The Eucharist: Body of Christ, Broken for the World

Christ's TableThe Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, no. 11). In the Eucharistic Liturgy and our prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we encounter God’s presence in personal and profound ways. But the Eucharist is also social, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love): “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented” (no. 14). The Eucharist, celebrated as a community, teaches us about human dignity, calls us to right relationship with God, ourselves, and others. As the Body of Christ, it sends us on mission to help transform our communities, neighborhoods, and world. Church teaching, rooted in both Scripture and Tradition, emphasizes both the personal and social natures of the Eucharist. The words of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI’s,  challenge and move us to encounter Christ in the Eucharist in ways both personal and social.

We experience the Eucharist as a community.

The Eucharist draws each of us closer to Christ as individuals, but also as a community. As Catholics, we never really worship alone. At the Eucharistic Liturgy, we gather with the young and old, the rich and poor, as well as millions around the world and the saints in heaven, to celebrate Christ’s sacrifice. This powerful reality reminds us, in the words of Pope John Paul II: “A truly Eucharistic community cannot be closed in upon itself”,(Ecclesia de Eucharistia [On the Eucharist], no. 39); rather the Eucharist challenges us to recognize our place within a community and the human family.

The Eucharist moves us and inspires us to respond.

In the Eucharist, the boundlessness of the Father’s love “springs up within us a lively response” that causes us to “begin to love” (Dominicae Cenae, no. 5). Contemplating Christ’s sacrifice for the world in need, we are compelled to follow his example. Drawn “into the very dynamic of his self-giving” we are moved to self-giving action in solidarity with the members of our human family who face injustice (Deus Caritas Est, no. 13). St. John Chrysostom’s words in the fourth century become real for us as we reflect on Matthew 25:31-46: Do you wish to honor the Body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked.

The Eucharist prepares us for mission.

In the face of the sin and injustice we see present in our communities and in our world, the Eucharist “plants a seed of living hope in our daily commitment to the work before us,” challenging us to live “Eucharistic” lives. It affirms our role as citizens and as men and women in various professions at different levels of society in “contributing with the light of the Gospel to the building of a more human world, a world fully in harmony with God’s plan.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 20)

An Excerpt from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops article.

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