In October of last year, John Paul II declared 2005 as the Year of the Eucharist. He did this officially through the Apostolic Letter, “Mane Nobiscum, Domine” (Stay With Us, Lord). The title of the letter alludes to the words of the Disciples on the Way to Emmaus in Luke 24 before they were given to recognize the Lord at the Supper table. The Eucharistic Year, after all, is another stage in the journey of the Pilgrim Church who continues to recognize her Lord at the Breaking of the Bread.
The Eucharistic year however, is not a “feel-good-at-Mass-year”. It involves a lot more than just improving Church attendances. Towards the end of the letter the Pope had this to add:
28. There is one other point which I would like to emphasize, since it
significantly affects the authenticity of our communal sharing in the Eucharist.
It is the impulse which the Eucharist gives to the community for a practical commitment to building a more just and fraternal society. In the Eucharist our God has shown love in the extreme, overturning all those criteria of power which too often govern human relations and radically affirming the criterion of service: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mc 9:35). It is not by chance that the Gospel of John contains no account of the institution of the Eucharist, but instead relates the “washing of feet” (cf.
Jn 13:1-20): by bending down to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus explains the meaning of the Eucharist unequivocally. Saint Paul vigorously reaffirms the impropriety of a Eucharistic celebration lacking charity expressed by practical sharing with the poor (cf.1Cor 11:17-22, 27-34).
Can we not make this Year of the Eucharist an occasion for diocesan and parish communities to commit themselves in a particular way to responding with fraternal solicitude to one of the many forms of poverty present in our world? I
think for example of the tragedy of hunger which plagues hundreds of millions of
human beings, the diseases which afflict developing countries, the loneliness of the elderly, the hardships faced by the unemployed, the struggles of immigrants. These are evils which are present–albeit to a different degree–even in areas of immense wealth. We cannot delude ourselves: by our mutual love and, in particular, by our concern for those in need we will be recognized as true
followers of Christ (cf. Jn 13:35; Mt 25:31-46). This will be the
criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged.
The Eucharistic Lord gives life and gives it to the full. But those who receive Him daily and even weekly should become like He is: life-giving, joy-bringing, peace-making.
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