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How Is the Eucharist the Center of Catholic Life? | Thomas Groome | 9.12.2011


[MUSIC PLAYING] My name is Bob Newton. I’m the interim director of
the Church in the 21st Century Center, which is the sponsor of
this event and a whole series of other events that are
planned for this semester. And if you don’t have a
copy of C21 Resources, make sure you have one
before you leave today, because in the center is a
list of all the programs, most of which focus on the
Eucharist that we’re sponsoring this fall. The Church in the
21st Century Center was founded nine years ago by
Father Leahy, the President of Boston College as
Boston College’s response to the clerical sexual abuse
crisis in the Catholic Church. We have four focal issues, let’s
see if I can remember them. Sexuality in the
Catholic tradition, roles and relationships
in the church, the Catholic
intellectual tradition, and handing on the faith. And we have in addition
to C21 Resources and the program we
sponsor each semester, we have a very robust website. The address of which you can
also find in this publication. I usually don’t
introduce people. I always ask someone
else to do it. But I couldn’t pass up the
chance to introduce Dr. Groome. I’m going to introduce
him by the numbers. I don’t know whether you are
familiar with Time Magazine or lots of other
magazines that attempt to get your attention by
putting a great big number and then getting you
to read the snippet. So I’ll read you the first one. First word is 2,500
and it says, this is the number of pennies used
by Jason West of Vernal, Utah to pay a disputed
$25 medical bill. He was cited for
disorderly conduct. The fine for which
would be up to $140. But if you go regularly to, as
they say [INAUDIBLE] magazine sale, and you see
the number 36, that was the number of
earthquakes last week. But anyway. There are two words
that come to my mind when I think of Dr. Groome. And the first word is prolific. So I’m going to tell
you some of the numbers that you can read off of his
resume or curriculum vitae. First of all, 9. 9 is the number of books
he has written or edited, including the latest, which just
came out, Will There Be Faith? And I’m sure he’ll
talk about that and let you know
that we’re sponsoring an event a little
later in the fall where he will launch that book. Four is the number of widely
used Curriculum Series that he has authored. And when I say widely
used, he is probably– the books that he has, and the
series that he has authored are probably, are
certainly the most widely used in North America. 200 is the number of
articles that he’s published in scholarly or
popular Catholic magazines. 1,000 is the number
of presentations he has made in
the past 35 years, including the keynote addresses
to the major conferences of religious educators, every
one of these conferences in North America. 19 is the number of countries
besides the United States where he has lectured, including
some that I don’t even know where they are on the globe. Eight is the number of
national TV and radio channels and programs where
he’s been interviewed. And 1,240 is the number
you get when you add up all these previous numbers. Prolific may be
an understatement. The second word that comes
to my mind is generous. The Church in the
21st Century Center will celebrate its 10th
anniversary next year. During that time, Tom has been
a devoted and imaginative member of this Church in the 21st
Century steering committee. And as someone involved
in the C21 initiative since its inception, I
can’t remember a time when we asked Tom to lend
his ideas, his insights, or his gifts for
communication to our work. I can’t remember a time when
we asked him to do anything, that he refused. In fact, Karen Kiefer
sent me an email this morning with another idea,
and at the very end of it said, and maybe we can get
Tom Groome to do this. So generous to a
fault, but Tom we’re going to continue
to keep asking. So it’s my great pleasure
to introduce an old friend. We’ve both been
at Boston College for at least 30 years,
Professor Thomas Groome who is going to speak about
how the Eucharist is at the center of Catholic life. Please welcome Dr. Groome. Well, I’m delighted. Thank you for coming. It’s a testimony to your own
appreciation of the Eucharist, and your own commitment to it,
and so on, and the centrality of it to your own
life that you would turn up on a Monday
evening at 5:30 and settle in for an hour
or so of conversation. Somebody said to me a little
while ago, a tough time to be talking to a group. And I said, not at all, no, no. This is my favorite time. This is when I get a lot
of agreement from people, on a Monday evening around
5:30, quarter to 6:00. You look around you
in a little while and you’ll see all
kinds of people. You’ll see a few even
agree with me permanently. So we’re going to ramble
through the next hour or so together gently. And I will engage you in
the conversation as well. It’s usually not my style
to talk for 50 minutes and then ask you if
you’ve any questions. Instead I’ll talk
for 10 or 15 minutes and then ask you
about your thinking, and then talk for
another 10 or 15 minutes and ask you what
you’re thinking again, and then ask you
another few minutes, and then ask you what you
learned in school today and so on, so that we’ll be
gentle with ourselves as we go through the
conversation, really, that I want to create
with you around the theme of the Eucharist. So central, really,
it is in many ways the pearl of great price. And especially in
Catholic Christian faith. It is a unique kind
of feature to who we are, and so central
to our spirituality and to our identity and so on. So thank you, welcome. Bob recommended the
publication the C21 Resource is an excellent publication. And do pick it up because
I’ll be coming back to it a number of times throughout
the evening as well. And there’s wonderful
reading in there. So it’s a great issue
of the C21 Resources. Eucharist is the center
of Catholic life. And I’m going to go through some
very basic kind of questions. In fact, you’ll be at one
point wondering, I mean, this is terribly obvious. I mean, why do I even come? It’s so self-evident
in many ways. And yet, don’t be lulled
into a false security for a little while,
because it can become tremendously substantive. Well, we bring our
questions to why do we think Eucharist
is at the heart and soul of our Catholic
faith and of our identity and our spirituality as a
Catholic Christian people? Now this is where it
seems so obvious at first. Indeed, at the end it
will still be obvious. Eucharist is central
to us because Jesus is central, and is at
the heart and center of our Catholic Christian faith. Now, I put in the possibility
that maybe a new or a renewed awareness for us, and maybe
I should put a question mark there. Is this a renewed awareness,
the centrality city of Jesus to our faith? As I said, it seems
so self-evident. And yet, the catechism of
the Catholic Church, the CCC, that’s what I mean by that if I
come back to those references, states very clearly that the
heart and soul of our faith is not the Bible, not
the sacraments, not the dogmas, the doctrines,
not the commandments, not the church. But at the heart of our
faith we find a person. The person of Jesus of Nazareth
the only son from the father. Now you might say– I’ve a little 10-year-old boy. When I say things that are
obvious he often says duh, isn’t that evident? Well in some ways for us
as Catholic Christians, it is a kind of a
renewed awareness. There was an interesting
essay in the New York Times the Sunday after Pope John Paul
II passed away and went home to God. And the heading was
“An Evangelical Pope”. And then went on
to say that wasn’t it rather interesting,
even somewhat amazing, how often he as pope
of the Catholic Church talked about Jesus. And the writer,
obviously, was somewhat amazed that he would
be foregrounding Jesus as at the heart and soul
of our Catholic faith. I have a friend who often, when
he’s bored at family gatherings or cocktail parties
or whatever, he likes to play association of ideas. And he swears that–
and he does it around politics, sports,
all kinds of topics. But he swears that this is
true, that when he does it around religion, if he
says to people Baptist, people typically say Bible. If you say to them evangelical,
they typically say Jesus. But if you say to them Catholic,
they typically say church. And in a sense,
we’re almost more conscious of the church
being at the heart and soul of our faith. And there’s some good historical
and theological reasons why we take the
church so seriously. And it is indeed our
assembly of God’s people and the body of
Christ in the world. And we’re a communal
faith, rather than an individualized faith et. Cetera, et. Cetera. And yet, there is
a tendency we can have as Catholic Christians to
fall into a kind of a church idolatry. And we can exaggerate
the importance of it, which isn’t to say that
it isn’t important. It’s simply to say
that it’s not central, that the heart and
soul of our faith is this Jesus of Nazareth,
the only son from the father. And I love how the
catechism puts it, because if you go
back to it, it says, it’s Jesus of Nazareth, the
only son from the father. In other words, it’s
the Christ, the Jesus of history, this fellow who
walked the roads of Galilee, inviting, come follow me, who
preached this radical love, even of enemies, who fed the
hungry, six different accounts or six accounts of the feeding,
there’s only two miracles, reported six times
in the New Testament. The miracle of the
Resurrection and the miracle of the loaves and fishes. It’s twice in Mark,
twice in Luke. And then the details vary
a little 4,000, 5,000, seven fish, five fish, how
many loaves, five loaves, but how many fish? But it must have been a central
aspect of his public ministry. It gets recorded and
repeated in all four gospels, and as I said in
two of them, twice. Welcomed the marginalized,
extraordinary inclusivity in his table fellowship. We’ll come back and maybe say
a little about that later. In fact, one of
the first times we find them plotting to
kill him, in Mark’s gospel is because of the people
he’d been eating with, this radical inclusively that
he had to his table fellowship. Claimed to fulfill Isaiah
61, the great promise, that the spirit of
God was upon him and had anointed him to bring
good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free, fulfilled in Luke 4,
verse 16 of the following. All of the full references I
think will be in your handout. Claimed to be the way, the
truth, and the life and so on. In other words, this
Jesus of history who modeled it, who lived
it, who preached it, this radical gospel. And yet also the Christ
of faith, the Son of God, the second person of
the blessed trinity, who by his [INAUDIBLE] mystery,
by his life, death, and Resurrection, made possible
for people to follow the way, to live as disciples. And then as Paul puts it,
by God’s abundant grace in Christ Jesus we can. Not only did he model it,
and preach it, and teach it, but also in our
faith we believe made it possible to so live
this life of discipleship. Again, now the
documents of our church constantly now
come back to this– not to fall into
a Christomonism, as the theologians
call it, as if Christ is all we believe in,
because Jesus revealed God to us as a God of
unconditional love, and sends the Holy
Spirit, who is now God’s love effective
and active in the world. We often say grace, et. Cetera. But the whole thing,
the whole ball of wax of our Christian faith
is centered through him, in him, with him. And that’s what defines who
we are as a people of faith is this Jesus of Nazareth,
the only son from the father. And the documents of
our church constantly now are calling is back to this. The General Director
for Catechism says that all
preaching, all teaching should put people in communion
and intimacy with Jesus Christ, and that our Christian faith is
not simply a system of beliefs, our values are of
teachings or practices. It is all of that. But ultimately, it’s a call
to full and sincere adherence to his person, and the decision
to walk in his footsteps. In other words, it’s all
about living as his disciples. Now, what I’m
going to propose is that if we recenter Jesus at
the heart and soul of our faith, and we’ll come to
Eucharist, of course, as giving us a particular
kind of intimacy and access to the presence of
the risen Christ in our inner life of faith. But I think it could give
us a whole new apologetic. Apologetics if you’ll recall
from, maybe some of you had those courses in high
school as I did years ago. Apologetics comes from the
Latin apologeticas, which means both to defend and to persuade. In other words, what is
the rationale for our faith and for inviting people
to Christian faith. And I think this re-centering
of Jesus gives us– new apologetics is
an exaggeration. It’s really a
renewed apologetics, because when you look
at the apologetics of the early Christian church,
people like Justin Martyr and Cyril of Jerusalem,
and so on, what you find is a whole persuasive rhetoric. It’s not a kind of an
authoritarianism or coercion or a threat of hell or
the promise of heaven. So much of our apologetics
moved into that kind of tone. And at times, often was
more determined to prove that we were the one true faith
and everybody else fell short somehow, and so on. And some historical
context explain some of that the polemics
of the Reformation, all the rest of it. But the apologetics we find in
the early Christian communities were much more ones of
persuasion of enticement, not of coercion or of threat. And the church has used threat
to bring to brow beat people more often than not. And it’s history. When you look into the Middle
Ages, the late Middle Ages, and even into the recent
times, the whole fear of hell and the promise of heaven was
very often the kind of rhetoric or the kind of persuasion
that we tried to mount. I was fascinated
when Benedict was in this country, Pope
Benedict the 16th, the kind of
persuasive apologetic, he constantly
mounted around Jesus. Now I happened to be
in a public forum, and making commentary on his
sermons for a media outlet. So I had a copy of
them ahead of time and I was reading
them very carefully. And I suppose I was expecting
a much more traditional kind of rhetoric and kind of
apologetic for Christian faith. And instead, he
was constantly kind of appealing to people’s
desires, to people’s needs, to people’s best hopes. He was– the most vivid
experience [INAUDIBLE] with the youth at
Dunwoody when he met with a whole
assembly of young people. And he was saying to them,
do you want to be truly free? And they say, yeah. Do you want to be, you want
to have a wonderful life? Yeah. Do you want to be truly happy? Yeah. Well follow Jesus Christ. I don’t do a German
accent very well. But it was kind
of this, kind of, this is a great way
to live your life. And I went back and I
checked old Aristotle about rhetoric and persuasion. And Aristotle talked about
the rhetoric of persuasion as engaging pathos,
logos, and ethos. Pathos is appealing to people’s
deepest needs and desires. Logos is appealing to
the rational coherence of your position, in our case
Catholic faith’s truth claims. Ethos, and again, the old
Greeks knew this very well. Plato, Aristotle
they all wrote about, what was the basis of
persuasive rhetoric. Well, the good
fruits that something could lead to in people’s lives. Now when you bring those pathos
logos, ethos, to look at Jesus, then there’s a
powerful way in which he can appeal to
people’s needs, people’s desires to become fully alive. That logos can appeal to the
rational coherence of our truth claims. And the ethos to
the good fruits, the consequences in daily
life that Christian living can bring to any one of us. I often think what
an extraordinary life I would live, what
an amazing person I would be if I would
faithfully follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth. I mean, just imagine
how faithful, how loving, how hopeful, how
compassionate, how inclusive, how integral, how hospitable,
how you name it, how truthful, how what an amazing
life to live. When he said I am the way,
the truth, and the life, he really wasn’t kidding. That this is an amazing
way to live one’s life. And as I said
earlier, we believe that by the grace
of God, there’s abundant grace that this Pascal
mystery releases, catalyzes into human history
that we can so live. So that it’s just
an amazing kind of, it’s a whole different
kind of apologetic than what we’ve
typically mounted, at least the one that I
encountered a while ago. But nonetheless, it
was alive and well for many centuries
in the church. So this re-centering of Jesus at
the heart and soul of our faith is a very significant
move for us. And in some ways, I suppose
especially in difficult times, it’s how our faith can
survive and thrive, even when we’re
disappointed, scandalized. I did some interviews last week
and radio around this new book. And I was just
amazed at the amount of emails I received, but
also, the amount of commentary on the website of these
particular radio stations. And so many of them
from people who had been deeply hurt, who’ve
been deeply alienated, who have been
horribly scandalized. Some of them, I mean, very
painful, and some of them very violent toward what I
was proposing, because anyway, I don’t want to just advertise. I’m not I’m just
advertising the book. But thank you, Bob,
for mentioning it. But the book is about,
Will There Be Faith? And people saying the
sooner we can get rid of this faith and this church,
the better off we’ll be, the better life will be. This was coming from
just an avalanche. And I just suddenly
realized all over again how hurt, how scandalized,
how wounded people have been by the scandals
of the recent years, and what dreadful damage
it has done to our faith, to our church, to its
reputation in the world. So how do we regather ourselves? How do we how do we
keep faith alive, a great vibrant
living life-giving Catholic Christian faith. Some of it to me,
and as I said, now you’ll be disappointed you even
came this evening because I said something so obvious. But some of it is that
we regather around Jesus. And then we reclaim
the centrality of Jesus in the Catholic
Christian faith. And that whenever
years from now, when somebody says
Catholic, people will say Jesus, rather than
immediately saying church. Because Jesus should
trump everything about us, including church. Which isn’t at all to say that
the church isn’t important or anything like that. It’s simply to say how do
we refocus and prioritize. And I think it’s in this
context that we will truly come to appreciate the
extraordinary gift, the pearl of great price that we
have in the Eucharist. But I promised you
that I’d bring you into the conversation. So let me ask you
a quick question before you ask me some. What would be your
responses to the whole image of re-centering Jesus
at the heart and soul of Catholic Christian faith? Like, what’s just your own
tummy talk reaction to that? And what’s the
best reason you can think of at this point in time
for being a Catholic Christian? Because we can
certainly think of, there’s lots of reasons
out there people can give for why not to be. But as we reclaim the
potential, and the possibility, and the giftedness of this
extraordinary tradition, what comes to mind for you as
a particularly persuasive apologetic on its behalf? Think about that for a moment. Re-centering centering Jesus,
what’s the best reason we have? What’s the rationale we
can give for the hope that is in us as first Peter
the epistle puts it? Think about that, see what
comes to mind for you. Which way to Jesus? Well, we have access to
Jesus through the church. And as of course,
especially when we assemble, where two or three are
gathered I am there among them. The whole sense that Paul’s
notion repeated many times, in one spirit we are all
baptized into one body. So we have this deep sense
that we get access to Jesus through the faith community. And we have that
sense that when we assemble for worship,
for our liturgy, that indeed the presence
of the risen Christ within the faith
community itself. But then the
presence of the risen Christ to us through
the community in the midst of the world
that the church is certainly– but the church is
a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. I suppose that’s
the emphasis that I want to raise up with us. We know that we come to
him, we have access to him through scripture and tradition. This word made flesh in
Jesus that God’s word was made flesh in the presence,
we believe the presence of the divine presence
in human history. That God became one of ourselves
in this Jesus of Nazareth, and that we do have
this access, especially both to the historical Jesus
and to the Christ of faith through the scriptures
and the traditions. The word of God is
living and active. It is to be a living
and active word. I love the quote from Isaiah,
the word from my mouth shall not return to me empty but
shall do the will, do my will, achieving the purpose
for which I sent it. So, the power of God’s
word to give us access to the risen Christ, to God’s
self-disclosure in human time and place, to God’s
word for our lives, now. And being familiar
with those scriptures, cherishing those scriptures,
going to those scriptures, encountering Jesus
through those scriptures, encountering God’s grace, the
presence of the Holy Spirit, the whole gamut of our faith
has to be indeed accessed through our scriptures
and traditions. But then, as Catholic
Christians especially, we talk about Eucharist
as this real presence, as this body and blood presence. And you can’t get any more
real than body and blood presence of this
risen Christ Jesus. Again, I just simply
quote from the catechism, Christ is present
most especially in the Eucharistic species. And the catechism has
listed all the ways in which Christ is present,
in the assembly gathered, in the word proclaimed. And then it says yes,
and most especially in the Eucharistic species. And goes on and says
that the real, it’s real. The presence is real because
it is a substantial presence. That’s an old language that
most of us grew up with. And the theologians
have other words, trans-essence,
trans-finalization, trans-signification
and so on to talk about how is Jesus present. And I’ll come back
in a moment and say, I think the question of
how is he present is not as important as why is he present? What’s he present for? But at least in
traditional language we’ve had for talking
about how Jesus is present is this notion
of trans-substantiation. And you’ll all remember
this from high school days and other times, that the
appearances of bread and wine remain, yet the
substance changes into the presence of
their risen Christ, all by the power of the
Holy Spirit, working through the action of the
priest who resides in holy order with a Christian community. It’s an extraordinary
emphasis that we have clung to tenaciously
through all kinds of controversies and
tensions and bickering back and forth with
our Protestant brothers and sisters. And some of it
terribly dated now. And people say, well,
it’s only symbolic. Well, people who
say that don’t know the power of symbols because
symbols are very real and very powerful, et cetera, et cetera. But yet, it’s still
with us as this– it’s kind of the climax of
the sacramentality of life. And this is such a rich part of
our Catholic Christian faith, this whole principle
of sacramentality that is so central to our
Catholic spirituality. This notion that our God
comes looking for us, and that we go looking for a God
typically through the ordinary and the everyday. This outreach of God into
human history and our response through the ordinary
and everyday. And in a sense,
when you look back over any given day
of your life, you will find sacramental
moments there. They’re always there. I find three at the
end of every day, honor of the blessed
trinity, probably. Then I fall asleep. But they’re always there,
these God moments when there’s something else going on. There’s something
more happening. That something– God’s spirit
is moving, inviting, cajoling, correcting, challenging,
whatever God’s spirit may be up to in our lives. And it typically happens in
ordinary and everyday ways. You know as Catholic
Christians, when we hear the word sacrament,
we tend to think of the seven. But in fact as
[INAUDIBLE] put it, we should think of the
sacramentality of the world, that it’s all charged
with the grandeur of God. And that it will shake out
like shining from shook foil, that we can find God, as Patrick
Kavanagh, another favorite poet of mine, puts it, in the
bits and pieces of every day. Why? Because God is always
up to something in the midst of the
ordinary and the everyday. The people we meet, the things
that happen, the experiences along the way, that it’s all
suffused, this hound of heaven is always there looking for us. And that’s why, then,
we have the audacity to show up in our churches and
to believe that our God comes looking for us through bread
and wine and water and oil and community and
lovemaking in marriage. One of the lovely aspects of our
Catholic theology of marriage, that the sacramentality
of it all does not take place at the altar
but in the marriage bed after the wedding ceremony. I taught undergrads
here for many years and I found I had to
put in little details like that along the way. But it was extraordinary,
it is a grand glimpse of the lovely theology
of human sexuality that the tradition is
capable of, that we haven’t always taught and preached it. It goes without saying. And yet there’s that
there’s a gem there, that it’s all suffused
with the grandeur of God. So in a sense, if we can
get our heads and hearts around this principle
of sacramentality, then it’s not such a huge
reach for us to show up and to believe in the real
presence of the risen Christ in the bread and wine,
the consecrated species of the Eucharist. So in a sense, it’s the climax,
it climaxes the sacramentality as [INAUDIBLE] put it,
of life in the world. The Constitution of
the liturgy talks about as the summit and
the source, which is that kind of climatic language. Aquinas talks about it as
the sacrament of sacrament. I love the thing that it
fulfills the promise of Isaiah 25, “the Lord of hosts will
provide for all peoples a feast of rich food
and choice wines, will destroy the veil
that veils all veils”. And let me tell you why I
love that quote so much. In the Celtic tradition,
there’s a strong sense that there are moments in life
when the veil gets lifted. The veil between the
divine and the human, between the ultimate
and the ordinary, between God’s presence and
the life of the every day. There are moments
and places where the veil becomes gossamer thin. And maybe is lifted altogether. And in a sense Eucharist
is that for us. In a sense, the veil is lifted. It’s why I thought of the
lovely text from Isaiah 25, that lifting of the veil. And then we even have the sense
of the presence continues. That it’s not a momentary
encounter, but then, again, a quote
from the catechism, “the Eucharistic
presence of Christ begins at the moment
of consecration, but then endures as long as the
Eucharistic species subsist”. It’s an enormous claim
we make, isn’t it? That when we walk
into our churches that this God, this one
who is God among us, as one of ourselves
is still truly present to us in a unique way,
in God’s creation and people we meet along the way. And yet somehow is subsumed,
climaxed, symbolized, effectively done,
effectively realized, and located in this context. It’s an extraordinary
claim that we make. Now of course, my question
is what should this do to our spirituality? What should it do to our
invitation to discipleship? Because how he’s present I
don’t think is as important, it’s very important, but I think
as important at least is why. What’s he present for? Well, again John 6, I
used this text already, he’s the bread of life. Our old tradition
of it as viaticum. It’s bread of life for the
ordinary, the everyday. And ultimately, it’s the
food for the journey, the journey into eternity. When we give the dying the
Eucharist, its viaticum. It’s “via-te-cum,”
it’s be on your way, and be with you along the way. What will be with
us along the way? From God’s side, the
Eucharist is effective. And this is old language,
ex opere operato. In other words, from the work of
the work, from the work worked. So by God’s grace, Eucharist,
from God’s side of the bargain, or of the covenant, Eucharist
is always effective in the sense that it’s always the real
presence of the risen Christ that we can encounter here. However, from our
side of the covenant, its effect depends upon
ex opere operantis, from the work of the workers. Now, it’s by God’s grace that
we mount our good efforts. And yet, we are
held responsible. In other words, Eucharist comes
to us as a great privilege, but also as a real
responsibility. I deliberately
broke up the word. It gives us an
ability to respond, and yet holds us accountable. So it is not as if it’s some
kind of a programming of us to go and do good. But it’s an invitation, an
empowerment, an entrusting, a commissioning of
us to go and do good. And the new translation that
we’re going to have first of Advent, at least one of
the promises is that it will actually– that ite missa
est, that, go you are sent, will be a little more explicit
in the new translation, that sense the missa– we got our word “mass”
from it because it was how we were sent. We were sent into the world. Sent what? Well to live the
great commandment, this great commandment
of radical love. And of course, not only
the great commandment of radical love, but the new
commandment that he gave us. The great commandment
is love the Lord your God with all your
mind, heart, and strength, love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, give
it everything you have. Everything about you has to be
suffused with the love of God, the love of neighbor,
and the love of self. We often forget the third
leg of the great commandment. But then the new
commandment he gave us is even more far fetched
than loving enemies, because you have it there
in John 14 where he says as the father has loved
me, so I have loved you, then a new commandment I
give you, that you love one another as I have loved you. In other words, I have
loved as God has loved. Now you’ve got to go
and try to do likewise. I mean, the most we’d ever
do is a remote approximation. And yet it is how we’re
commissioned by Eucharist to do the works of justice,
the works of compassion, the works of peace, to realize,
to do God’s will on earth. Interesting how he taught
us to pray, to say indeed thy kingdom come, but then
immediately to add thy will be done on earth. So now is the time
that it has to be done. And the Euchrist has to be done. I was hungry you
gave me food, or I was hungry you did
not give me food. The bread we break,
he’s present. The bread we break is a
sharing in the body of Christ. Many, though one, we
are made one body, so indeed Euchrist is to bond
us together to become and live as we’ve received. In other words,
as Augstine put it to the people in Hippo, the
body of Christ in the world. What difference would
you want Eucharist to make in your own
daily life if we take it as seriously as we’ve
attempted to take it, as our parents and
grandparents have taken it? My own old Irish
tradition, we had a whole, there was many, many stories
of people literally giving their life, especially
during the penal days to receive Eucharist, to
participate in Eucharist. And you could get 10 pounds
for the head of a priest if you brought one in. It was dangerous. And the risks that were
taken, all of our peoples– I spent a little time in
Lithuania some years ago. And I was there again
last year, actually. But in 1991, shortly
after the Soviets left, and you could
hear all the stories about how people literally
risked their lives. Priests were taken out and
shot for celebrating Eucharist. And in our polish
tradition, you can go back and this has come with us. Dom Gregory Dix, I’m gonna read
from at the end of the evening a little while. But he loves to say that–
or used to love to say– that in many ways,
the only commandment that we have obeyed faithfully,
the only commandment of Jesus is this one. That in many ways, we
haven’t obeyed at all many of his other great commandments
like feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty,
work the works of justice, the works of peace. We’ve often, so often
failed to fulfill the mandates of our faith that
he gave us except the one, do this in memory of me. That we have gone
on doing that far– often not well. Sometimes poorly. And yet, we have managed somehow
to go on doing that faithfully for the last 2,000 years. And I suppose that’s the hope. That someday,
somehow, we’ll also do better with feeding the
hungry and giving drink to the thirsty and
the works of justice and the works of peace
and reconciliation. That as long as we can go
back there to that word and sacrament and hear those
stories again and do what he did the night before
he died and re-enact that and re-encounter the
presence of the risen Christ with us there, that there’ll
still be hope for us as church, as people. That maybe, we’re
still on our way and that God is still with us
and inviting us and sustaining and supporting us
as we try to live into the hope, the vision that
is to be this people of God. So in a sense, it is this
extraordinary regathering for us. And especially as I
say in a unique way, as Catholic Christians,
that maybe, somehow, there’s still hope that we can
become a faithful Church, a faithful community
of disciples. So what difference
do you want it to make in your own daily life? And what would be the best way? Because I want to move
now for the last session, that last little
20 minutes or so, into how do we go about
existentially, experientially, how do we go about encountering
the abundant graces that indeed we could have
access to through Eucharist? Because from the
ex opere operato, God’s grace is always
at high tide toward us. There’s an old
Gaelic wisdom saying. I won’t give it
to you in Gaelic. But the English
translation is, there’s ebb to every tide except
the tide of God’s grace. So I suppose God’s grace,
and we see this especially in Eucharist, is always
at high tide toward us. But so often our
side of the covenant falls so far short of
responding to that. So that, as I said, grace always
comes as a response ability. So when you think
about the graces of the Eucharist, the potential
graces, how do you go about– what are the best ways for
you to avail of those graces? This is Piasecki, the Polish
artist, his rendition. And he never quite said it’s
the painting of the Last Supper. But clearly, people who see
it immediately associate. And where you have the women
and the children at the table. Now, you know, the
scriptures don’t say there were there,
on the other hand, in the world at the
time, if they were there, would they have been counted? Remember that miracle
of the loaves and fishes that I referred to
earlier, it says there were 5,000 men there, not
counting women and children, because typically women and
children would not be counted. But when you think about it as
a Pascal as a Passover meal, and I think the scholars
are fairly well agreed now that the Last Supper
was a Passover meal, at least that seems to
be the dominant opinion. Well, how could he assemble
for the Passover meal, the most familial
time in Jewish faith, and not have the
community assemble, and especially not
have his mother there. Now, she’s at the foot of
the cross the next day. So how could he have assembled
for the Passover meal and not have had
the women disciples. It’s very clear all
three synoptics say it, that those women at
the foot of the cross had come up with
him from Galilee. In other words, they were
with him from the beginning. They were with him at the end. The only people with him
at the end, except John in John’s gospel. But they had come up, and if
you take John’s chronology they’d been with
them for three years. So how could he have
assembled, and had them so included all along
the way, and not have had them present
at the Last Supper? Which of course, we don’t know. So, and we’ve always taken– I was just saying to Marianne
beforehand– we’ve always taken it that Leonardo da
Vinci took the picture, you know, and got it right. And there’s all kinds
of historical things awry with da Vinci’s
representation of the Last Supper. For example, he
has it in daylight. The scripture says
it was at night. He has it a bread, and leavened
bread, and a fish on the table, whereas we know it would
have been unleavened bread and lamb at a Passover meal. It says in the scriptures that
the reclined table and da Vinci has them all sit seated. In other words,
as somebody said, da Vinci basically painted
13 Florentine noblemen sitting around a banquet. And we all thought that that’s
what it must’ve looked like. So in a sense, a
painting like this invites us to imagine
the possibility at least, of this radical inclusivity
that there was indeed. All were welcome. And it was one of the
most radical aspects of his public ministry, the
inclusivity of his table fellowship. But whether they
were there or not, in some ways the mandate for
us to welcome all to the table, and to have the table
readily available to all, and inclusive of
all, that’s a real challenge. And yet, if we were to
take Eucharist seriously, it somehow should mean
that kind of inclusivity rather than being exclusive. And that argument is
sometimes mounted. In fact, it should be
extraordinary welcome. Now of course, you have to be
a member of the body of Christ. You have to be a
baptized Christian to present yourself
for Eucharist. There’s somewhat of a
contradiction otherwise. But that being
said, how do we live into the kind of inclusivity
that the historical Jesus apparently modeled. And the scripture
scholars would say that that’s fairly accurate,
that the examples are so consistent throughout
all four gospels, that we do take it, that
this radical inclusivity of his table fellowship
was an integral aspect of his public ministry. So there are extraordinary
challenges for us in at all. How do we pick up the
spirituality of it? Because I think that’s
what matters most. How do we indeed enact it as
a heart-to-heart encounter with Jesus. I have a simple kind
of a proposal to make. We need to bring our
lives to the Eucharist, and to bring the
Eucharist to our lives. Now as I said, that may sound
a very simple little formula. But at least in my own
attempts to be faithful, to my understanding and
practice of the Eucharist, I find it imperative to at least
have some level of preparing myself to encounter, to
have this sense of encounter with the risen Christ. If I just toddle up there,
fat, dumb, and happy, oblivious to what I’m doing and where
I am, there’s no magic here. This is an act of faith. It’s not an act of magic. And so it’s not a wham of God’s
grace, or an automatic boost or something. That I, as the partner in
this covenant, the ex opere operantis side of
it, have to pause, come into awareness of what
I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and what this represents
by way of my own faith. Come into my own
repentance, if that’s what I need before
approaching the altar to be first reconciled. It’s lovely that the
church has reestablished that exchange of peace
just before we’re to go to receive the Eucharist. My need for repentance,
my sense of anticipation, that I am welcoming the
risen Christ bodily, into my bodily-ness. That this is a bodily encounter,
and reminding myself of that. And then recognizing
that whatever it is I’m bringing to the Eucharist,
stopping and looking at my life at this point in time, and my
joys, my sorrows, my hopes, my fears, my loves, my
shortcomings, my failings, realizing that his whole self,
this whole person-hood of mine, body, heart, mind,
and soul and body is indeed moving
forward to encounter the presence of the risen
Christ, and warts and all, graces and shortcomings. What I’m bringing to
the Eucharist, but also the questions I’m bringing. And then the hope
that I’m bringing and what I hope to
bring back into my life from my encounter and
reception of the Eucharist. And that brings me
back to a Thanksgiving. Now I’m in many ways,
as you’ve already decided this evening, quite
a traditional Irish Catholic. But I got a little old
mnemonic or whatever we call it from Miss Gibney. She was my second
grade teacher when I made my first holy communion. And it was how to make a
Thanksgiving after communion. And my preference is to do that. I’ve no problem coming back and
singing the hymn, the communion hymn. But I don’t need to be,
everybody doesn’t need to be singing all of the time. You know, there’s just
lots of other people that can be singing
with me and for me. And my little, as I said a
kind of a little reminder that I still have this is
60 years later, or almost, not quite, but almost
60 years later, this sense of how to make a
Thanksgiving, how to talk heart to heart with Jesus. Because that’s what Mrs.
Delaney used to say to us. Now, when you go up
there to receive him you’ll be sure you talk
to him in your own words. And I remember Dennis
Mallon, one of my classmates, putting up his hand and
said, Miss Gibney, can we can we talk to Jesus about anything? She said absolutely. He said, how about my dog? She said, absolutely, talk
to him about your dog. You know, tell Jesus
about your dog, especially if you’re
worried about your dog. If your dog has gotten lost
or gotten sick or something, talk to him about your dog. It’s stuck with me for, as
I said, almost 60 years. The altar is about
adoration, where you pause to be in
awe and amazement at this divine human
encounter, to welcome Jesus, thank him for coming
in the Eucharist. The love, is tell
Jesus of your love, and ask for a spark of his love
in your own heart for others. That’s always the prayer
I tried to say, give me some of this sense of love
that you have for us that’s the gift he can bring to us. Then the T, the ALT, talk to
Jesus about your life, whatever is going on. Review your joys, your sorrows,
your hopes, your concerns, whatever it might
be, heart to heart. Ask ALTA, recognize the help
that you need at this time and ask Jesus for the
graces, the good old Ignation tradition, figure
out what graces you need and ask for them. And then R, the repent
if you need, the resolve. Ask forgiveness as
needed, make resolutions to live as a disciple. Trying to become what
you have received, the body of Christ in the world. What are you taking away? What are you going to
bring home with you? What are you going
to try to put to work in your own life of faith? My ramblings. Let me read this little piece,
there’s lovely stuff in here. And we’ll wind down
with this, just go a couple of more minutes. I think I can, the
old glasses I forgot. Was ever in another
command so obeyed, this is from Dom Gregory Dix,
for century after century, spreading slowly to every
continent and country, and among every race and earth. This action has been done
in every conceivable human circumstance for every
conceivable human need. From infancy and before
it, to the extreme old age and after it. From the pinnacles
of earthly greatness, to the refuge of
fugitives in the caves and ends of the earth. People have found no
better thing than this to do for kings and queens
at their coronation, and for criminals
going to the scaffold. For armies in triumph,
or for a bride and groom in a little country church. For the proclamation of a dogma,
or for a good crop of wheat. For the wisdom of the
parliament of a mighty nation, or for a sick old
woman afraid to die. For a school child sitting in
examination, or for Columbus setting sail to
discover America. For the famine of
whole provinces, or for the soul of a dead lover. In thankfulness, because
my father did not die of pneumonia, or
for a village headman tempted to return to magic
because the yams had failed. Because of the Turk who
is at the gates of Vienna, for the repentance of Margaret,
for the settlement of a strike, for a child, for
a barren parent, for a captain so and so
wounded as a prisoner of war. While the lions roared in
the nearby amphitheater on the beach at
Dunkirk, while the hiss of [INAUDIBLE] in
the thick June grass came faintly through the windows
of the church, tremulously. By an old monk on the 50th
anniversary of his vows, furtively. By an exiled bishop who
had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk. And gorgeously for
the canonization of Saint Joan of Arc. One could fill many
pages with the reasons why people have done this, and
then this in memory of him, and yet not tell 100th
part of the reasons. But best of all, week
by week, and month by month on 100,000
successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly,
across all the parts of the parishes of
Christendom and all the years, we have done this in
order to make the people a holy people of God. There’s a lovely reading. Blessings upon you. Thank you for joining us. Do pick up a copy
of C21 Resources. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Otis Rodgers

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