Revive Alive, Jan. 20, 2023
- The Eucharistic Revival in the Diocese of Colorado Springs
The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren:
‘You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother, . . . You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food someone judged worthy to take part in this meal . . . God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become more merciful.’ — Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1397 (quote from St. John Chrysostom).
One of the persistent challenges that influences Catholic life is that we tend to classify our faith and fellow Catholics in terms of “progressive” and “traditional.” This is a false narrative but it is still powerful because many Catholics (and media when reporting on Catholic issues) use these kinds of terms.
Some describe themselves as “social justice Catholics” and tend to prefer that the Church focus more on issues of service to the poor, advocating for the marginalized, and other matters clearly expressive of the corporal works of mercy. Others as “traditional Catholics,” having a stronger attraction to issues of morality, liturgy, and are more inclined to exercise the spiritual works of mercy. This distinction holds more in our perceptions than in reality, but the perceptions exist, nonetheless.
There are a variety of opinions about the Eucharistic Revival. Some view this effort as a cover for political purposes and a misuse of resources (time and money) that could be used in other ways. Others see the Revival as an opportunity to enforce compliance with liturgical norms and enforce certain liturgical practices as normative. The variety of concerns and priorities tend to express themselves in those camps of “liberal” and “conservative” — social justice vs. liturgy/morality.
In reality, however, there is no opposition between an increased reverence for the Eucharist and a more active service to the poor. And so perhaps the Eucharistic Revival is a time to move away from those tired (and false) monikers toward an altogether different self-understanding of being an “integrated” Catholic: someone who, for example, sees that deeper love for the Eucharist and deeper love for the poor are mutually implied, not mutually exclusive. To do the one as a Christian requires that we do the other. In other words, if you want to serve the poor and marginalized better, spend more time with Jesus in the Eucharist. If you really love Jesus in the Eucharist, you will live that love in concrete expressions of service and self-giving.
A terrific example of such an “integrated Catholic” is St. Teresa of Calcutta. The founder of the Missionaries of Charity had a great love of Jesus in the Eucharist from her childhood. This only increased over time. Her deep desire to “put love where there is not love” (St. John of the Cross) was a practical expression of her profound awareness of Jesus’ own eucharistic mission. Mother Teresa continued Jesus’ own mission through her work and that of the Sisters in some of the most harrowing situations. These women can do what would frighten most of us because they spend a lot of time with Jesus in adoration, thus becoming more strongly established in his love.
Mother Teresa once wrote to the missionaries, “To make our lives a true sacrifice of love, we will consciously and actively enter into the spirit of the eucharistic sacrifice and offer ourselves with Christ to be broken and given to the poorest of the poor, . . . so that they may have life and may have it in abundance.”
Early each day, the sisters begin with Mass and a time of eucharistic adoration. They dedicate time to better recognize Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament so that they can better recognize him in the disguise of the poor. Built up and renewed by the Lord, the missionaries then are able to bring him to those who need him most — the abandoned, the forgotten, the starving, the dying. Not only did Mother Teresa see no conflict between eucharistic devotion and generous service to others, she understood the necessary connection between the two.
“The Eucharist and the poor are inseparable,” she said. “This is not anything new for the Church, for we can clearly see it in the Gospels. The One who said, ‘This is my body’ is the same one who said, ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat’” (cf. Matthew 26:26; 25:35).
As we read in 1 John 4:20-21, “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate a brother or sister are liars, for those who do not love a brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
How do we apply this in our own lives? Well, the first may be to recognize and admit which of Jesus’ commandments we favor and which we avoid. Do I have a deep love for the Sacrifice of the Mass and want to see greater love for Jesus in the Eucharist? Good! How does that extend itself in living Jesus’ own command to “do this in memory of” him? Does Jesus’ self-sacrificial love lead me to imitate him in laying down my life for others — Family, neighbors, others in need, even the ones that I tend to avoid?
Do I have a zealous energy for the poor and marginalized? Excellent! Where does that come from and where does it lead? Am I just giving them “my” love? Or can time with the Eucharist so transform me that it becomes Jesus loving them through me? How can the Eucharist help me to love others even more? If we love Jesus in the poor, how can we not love him in his True Presence in the Eucharist?
As Mother Teresa said, “These desires to satiate the longings of our Lord for souls of the poor — for pure victims of his love — go on increasing with every Mass and Holy Communion.”
One great hope for these years of Eucharistic Revival is not only a growth in devotion and love for the Eucharist, but a great conversion of heart for every Catholic to live more authentically and passionately the spirituality of the Eucharist — conversion, not just compliance. Jesus’ ministry had a two-fold dynamic; “Come and see,” then “go and do,” — Encounter and Mission. One without the other is incomplete. It starts with loving Jesus in his True Presence in the Eucharist. It continues with loving Jesus in my neighbor. This is a well-integrated Catholic faith.
Mother Teresa, lover of Jesus in the Eucharist and lover of Jesus in the poor, pray for us!