This weeks Gospel (Matt. 10:26-33) is about being sent to bring the good news. It is not a request, but a command. Jesus’ disciples resisted anyway. If we truly understand and celebrate and live the Eucharist, we understand Jesus’ command and realize that it is just what we do, if we are Christian. Here are two quotes from the 49th Eucharistic Congress that is going on in Quebec City this weekend that should help clarify what I mean when I say, “It is just what we do.”
Cardinal Telesphore Toppo
Archbishop of Ranchi, India
“We are celebrating the Eucharist in a world that is torn apart by discrimination, dehumanized by exploitative socioeconomic structures, often dominated by the selfishness of human greed and avarice, which at times, have unfortunately even been justified by religious principles.”
“The Good News that the world needs today is a society based on brotherhood and sisterhood and lived in sharing. […] Our Eucharistic celebration should enable us to work toward that ideal.”
The Church is the community that, following in the footsteps of the first disciples and apostles, has continued down the centuries to fulfill its mission in the world. When we celebrate the Eucharist we proclaim the great redemptive act of Christ and we commit ourselves to continue his work in the world by living a life of love and sharing. This is what the early Christians did in order to show their identity. They recognized the Lord in the breaking of the Bread and they were recognized as Christians by their sharing of the bread (Acts 2, 44-47)
The Eucharist, therefore, was an act by which they expressed their religious identity, an identity based on their relationship to God and to their fellow human beings. When the Disciples of Christ translate the love of God – which they experience in Christ in the Eucharist – into their everyday lives, into their relationship with each other and with other human beings, then they are building a new society, a new creation.
He then goes on to speak of a Fr. Constant Lievens S.J. who in seven years grew the Christian community in Central and North East India from 58 Catholics to 80,000. How did he do this, he asks? “The answer is” he says, “The Eucharist, the way the Catholics understood, celebrated and lived the Eucharist made all the difference.” Today it is known in India as the ‘Miracle of Chotanagpur’. He points out that Mother Teresa is part of the miracle. As a teenager, Agnes, a young teenage girl heard the missionaries who lived in this part of India give a talk at her school in Albania to promote missionary vocations and to raise funds for their mission. She listened attentively to one of the missionaries who told about what was happening in India, and she decided to go to India to work herself.
“When I was a young Bishop, one day I had the privilege to take Mother Teresa in my car. She was accompanied by three of her Missionaries of Charity Sisters. From them I came to know that Mother Teresa had worked till past midnight re-organizing their community. She was sitting next to me in the front seat and naturally I was feeling timid sitting next to someone like her. But being a true Mother she told me to sit comfortably. This gave me courage. I said: Mother I was told that you worked very late last night. You are not young any more. From where do you get the strength to do all that you are doing? Her reply came with the speed of bullet: JESUS in the Eucharist.
I believe this has been and is the secret of the success of Mother Teresa and of the Missionaries of Charity. Whenever she opened a new community anywhere in the world, she always called it one more Tabernacle. Mother Teresa is an example of how much the Mission of the Church is nourished and driven by the Eucharist.”
Bishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle
Bishop of Imus, Phillippines
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
At one point in his talk Bishop Taigle meditates on the sacrifice of Jesus. Always intent on doing his Father’s will, Jesus accepts the sacrifice of his own human life for the life of his fellow brothers and sisters. And it is this sacrifice that he calls us to remember and give thanks for when we celebrate the Eucharist each Sunday. For as we gather around the altar and are nourished by his body and blood, we are reminded of our call to do the Father’s will – and our call to sacrifice for the sake of our brothers and sisters. “Every time we come to the Eucharist, Jesus renews his unique sacrifice and invites us to share in his worship of self-oblation.”
“Jesus suffered on account of his self-offering for those loved by God. But he never wavered in his sacrifice. In the process he exposed the false gods that people worshipped, erroneous notions of holiness and the blindness of righteous people to the visitations of God. Jesus’ sacrifice uncovered the link between the worship of false gods and insensitivity to the needy. An idolater easily loses compassion for the weak. Though he was judged, Jesus was the one actually judging the untrue worship that kept people blind and deaf to the true God and the poor.”
“The Church that lives the life of Christ and offers his living sacrifice cannot run away from its mission to unearth the false gods worshipped by the world. How many people have exchanged the true God for idols like profit, prestige, pleasure and control? Those who worship false gods also dedicate their lives to them. In reality these false gods are self interests. To keep these false gods, their worshippers sacrifice other people’s lives and the earth. It is sad that those who worship idols sacrifice other people while preserving themselves and their interests. How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god of profit? How many women are being sacrificed to the god of domination? How many children are being sacrificed to the god of lust? How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god of “progress”? How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed? How many defenceless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security?”
There was one part of his speech that was definitely personal and unique. It was a bishop of the church reminding himself and church leaders that they too are vulnerable to the false god of this world:
“The Church however must also constantly examine its fidelity to Jesus’ sacrifice of obedience to God and compassion for the poor. Like those who opposed Jesus in the name of authentic religion, we could be blind to God and neighbors because of self-righteousness, spiritual pride and rigidity of mind. Ecclesiastical customs and persons, when naively and narrowly deified and glorified, might become hindrances to true worship and compassion. I am disturbed when some people who do not even know me personally conclude that my being a bishop automatically makes me closer to God than they could ever be. My words are God’s words, my desires are God’s, my anger is God’s, and my actions are God’s. If I am not cautious, I might just believe it and start demanding the offerings of the best food and wine, money, car, house, adulation and submission. After all, I am “God!” I might take so much delight in my stature and its benefits that I might end up being callous to the needs of the poor and the earth.”
Pope John XXIII
(Quote of inspiration)
“We sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons, who though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times, they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin; they are in the habit of saying that our age is much worse than past centuries; they behave as though history which teaches us about life, had nothing to teach them. We feel we must disagree with those prophets of doom, who are always forecasting disaster.”