eucharist as a way of renewing my commitment to Christ and His Church saying I have been adopted into the family of God to show outwardly, what has been and continues to occur inwardly in my life. It is a profound way of saying I am a Jesus follower. I partake of the bread and wine because I stumble sometimes I fall flat on my face and need the love of the amazing savior we have; I partake of the bread and wine because I don’t always know how to live and need a wonderful Lord. I am glad that Jesus fulfills both of those roles and so much more.
William Cavanaugh: The Eucharist is not just about seeing the world in a certain way, but about acting. In this reality of shared pain, we see the distance between friend and enemy overcome. For the sharing of pain goes beyond a sharing with other members of the Church. If the Church is the Body of Christ, the sacrament and sacrifice for the world, then we are to be broken and given away as food for others.
In the Gospels, Jesus continually makes the point that salvation is not dependent on status or religious observance. Jesus reveals in story after story that God purposely chooses stranger, outcast, foreigner, sick and unclean—the wrong people—to show the limitless, unconditional, boundless nature of God’s love for everyone. Jesus shatters the common assumption that we can and should exclude certain people from the love and grace of God. Jesus offers us a way to let God’s radical grace disrupt the system and to live by faith is to see our story the way God sees it and us.
In the Eucharist, we are taken, give thanks, bless and are blessed, broken, and share at the table of the Lord. The table of the Lord is open to all who seek Christ. The meal of the Lord is free to all who seek Christ. To seek Christ means anyone who seeks love, grace, forgiveness, and healing. To seek Christ is to seek life, life to the full.
Jesus for us the food of truth and love speaks of the gift of his life assuring us that whoever eats this bread will live forever (John 6:51). This “eternal life” begins in us even now stretching on, thanks to the transformation of the Eucharist: the one who feeds on me will live (John 6:57). The words of Jesus makes us realize how the mystery “believed” and “celebrated” contains innate power and presence providing new life within us. By receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the consecrated bread and wine, we become sharers in divine life in an ever more conscious way. We can apply Saint Augustine’s words, in his Confessions. Stressing the mysterious nature of this food, Augustine imagines the Lord saying to him: “I am the food of grown men; grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh, into yourself, but you shall be changed into me.” We are mysteriously transformed by the Eucharistic food. In some way, the Eucharist makes us the people of God the body of Christ; we are to take this identity out into the world. Christ nourishes us by uniting us to himself drawing us into himself.
We are to incarnate the Eucharist in our daily life. We cannot say to have truly partaken of the bread and wine unless in and through this practice we become more and more the people of God.
Archbishop Michael Ramsey, “We state and commend the faith only in so far as we go out and put ourselves inside the doubts of the doubters, the questions of the questioners and the loneliness of those who have lost their way” . One could add we must also put ourselves in the poverty of the poor, the unease of the sick, and the distress of the underpaid.
Service is a sign of God, the very embodiment of love expressing Himself through us. We are given many occasions to serve and experience love and joy. We need to help our needy brothers and sisters to find the love, joy, and hope we ourselves crave. In any situation, especially in crisis we are to respond in love, to be Jesus to the world. Bad things will happen. The key is to love in spite of it all. Hate and despair are realities, our role is to offer love, joy, and hope to a world that desperately in need of it. We can always do something to show the love and grace that has been lavished on us. We can offer our life to others who need to see how much God loves them.
Henri Nouwen: When we claim our own poverty and connect our poverty with the poverty of our brothers and sisters, we become the Church of Jesus. Solidarity is essential for the Church of the poor . Both pain and joy must be shared. As one body, we will experience deeply one another’s agonies as well as one another’s ecstasies. Often, we might prefer not to be part of the body, because it makes us feel the pain of others so intensely. Every time we love others deeply we feel their pain deeply. However, joy is hidden in the pain. When we share the pain, we also will share the joy.
The next time you partake of the bread and wine, consider all the ways you can and should live in remembrance of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Grace and Peace
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