October 26, 2007


The Eucharist is an absolutely free gift

Jesus Christ, who “through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God” (Heb 9:14), makes us, in the gift of the Eucharist, sharers in God’s own life. This is an absolutely free gift, the superabundant fulfillment of God’s promises. The Church receives, celebrates and adores this gift in faithful obedience (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis #8).

How often do we pay attention to the fact that going to Mass and receiving Christ in the Eucharist is “an absolutely free gift?” How many times do we attend Mass because it’s the right thing to do, with the best of intentions, but come away forgetful that we have just experienced the most intimate communion with God?

Our faith tells us that God has reached out to us—and given us the gift of freedom from death and despair. God has liberated us from evil, from the powerful grasp of selfishness and sin, by allowing us to become sharers in his divine life.

In Jesus Christ, and in the Eucharist by which the Lord is really present to us—body and blood, soul and divinity—we are set free from all worry and anxiety and fear. “This is an absolutely free gift, the superabundant fulfillment of God’s promises”(#8).

How often do we forget? How often do we fail to say thank you to God for this wonderful gift, the personal encounter with Jesus Christ and with his body, the Church, which we experience in the Eucharist?

Reflecting on what an amazing, undeserved gift the Eucharist is should help us get beyond the petty squabbles that happen in and around the celebration of Mass.

Whether it’s an argument over the return of the traditional Latin Mass or a difference of opinion concerning gestures, music or Mass times, it’s hard to see how any of these things could obscure the fact that we are being invited to share in God’s own life through our full, conscious and active participation in the celebration of this incredible mystery of faith. We are human, and we forget. That’s why the Church calls us back to the sacrament at least once a week on the Lord’s Day to remind us that we are called to receive, celebrate and adore this gift in faithful obedience.

Since the reform of the liturgy following the Second Vatican Council, we have heard a lot about the aspect of liturgical worship we call “celebration.” We have emphasized the unifying and community-building dimension of the Eucharistic banquet.

Given the realities of our contemporary culture, it is very important to be reminded that this is a sacred meal which was first celebrated at the Last Supper in observance of the Jewish Passover. It is also necessary to affirm that the Mass is not a private devotion, but a celebration that is undertaken by the faith community in union with the whole Church.

In recent years, however, there has also been a renewed appreciation for the ways in which we are called to “adore this gift.” Eucharistic adoration is one of the most powerful forms of prayer available to us—placing ourselves in the Lord’s presence in a most concrete and spiritually profound way.

Where eucharistic adoration flourishes, parish communities frequently experience a renewed spiritual vitality, a new commitment to evangelization and social justice, and, in many cases, an increase in vocations to ordained ministry, religious life and lay ecclesial ministry. Adoration helps us to be conscious of the gift that the Eucharist is—and to express our gratitude in prayer and in service to others.

Let’s not squabble over the way the Eucharist is celebrated. Instead, let’s pay attention to the absolutely free gift we have received and be thankful.

God is with us, and we are united with one another, in this most amazing expression of divine generosity.

May we grow in our ability to receive, celebrate and adore the holy Eucharist. And may this sacrament of God’s love inspire and empower us to love and give generously in return.

—Daniel Conway

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