Monday, September 5, 2011

The Holy Eucharist and the Works of Mercy

Our Lord Jesus came into the world to show us the Father’s mercy.  As we read in Jn 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For he did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”  Later in John 5:27, Jesus makes it clear that he has the power of God to judge and to show mercy.  Jesus says that the Father “gave him power to exercise judgment.”  He adds, “Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all are in the tomb will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.” vv28-29.

John is also the evangelist who teaches us about the Bread of Life.  Indeed, the teaching on the bread of life follows very shortly in Chapter 6.  Jesus says there, “This is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it up on the last day.” (Jn 6:39) He continues, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world….Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” (6:51,54-55).

Now we are able to see that Jesus’ gift of the Holy Eucharist is the greatest work of mercy that has ever been given to the world.  You should ask yourself, then what about the Passion of Christ, what about his self-sacrifice? Is this not the greatest work of mercy?  Ah! Now we are getting to the point!  This is what the Church is telling us when we hear that the Eucharist and the Sacrifice on the Cross are one single sacrifice. (CCC 1366-1367.)  This magnificent truth is contained in the words of St. John the Baptizer we echo in each and every sacrifice of the Holy Mass.  “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  We read these words in the first chapter of John’s Gospel from John the Baptizer’s mouth as Jesus comes walking toward him.  He takes away the sins of the world.  Certainly, upon the cross, when Christ died for our sins, he was thinking of all of our sins when he said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  He is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins.  When he is lifted up, on the Cross and at Mass, we hear the refrain of John.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”   It is there that we recognize our salvation. With the grateful centurion of the gospel, you respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul (servant) shall be healed.”

These truths do not present ideas that we meditate upon and then forget. Having received  mercy, we must show mercy.   It is clear that the Lord Jesus sends us just as he was sent to do the work of mercy.  By his grace we do the works of Christ that he left for the Church.
We form part of the Church founded upon the eucharist as an instrument, par excellence, of salvation.  The more deeply we understand these mysteries, as his disciples, the more compelled we are to act.  Our Holy Father Pope Benedict said this most beautifully, “The more lively the Eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper its sharing in ecclesial life (life of the church) in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples.”  By placing the Eucharistic Lord at the center of our lives, we grow in the lively faith and hope that Jesus Christ has given us in his work on the cross. Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matt. 7:24-25

The Eucharistic sacrifice of Jesus is the true school for authentic Christian discipleship.  Just as the disciples in his time receive instruction from his words and actions, the celebration of the Eucharist is the place we learn of his words and actions.  It is in this sacrifice of mercy that we receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit, particularly, joy and peace.  It is here that we learn the power of the love of Christ and from this, we are compelled to go out and teach and preach and glorify and bring others to the Lord. 

We partake of the supreme act of praise and thanksgiving in the Mass.  Here Jesus, the Lamb once slain, who is at the center of the Heavenly Worship, offers himself in sacrifice for our sins.  Here we receive the Eucharistic gifts of mercy, peace and joy that accompany us in our daily tasks.  From here we go out to do the works of Jesus, the works of mercy.

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