Eucharistic Revival

A 2019 Pew Research survey found that “just one-third of U.S. Catholics agree with their church that [the] Eucharist is [the] body [and] blood of Christ.” In response, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a “Eucharistic revival.” You can learn more at their website, eucharisticrevival.org. Throughout the summer, the usual pastor’s page is replaced by paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s section on the Eucharist and commentary by Fr. Jon. These mini-lessons are always under 300 words.

August 14, 2022

1341 The command of Jesus to repeat his actions and words “until he comes” does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did.  It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their successors, of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father.

1342 From the beginning the Church has been faithful to the Lord’s command.  Of the Church of Jerusalem it is written:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.… Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.

1343 It was above all on “the first day of the week,” Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, that the Christians met “to break bread.”  From that time on down to our own day the celebration of the Eucharist has been continued so that today we encounter it everywhere in the Church with the same fundamental structure.  It remains the center of the Church’s life.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 338.

Sunday is the Lord’s Day.  Every Sunday provides a sabbatical, a rest from work.  Every Sunday is a feast day, a mini-Easter.  Every Sunday Jesus rises to meet our needs.  Can we do more than its liturgical (or ritual) observance?  Can we find work in a such way Monday through Saturday that we can really rest from work on Sunday?  That we can spend quality time with our families, time to break a different sort of bread, time to pray?

August 7, 2022

1339 Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum: giving his disciples his Body and his Blood:

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat it.…” They went … and prepared the passover. And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”.… And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”

1340 By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 338.

Passover liberated Israel from slavery in Egypt, as the Angel of Death passed over the homes marked by the blood of lambs. The Christian Passover liberates the baptized from sin and death because they are marked by the blood of the Lamb of God.

July 31, 2022

1337 The Lord, having loved those who were his own, loved them to the end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love. In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return; “thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament.”

1338 The three synoptic Gospels and St. Paul have handed on to us the account of the institution of the Eucharist; St. John, for his part, reports the words of Jesus in the synagogue of Capernaum that prepare for the institution of the Eucharist: Christ calls himself the bread of life, come down from heaven.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 337–338.

The Eucharist is the most important of the seven sacraments and therefore it is described throughout the New Testament. Besides the biblical references cited in 1338, chapters two and 20 of Acts of the Apostles also mention the celebration of the Eucharist in the early Christian communities. Because we need priests to preside at the Eucharist, we have the sacrament of holy orders. Because we need to be worthy to celebrate the Eucharist (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32), we have the sacrament of penance. These other sacraments are less clearly established in Scripture, but they follow from the importance of the Eucharist.

July 24, 2022

1335 The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ.

1336 The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?”: the Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has “the words of eternal life” and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 337.

Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross? Why do we have to “eat his flesh and drink his blood” to have eternal life? (See John 6:53.) Why is violence the path to salvation? Even in Jesus’ time some turned away on account of these teachings. But it is not violence that saves us. It is love. Jesus goes to the furthest extent necessary to prove his love for us, suffering and death, even feeding us with his very life.

July 17, 2022

1334 In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator.  But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises.  The “cup of blessing” at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 336–337.

The Third Commandment is probably the most neglected: “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Ex 20:9–10).  We are supposed to rest on Sunday and participate in the Eucharist so God can go to work for us.  In the Eucharist, he works to give us the things we can never give ourselves.  Though we are earthly creatures, only heavenly blessings will satisfy us.

July 10, 2022

1333 At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood.  Faithful to the Lord’s command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: “He took bread.…”  “He took the cup filled with wine.…”  The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation.  Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, fruit of the “work of human hands,” but above all as “fruit of the earth” and “of the vine”—gifts of the Creator.  The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who “brought out bread and wine,” a prefiguring of her own offering.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 336–337.

In the first step, the Eucharist is wheat and grapes, the “fruit of the earth,” gifts of the Creator.  In the second step, the Eucharist is bread and wine, the “work of human hands.”  In the final step, the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, gifts of the Redeemer.  Imagine the recipe: Equal parts wheat and grape.  First add human work.  Then add prayer.  Enjoy for eternal life.

So it is with the whole Christian life.  All of us begin with some natural talents, some free opportunities.  We develop them with our blood, sweat, and tears, but they only yield earthly blessings.  If we want what really counts for happiness, we recognize the point where we need to “let go and let God.”

July 3, 2022

1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called: …

1331 Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.  We also call it: the holy things (ta hagia; sancta)—the first meaning of the phrase “communion of saints” in the Apostles’ Creed—the bread of angels, bread from heaven, medicine of immortality, viaticum.…

1332 Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 336.

Mass, Eucharist, and Communion all name the same sacrament.  Mass and Communion are derived from Latin, Eucharist from Greek.  Eucharist tends to be the preferred term in theology class.  Mass and Communion are more commonly used.  By Mass, we may mean the whole liturgy (service) from the Sign of the Cross to the final blessing.  By Communion, we may mean only the consecrated bread and wine received during the Mass.  But all of these names bring out particular facets of this multifaceted sacrament, the greatest of all the sacraments.

Holy Communion, for instance, recalls that the goal of the Eucharist is to bring us into Communion with one another and with God.  It refers to the “Communion of saints” in which we profess belief in the Creed.  Mass comes from the final words of the Mass in Latin, in which we are sent to “glorify the Lord by our lives.”

June 26, 2022

1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called: …

1330 The memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.

The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering.  The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, “sacrifice of praise,” spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used, since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.

The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the Church’s whole liturgy finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this sacrament; in the same sense we also call its celebration the Sacred Mysteries.  We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the Sacrament of sacraments.  The Eucharistic species reserved in the tabernacle are designated by this same name.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 335–336. The Eucharist is real-life time travel.  In a sense, he puts us at the foot of the Cross then outside the empty tomb on that first Easter Sunday.  Mass is divine worship, not history class, so we are not merely recalling what Jesus did; we are experiencing it.  Jesus died and rose again in his human nature, but he remained a divine person and his deeds reverberate through time to us.  So often people say they heard just what they needed to hear that day.  Jesus’ sacrifice for us is timeless and yet it speaks to us in our current time and place.

June 19, 2022

1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called:

Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God.  The Greek words eucharistein and eulogein recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim—especially during a meal—God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.

1329 The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meal, when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread, above all at the Last Supper.  It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection, and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies; by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.

The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 335.

The English Eucharist comes from the Greek word for giving thanks.  In Mass, we give thanks to God for the gift of his Son because his Son gave his life for the life of the world.  We also have so many other particular reasons to thank God, unique to each one of us.

June 12, 2022

1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”  “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.  For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”

1325 “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being.  It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.”

1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.

1327 In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.”

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 334.

I cannot count the times I heard in seminary the expression that “the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.”  Should it not rather be the works of justice and charity inspired by our participation in the Eucharist?  But the Eucharist is not only the source of those graced actions but the summit of Christian life because in the Mass we are one with our brothers and sisters in the worship of God.

June 5, 2022

1322 The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation.  Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.

1323 “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood.  This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.’”

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 334.

A well-trained catechist and even a priest can be caught stating that the sacrament of Confirmation completes Christian initiation.  It seems true because it is the final sacrament of initiation received by Catholic children.  However, consider that the final sacrament of initiation received by adult catechumens at the Easter Vigil is the Eucharist.  They are baptized and confirmed in the third part of the liturgy, but they do not receive Holy Communion until the fourth and final part.  We are not fully initiated until we have received the greatest of all the sacraments.