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Ramiro Pellitero, Professor at School of Theology and author of the blog 'Church and New Evangelization',

The Eucharist, a remedy for individualism

Thu, 30 Jun 2011 10:26:00 +0000 Published in

In a simple and profound way, and also with strength and originality, Benedict XVI has shown the importance of the Eucharist in the present moment of globalization (cf. Corpus Christi Homily, June 23, 2011).

1. "Everything starts, one might say, from the heart of Christ. At the Last Supper, Jesus transforms the bread and wine into his Body and Blood, anticipating his sacrifice on the Cross. The Eucharist is thus born within his prayer, as the fruit of his Love. "For this reason he knows how to thank and praise God even in the face of betrayal and violence, and in this way he changes things, people and the world." And this capacity for transformation is passed on to Christians.

How does this happen? By "receiving communion," by eating the Eucharistic Bread, and through the action of the Holy Spirit, "we enter into communion with the very life of Jesus, in the dynamism of this life that is given to us and through us. And through Christ we participate in the life of the Trinity and at the same time we are deeply united among ourselves, in the Church, the seed of unity in the world.

For this reason, the Pope also explained: "In an increasingly individualistic culture, such as the one in which we are immersed in Western societies, and which tends to spread throughout the world, the Eucharist constitutes a kind of 'antidote' that acts in the minds and hearts of believers and continually sows in them the logic of communion, service, sharing, at summary, the logic of the Gospel"(Angelus, 26-VI-2011).

In this way, he pointed out, one understands the life and effectiveness of the first Christians, as well as that of the martyrs such as those of Abitinia, when they exclaimed, "Without Sunday (that is, without Sunday Mass) we cannot live!" Likewise - because of the Eucharist - the perseverance of Christians oppressed by totalitarian regimes is explained. In any case, Benedict XVI observes, "communion with the Body of Christ is a medicine for the intelligence and the will, to rediscover a taste for truth and the common good"(Ibid.).

2. What are the consequences of this? According to the Pope, communion cannot be understood in an individualistic perspective, since in the Eucharist we become members of the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17). In this way he explains what happens from this very personal contact with Christ: "Our individuality, in this meeting, opens up, freed from its egocentrism and inserted into the Person of Jesus, who in turn is immersed in the Trinitarian communion"(Homily, June 23, 2011). And from there, he stresses, "the Eucharist, while uniting us to Christ, opens us to others, makes us members of one another: we are no longer divided, but are one in Him". More concretely: "Eucharistic communion unites me to the person next to me, with whom, perhaps, I do not even have a good relationship, and it also unites us to our brothers and sisters who are far away, in every part of the world".

From this, Benedict XVI continues, derives "the profound meaning of the Church's social presence, as witnessed by the great social Saints, who were always great Eucharistic souls". This is so, bearing in mind that the Church's presence in society is not restricted to her institutional or "official" presence, through bishops or priests, or through the witness of members of religious life; the Church is also present through the lay faithful (the majority of Christians). The laity do not ordinarily act as official representatives of the Church, but "are Church" in doing the world. That is to say, in them the Church is present as they live and work in society, alongside other citizens, with Christian coherence.

3. The consequences of receiving Eucharistic communion must be manifested in all Christians: "Whoever recognizes Jesus in the Holy Host, recognizes him in the brother who suffers, who is hungry and thirsty, who is a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned; and is attentive to all people, commits himself in a concrete way for all who are in need". In other words: "From the gift of Christ's love comes, therefore, our special responsibility as Christians to build a society of solidarity, justice and fraternity. This takes on special importance in our age of globalization, which makes us more and more dependent on one another: "Christianity can and must ensure that this unity is not built without God, that is, without True Love, which would give rise to confusion, individualism and the oppression of all against all".

All this, which comes from the love of Christ and which appeals to our generosity, is, according to the Pope, the transformation that the world needs, following the path of Christ who is Himself, living with Him. It is not a matter of ideological utopias, nor of mirages. "There is nothing magical about Christianity. There are no shortcuts, but everything passes through the humble and patient logic of the seed of grain that splits to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God." Thus God "wants to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos, through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament".

In conclusion: "The Holy Spirit, who transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, also transforms those who receive him in faith into members of the body of Christ, so that the Church may truly be the sacrament of unity of men and women with God and with one another"(Angelus, 26 June 2011). Thus the Eucharist is, through Christians, a seed of unity and peace in the world, and an antidote to the poison of individualism; for the love that comes from God is stronger than evil, violence and death.