Sunday, June 15, 2008

Eucharist and the Evangelical Life

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, Ofm. Cap. delivered the address at the Eucharistic Symposium and Congress in Quebec, June 11th – 13th, 2008.
... In a world of political correctness and “inclusivity” these ancient practices seem peregrine and even harsh. Yet the awareness of the sacredness of the Eucharist evoked an awe and reverence in the faithful even before they approached the Eucharist. Indeed many sinners have found motivation to overcome their vices because of their desire to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist. Even before we are repulsed by sin and evil we are attracted by grace and beauty.

This attitude so beautifully expressed in Francois Mauriac’s book on Holy Thursday is dismissed by those who would encourage everyone to receive communion without examining themselves. It is what Bonhoeffer described as a cheap grace.

However, where believers are aware of their need to be spiritually prepared for the Eucharist, the call to conversion is part of the experience of the Eucharist. Jesus washes the feet of the Apostles in part to denote the cleansing and repentance that must be in preparation for participation in the Eucharist.

The practices of fasting from all food and drink from midnight and weekly confession as preparations for the Eucharist were still the custom in my youth. There was a great awareness that the way we lived before the Eucharist and how we prepared was very important. Eucharistic consistency was generally understood.

The call to conversion that opens the Gospel is complemented in the Mass by the Penitential Rite. We present ourselves before God and before the community acknowledging our need for forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus says clearly in the Gospel that before we offer our gifts on the altar, we must be reconciled with our brothers and sisters. We need to wear the wedding garment of grace and mercy.

The Gospel Life begins with a longing for the Holy, a hunger for God, and a sense of the transcendent. This is different from the modern culture’s addiction to entertainment and sense of entitlement. We must approach the Eucharist like Moses drawing near the burning bush, with a sense of wonder and awe. At the same time we have a sense of our own unworthiness in the presence of God’s boundless and gratuitous love, like Peter who throws himself at Jesus’ feet and says: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” And the Eucharist is a greater miracle than the miraculous draught of fishes ...
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