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Should Eucharist be the only thing that matters?

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Over the past few weeks, folks here have talked about the role of Eucharist in their lives and in the liturgy, with a lot of people saying as long as there is Eucharist it shouldn’t matter how lame the rest of the liturgy might be. One commenter went so far as to say that even if Nazis did liturgical dance for an hour, it wouldn’t matter if Eucharist was at the end of it. Yes, someone actually presented that argument. So I thought maybe we needed to talk about this a little more, about Eucharist and how it plays into the life of an average Catholic.

First, I think we have to realize that those people who say that as long as they have Eucharist nothing else matters clearly have achieved some higher level of spirituality, because most regular folks in the pews — even the ones who are dedicated and deeply faithful Catholics — need some help to get to that place. It’s not so simple as A+B=C. It’s just not. There is nothing simple about Eucharist, and so to make a blanket statement that all people should be fed by that alone and never need anything else is unrealistic and kind of dangerous, at least in terms of evangelization. Because if we think that way, we’re going to lose a whole bunch of people who are looking for a pathway toward a fuller understanding of Eucharist in their lives. They will get lost long before they get there without guidance and nourishment along the way.

But let’s look at it a different way. When Jesus began gathering his followers around him, what did he do? He taught them. He told them stories. He showed them what love and mercy looked like in action. He didn’t start with the Eucharist. He couldn’t start with the Eucharist, because it wouldn’t have meant anything at that point. He needed to lead people, feed people, and bring people to a point where Eucharist could transform them.

If he had sat down with them upon first meeting and said, “This is my body,” no one could have understood. Even as it was, there was confusion and disbelief by some. Even today there is often confusion and disbelief. So to say simply, “Eucharist is all that should matter,” is misguided at best. Although we are all called to be saints, most of us still have a pretty long way to go, and most of us need a little help to get from point A to point B. At least I know I do. Without the word, without good preaching, without music and community and continuing spiritual formation and nourishment, we cannot possibly understand source and summit as it is meant to be understood this side of heaven.

Every time I walk up to receive Communion, I think to myself, “If I believed the way I should believe, I could do nothing but prostrate myself on the ground before the Eucharist.” Really, how could any of us do anything less than that before the sheer magnificence of what’s being given to us. And yet we do. We walk up and take it as if it is the most normal thing in the world, no matter how reverent we may be. So I think we all need to cut each other a little slack and recognize that we are all spiritual works in progress and we can use all the help we can get in whatever form we can get it. And that if we’re not getting that, we’re going to demand it and scream and shout — even if only in printed form — to get what we need to reach heaven.

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  1. Vatican II teaches us that Jesus is present in the community gathered, in the priest, in the prayers and words, in the homily, as well as in a profound and full way in the consecrated host. All of this is Eucharist…the Thanksgiving, the Agape meal, the Lord’s Day Worship. For me the secret has been to find Christ present and speaking to me through it all. In this way, I have a serene peace. There was a time when I needed the priest in the sense as a shepherd and leader to call me to Christ closer and closer…but now, really, I see myself as a part of the community that calls HIM, the priest, to Christ, too. We need each other. When I feel I have a dry priest, then I am needed all the more to enliven, challenge and pray. And perhaps, to be the priest….through my priesthood of the baptized, offering spiritual sacrifices to the Lord as I love the hungry people around me, including the hungry priest. He needs our love all the more. Perhaps the community could send him on retreat! That’s a nice way of saying, seek the LORD! :)

    October 7, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      I love this response! Thank you for sharing Christine.
      Peace and love,
      Mary

      October 7, 2013
  2. Beth #

    Yes indeed it is all true. Jesus do not start with the Eucharist. He was so good at showing love and mercy and teaching. We are losing our youth with the limited perspective we carry that the Eucharist is all that matters.

    October 7, 2013
  3. Rev. Jeffrey J. Maurer #

    Enjoying your recent posts. Keep up the good work.

    However, in terms of the Eucharist being used as a leverage for other bad or pathetic stuff in preaching, etc. I would wager a bet that priests who do not care about homiletics, liturgy, and evangelization are not banking on the power of the Eucharist…they probably don’t really even “buy that” either.

    Although I’d take a little exception with Christine’s post. Jesus’ presence, while there, is not the same in the word, in the assembly, and in the priest.

    October 7, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you, Father Maurer, for your response. We are grateful to have priests like you out there who care enough about the many different aspects of our faith lives.
      Blessings to you in your ministry!

      October 7, 2013
    • Hi Father, I didn’t mean to imply that Jesus’ presence is the “same.” Of course, in the consecrated species I use the words, “profound and full” way. However, I think it’s important, at least it has been for me, to find Jesus’ presence throughout the liturgy. Especially after communion, when I turn and wonder where did the consecrated species go? Into the people who consume Him. If we do not genuflect to each other in love, what good is our honoring the Presence in the tabernacle?

      October 8, 2013
      • Have to add…of course in and of itself, to honor the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is for His sake, but it points to our honoring one another where the whole Mass teaches us God truly resides. This is the point of my comments.

        October 8, 2013
  4. Marie #

    I have to say this “it’s only about the Eucharist, so stop complaining” comes off as awfully jaded. Like it’s okay if everything else is awful as long as each person gets his or her little bit of Jesus and files out into the world without Christ meaning anything at all. It sounds selfish and petty and as if they’re only going to Mass to get something they feel entitled to, even if they’ve totally forgotten the wonder and the why of the Eucharist.

    Not being blasphemous, but it’s the people who sneer at the seekers with a flip-off about the Eucharist who relegate the host to a “Jeezit”, as Dane Cook calls it. Not the people who are frustrated by the banality of too many Catholic Masses.

    October 7, 2013
  5. Shannon #

    I had a conversation with a man at the jail last week when I came to visit and bring communion. He asked, “Is this communion or Eucharist? I use the words interchangeably.” It was a great question.

    If we only focus on the THING of communion, we have missed the ACTION of Eucharist. Mary, all those actions you laid out–that’s good preparation and part of the whole saving Action of Christ. I’d extend it even more: if the community, in all its various parts and members, isn’t asking itself the hard questions, then it is too easy to settle and say, “All I need is Eucharist” –because what we’re likely to get is not Eucharist at all.

    October 7, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Amen.

      October 7, 2013
  6. St. Augustine said, “Behold what you are, become what you receive.” In order to do that, we need all the other things: teaching, community, and prayer.

    (Acts 2: 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers).

    October 7, 2013
  7. Should Eucharist be the only thing that matters? No.
    Should Eucharist matter the most? Yes.

    October 7, 2013
  8. “It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

    Putting this verse into context: Jesus has been in the desert fasting for 40 days and he was hungry. He is then tempted by the devil. Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

    Try to imagine this, you stop eating food for 40 days and then the evil one tempts you to sin with food. How will you respond? Jesus responds by teaching us that that the bread (food) we eat everyday, is not enough to live on, we need to feed ourselves with the Word of God. Of course the grace we receive in the Sacrament of Holy Communion is necessary for us to live (see John chapter 6), but we can have more. There are seven sacraments to give us grace, and also the grace that comes from reading Sacred Scripture.

    October 8, 2013

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