If you’ve been watching or reading the news over the past few months, you’ve probably seen something about the Eucharist in the headlines: Who’s worthy to receive it? If not, should they be denied? Who makes the call? The list goes on and on.
On the bright side, some of the headlines have been positive. On June 10, Pope John Paul II announced a special year dedicated to the Eucharist, beginning this month at the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, and ending next October with the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in Rome.
Heart of Our Faith
Over the years, the Catholic faith—including the Mass—has seen many changes. But through it all, the Eucharist has remained at the heart of what we believe and celebrate.
If you doubt that the Eucharist is something we Catholics hold near and dear, look again at the passion on both sides of the recent arguments over denying Communion to Catholic politicians who support or vote for policies contrary to Church teaching. If the Eucharist didn’t matter, those politicians who felt called to task would have simply ignored the bishops and gone about their daily lives.
The eucharistic celebration we take part in every week has its roots in the Last Supper, when Jesus broke bread and shared it with his disciples, telling them, “Do this in memory of me.”
And so each time we approach the altar to receive the body and blood of Christ, we are reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice and called to receive the Eucharist in his memory.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving’” (#1360).
Rekindling Eucharistic Amazement
But as often can happen—at least with me—when you do things by rote week after week they become just that—routine.
In his 2000 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II made reference to wanting to “rekindle this Eucharistic ‘amazement.’” As I re-read that comment while I was preparing for this column, it got me thinking about how often I go to Mass and receive Communion without truly grasping what an awesome gift it is. I don’t always reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice. I don’t think of things for which I’m thankful. I don’t rejoice in the fact that I’m surrounded by my “family” in the Church. In short, I take it for granted.
• So this year of the Eucharist is a perfect opportunity for us to rekindle our amazement in the Eucharist. Here are some suggestions for how to do just that:
• First and foremost, take advantage of the opportunity to receive the Eucharist. It’s always a good reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made and the promise that he is always with us—if we’re open to it.
• Because of its origins, the Eucharist is often compared to a large meal. So why not gather family and friends together to share a meal? If you want to make it even more special, cook a dish that has certain significance, such as a family recipe that has been passed down through the generations.
• Remember that just like many things in life, taking part in the Sacrament of the Eucharist comes with some responsibilities. Make sure you’re spiritually prepared when you receive Communion.
• I’ll be honest: Most of the time my family’s meals are less than prayerful experiences. Nonetheless, we still try to reflect the meaning of the eucharistic celebration as we gather for dinner. One way to set the right tone is by beginning with a family prayer. Have each family member take turns leading the prayer.
Next Month: Veterans Day