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Eucharist:
Say Yes!

by Mary Cummins Wlodarski

(A summary of this month's Youth Update)
If you would like to preview a future edition in Youth Update's private online chat room, contact CarolAnn@franciscanmedia.org.

Young people preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation spent a Saturday afternoon serving lunch at an area soup kitchen. As an adult working with them, I wandered the tables pouring coffee.

The people finishing their lunches seemed as hungry for conversation as they were for food. Time and again, I paused, coffeepot in hand, to listen to their stories. Each conversation ended with, "Thank you, ma'am."

Immediately after soup-kitchen clean-up, I went to Saturday evening Mass where I was a Communion minister. As I held up and distributed each host, I looked into the face in front of me. "Body of Christ" was answered with a quiet "Amen." It hit me that there was a strong connection between these two events. Earlier, we had been serving our brothers and sisters in the family of God. We had offered them needed physical nourishment and warm companionship.

Then, at Mass, I had the great honor of giving the Body of Christ to my brothers and sisters. Now the nourishment was the very Body and Blood of Jesus, and the companionship was our loving God and supportive Church.

The Eucharist, the Body of Christ, became the lens through which I saw all of us, as members of Christ's body: those in need, those in pain, the elderly, the young, the poor. In this Youth Update, I trace the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ and I marvel at our own ability to be one with that Body in so many wonderful ways.

1. Word and Story

Jesus is present at Mass through the unfolding of story. We hear the inspired narrative of God's people in Scripture. We hear letters from long-dead preachers who still speak directly to our hearts and lives. We also hear the life of Jesus in the Gospels.

2. Presider and Priest

As the leader of our shared prayer, the priest is our continuing representation of how God is incarnate. (Incarnation is the word for how God became human, in Jesus, to be with us.) Through Baptism, we are called into a special type of "priesthood" where we are "priests" of Christ just because we live as true believers.

3. Assembly

The Eucharist is not something we watch. Eucharist is a celebration, a joyful meal shared together. We eat together, at Communion time, exactly as the first apostles and disciples ate with Jesus at the Last Supper. The risen Christ promises to be with us whenever we gather. We believe that promise. Our active participation demonstrates our belief.

4. Bread and Wine

Without the nourishment of food, our bodies die. Without the nourishment of the Eucharist, our spirits would be weak and dry. When the bread and wine at Mass are blessed, broken and shared, they become the body and Blood of Christ. We too offer ourselves to God be blessed, broken and shared. In a most meaningful way, we really are what we eat!

5. Communion

Saying Amen is saying yes. We need to understand what Eucharist is, what the "Body of Christ" means, so we can fully understand to what we are saying "Amen." Eucharist is where we experience the Real Presence of Jesus.

There are many ways we do this in our celebration of the Mass. The Eucharist is our meal, our time of thanksgiving and our participation in the great sacrifice of Jesus. Christ is revealed to us in our sacred Scripture, through our priest presiders, in our assembly, and becomes present in our bread and wine. Receive the Body of Christ. Amen!

Tiffinie Elliot, youth minister at St. Mary Parish in Franklin, Ohio, gathered Dan Brown (14), Abigail A. Wellbrock (15) and Rachel Wellbrock (16) to preview this issue of Youth Update.

 

Q.

How does the Church get the hosts which are consecrated and why do they look like they do?

A.

Churches get the hosts from companies that make them and ship them to church supply stores. The bread used at Mass must be unleavened, that is, no ingredients that make bread rise (like yeast or baking soda) may be in the bread. This makes it like the bread that Jesus used at the Last Supper. In the earliest Christian Church, the bread used for Eucharist looked much like any other bread. Our present flat, round hosts came into use around the ninth century when people received the Eucharist very rarely and only on the tongue. It was just more practical to make the hosts small and easy to swallow. But many churches today, in an effort to be faithful to the vision of Eucharist taught by Church documents, are returning to using unleavened bread that comes in loaves.

Q.

When the priest consecrates the wine, he says, "so that sins may be forgiven." Is that only true of the wine or Blood of Christ? I don't usually receive both the Body and Blood and that worries me.

A.

Not to worry—whenever you receive the consecrated host you receive both the Body and Blood of Christ. (For a number of years, we only received the bread at Mass!) The phrase you quote is from the Gospel of Matthew, which tells us the importance of receiving the Eucharist. Therefore, I want to encourage you to receive both the Body and the Blood when you attend Mass. Our celebration of the Eucharist is certainly enriched by the return of the common cup to the Mass. Jesus did ask us to eat and drink.

Q.

You say Jesus is really present in the Eucharist and I believe that. But isn't Jesus really present other times as well?

A.

Of course Jesus keeps his promise to be with us always. But there is a difference between Jesus being really present and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Real Presence means that Jesus is not just remembered at Mass but is actually there, truly and particularly, in a way that can only happen in this sacrament. This too is what Jesus promised us at the Last Supper when he commanded us, "Do this in memory of me." We accept this on faith as part of God's great love for us.

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