The Eucharist for the life of the world
Last weekend was the first opportunity for some of us to gather to celebrate Mass at our various parishes. When only a few can gather you are reminded that the Mass is never a private devotion. While there may be only small numbers physically present, every Mass is actually celebrated for the life of the world. In that sense the Eucharist is celebrated by Christians but not simply for Christians. The Eucharist is celebrated so that the life of Christ, present in people, in word and in broken bread, can be shared with the whole of humanity. The Eucharist is celebrated so that reconciliation and healing may overcome division and illness.
We are more aware of this at the moment when we look around the world and see division and discord in so many places. We are more aware of this when we look around our world and see a pandemic that does not discriminate and yet, at the same time, hits the poor and disadvantaged in brutal ways. We are more aware of this as we experience life in this extraordinary year of lockdowns, isolation and grief.
The Eucharist is a reminder that we are, after all, communal beings. We are made for community and for mutual support and love. Christian claim we are also made for communion with the God of love, with one another and with the whole human family. When we cut ourselves off from any of these we are the less for it. Pope Francis reflects on our human connectedness in Fratelli Tutti:
Our relationships, if healthy and authentic, opens us to others who expand and enrich us. Nowadays, our noblest social instincts can easily be thwarted by self-centred chats that give the impression of being deep relationships. On the contrary, authentic and mature love and true friendship can only take root in hearts open to growth through relationships with others. (Fratelli Tutti 89)
The Eucharist can help us to remember that the gift, and task, of mutual human enrichment, respect, authentic and mature love for all, is something that always lies before us. We can become more who we are when we wrestle with difference and shake off our own prejudices. The Eucharist, in its breaking and giving action can lead us to do just that.
So, sometimes a small gathering to celebrate the Eucharist can help us to focus on the deeper meaning of the Mass. Each Mass is an invitation to experience the presence of Christ, who walks in the door with us, and with whom we walk as we leave that gathering. And we walk away with Christ who invites our hearts and minds, eyes and ears, our hands and feet to join him in bringing about the reconciliation and healing for which the world so longs.
By Fr Brendan Reed