Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis I

I've held back from jumping in and commenting on Sacramentum Caritatis - the Pope's Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist. There are no doubt many things which we could bring out from the document, but I think that it's most appropriate for our blog to underline one thing before all others, and that is how Pope Benedict really underlines that the Eucharist is the foundation of our friendship with Christ.

Right at the beginning of the document, the Pope says that the Eucharist makes present Christ who "laid down his life for his friends". The Eucharist is not an impersonal presence of Christ. It is the person of Jesus Christ, whose motivation in dying for us was in order to show himself as our friend, and to bring us from being mere servants, to enjoying a true friendship with him. The Eucharist is not the dead presence of Christ. It is the dynamic loving presence of Christ made present for us. The dynamism is such that the Eucharistic presence is an active loving presence of Christ who is loving us from the Eucharist. We experience this love in our lives when we receive Christ sacramentally, or when we bow in adoration of his Eucharistic presence.

This friendship with Christ, which is caused by the Eucharistic presence, is a friendship which has the purpose not only of building us up in faith, but of spurring us on to mission. Look at number 84 of the document:

In my homily at the eucharistic celebration solemnly inaugurating my Petrine ministry, I said that "there is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him." These words are all the more significant if we think of the mystery of the Eucharist. The love that we celebrate in the sacrament is not something we can keep to ourselves. By its very nature it demands to be shared with all. What the world needs is God's love; it needs to encounter Christ and to believe in him. The Eucharist is thus the source and summit not only of the Church's life, but also of her mission: "an authentically eucharistic Church is a missionary Church." We too must be able to tell our brothers and sisters with conviction: "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us" (1 Jn 1:3). Truly, nothing is more beautiful than to know Christ and to make him known to others. The institution of the Eucharist, for that matter, anticipates the very heart of Jesus' mission: he is the one sent by the Father for the redemption of the world (cf. Jn 3:16-17; Rom 8:32). At the Last Supper, Jesus entrusts to his disciples the sacrament which makes present his self-sacrifice for the salvation of us all, in obedience to the Father's will. We cannot approach the eucharistic table without being drawn into the mission which, beginning in the very heart of God, is meant to reach all people. Missionary outreach is thus an essential part of the eucharistic form of the Christian life.

The friendship with Christ which we know more deeply in the Eucharist brings us to bear witness to our friendship with Christ. Mission or evangelisation isn't about telling others about some message that we've heard. It is about telling others of our friendship with Christ, and drawing others into that friendship too. It is about drawing others to a person - the divine person, Jesus Christ - not about simply propagating a message, however convincing.

More to follow on the document, as I digest it...

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