1 THE EUCHARIST: THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF OUR HOPE (Claudio Barriga, S.J.) Summary In a world that struggles for justice, peace, and new meaning for our lives, we lift our eyes to Jesus in his most dramatic hour. His love, his determination, his generosity, made him accept a terrible death, leaving his disciples a sacramental memory of his heart given out for us that is now the source of our hope. The Eucharist teaches us that only love can save us, and leads us to live according to his heart. The universal Church has just celebrated the 49th Eucharistic Congress in Quebec under the theme "The Eucharist, gift of God for the life of the world". I have been asked to speak about the Eucharist as a primary source of hope. What is this all about? Certainly the title of the Eucharistic Congress is pointing in the same direction of what I am asked to say, for truly the Eucharist brings hope and life to today's world. Let us start asking ourselves what we hope for today, that is, what we need in our society, what we need in our families, what we need and hope for deep down in our hearts. We all have hopes, we need them to survive. We raise our eyes and our arms up to God in our difficult moments, for we know the only real source of hope is him. Today we will speak of the ways in which the Eucharist can respond to that basic need of our hearts. In a broken world, violent and unjust, we hope for a better society, for justice, for peace. Many times our families are also broken, and we hope to overcome divisions and difficulties. Even our hearts may be broken, longing for true happiness. We hope to find meaning in our lives and our sufferings. Our hopes are bigger and deeper than just material achievements. We ultimately hope to fill our lives with God and his love. In his Encyclical letter Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict puts it in these words: In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Ep 2:12). (27) Day by day, man experiences many greater or lesser hopes, different in kind according to the different periods of his life. Sometimes one of these hopes may appear to be totally satisfying without any need for other hopes. Young people can have the hope of a great and fully satisfying love; the hope of a certain position in their profession, or of some success that will prove decisive for the rest of their lives. When these hopes are fulfilled, however, it becomes clear that they were not, in reality, the whole. It becomes evident that man has need of a hope that goes further. It becomes clear that only something infinite will suffice for him, something that will always be more than he can ever attain. (30) Let us explore the meanings of the Eucharist to see whether it can provide an answer to these questions. We believe the Eucharist can in fact be a response to these longings and a primary source of hope in the many difficult situations we face. We will pursue a greater personal understanding of the Eucharist. We may go to mass every Sunday, or several times a week, or maybe not very often. Yet we may not always understand fully what are we celebrating. Are we there just out of some sense of duty, because we have been told it is a sin not to go
2 to mass on Sundays? Or do we only go "when I feel like it," but not always? Do we bring our questions, our problems, our hearts to that altar to ask the Lord that his love may be poured down into our lives? Or do we sit there bored, hoping for mass to end soon? What are you receiving in each mass? Pope Benedict says Christians "should cultivate a desire that the Eucharist have an ever deeper effect on their daily lives, making them convincing witnesses in the workplace and in society at large" (Sacramentum Caritatis, 79). Let us look at the meaning Jesus gave to the Eucharist from the beginning, in the Last Supper. What is the context? It is Passover, the ritual celebration that reminds Israelites of God's liberation. It is the source of their identity as a chosen people, saved by God's love. Jesus will give the feast a deeper meaning that fulfils the ultimate liberation God wants to work for his people. It will become the source of identity of the new chosen people. On that special night, he gathers his apostles to prepare them for what is coming and to give them his last instructions. He has come to the end of his mission on earth, and is about to undergo the most terrible part. He has loved his brothers and sisters and given out his life for them all the time, in all he did. Now he will give out his life to the end. He is scared, he doesn't want to suffer, and he will ask his Father to deliver him from this hour. But he will accept going to death, accepting his Father's will of loving to the last consequences. He understands that he is the new lamb whose sacrifice will bring about salvation for his people. This is the mysterious way the full extent of God's love will be shown. The Eucharist is in turn the mysterious way in which his disciples, will later remember and celebrate his loving presence with us. He must go, but he has the deep desire not to leave his loved ones alone. So he will stay with them and with the pilgrim Church in an unexpected sacramental form. All this is precisely what he explains to his disciples in the Last Supper (despite their incapacity to understand it). He takes the bread in his hands and says: this bread is me, this is my life being given out for you. He then takes the cup to say: I am this wine, it is my blood, which will be shed for you. He is accepting the terrible death that is coming up. Furthermore, in these words and these gestures he is summing up his whole life. He had always been a bread broken for others, he had always been willing to shed his blood for love of his people. Now he will love to the end, dying for us. He had faith that this path, the path of love, led to life and resurrection. His expressions that night take a ritual form, so as to be repeated later by the Church, in his memory. This repetition throughout the centuries has been his way to remain present, though hidden, to his loved ones. Each Eucharist we celebrate today brings about his living presence for the community. We celebrate his love, his life surrendered, his victory over death. We are proclaiming that love defeated hatred and death, and that he now accompanies us through his joyful, living presence. We are always celebrating the paschal mystery, his life, death and resurrection. Listen to these inspiring words by Pope Benedict to the youth in Germany at World Youth Day in 2005: "By making the bread into his Body and the wine into his Blood, he anticipates his death, he accepts it in his heart, and he transforms it into an action of love. What on the outside is simply brutal violence - the Crucifixion - from within becomes an act of total self-giving love. This is the substantial transformation which was accomplished at the Last Supper and was destined to set in motion a series of transformations leading ultimately to the transformation of the world when God will be all in all (cf. 1Co 15:28). In their hearts, people always and everywhere have somehow expected a change, a transformation of the world.
3 Here now is the central act of transformation that alone can truly renew the world: violence is transformed into love, and death into life" (Cologne - Marienfeld, Sunday, 21 August 2005). So every Eucharist is the memorial of Jesus' love and of what he did for us. But it is also the invitation to let our lives be transformed. "Do this in memory of me," he told his disciples that night. Do what? "Give out your lives for others, as I have done. Live as I have lived. Be bread broken for others, be blood that is shed for others". In this recommendation "Do this in memory of me" - the disciples are being associated to his mission and to his way of life. To keep his memory, not only should they repeat the ritual celebration of that Last Supper. They are invited to do as he has done, to live as he has lived, to love as he has loved. To die so as to become food that gives life to others, as he did. The washing of the feet of his apostles, that same holy night, emphasizes the same lesson: their lives are meant be at the loving service of others. As we look at Jesus, we come to understand the meaning of our own lives. He is the model, the ideal, the perfect human being. The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light (Gaudium et Spes, 22). Our lives ought to be Eucharistic, just as Jesus' life was Eucharistic. This does not mean going to mass all the time, but rather living like Christ. It means having his heart, in constant offering of self to the Father. This is what Pope John Paul meant when he asked the National Secretaries of Apostleship of Prayer from all over the world to form Christians whose lives were moulded by the Eucharist (Rome, 1985). We are called to lead a Eucharistic life, that is, to live like Christ and share his mission. Saying just this may not seem like good news or source of hope at all, for we all agree that it is extremely difficult to live as Jesus did. It is simply beyond our capacities. It is clearly something the disciples were not able to achieve out of their personal effort. It would only be possible as a grace of God, a gift of total transformation. The Holy Spirit they received transformed them from cowardly, fearful people, into brave witnesses of Christ ready to give their lives for him. In the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit is at work giving us this grace. "By faith, we do not only learn about Christ's salvation, but we actually receive it!" (Pope Benedict, Spe Salvi, 7). Just as the bread and wine are miraculously transformed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - the invocation of the Spirit in mass is what we call the "epiclesis" - the people of God are also to be transformed into Christ's presence for the world. There are two epiclesis in the mass, the first one over the gifts, the second over the congregation. In both we are calling on the Holy Spirit to come and act these changes. This is really the final purpose of the mass, that the congregation may be transformed into Christ. This will start in each one's heart when they receive Jesus in his Word, his Body, his Holy Spirit. But it does not end there. At the end of the celebration, the congregation is sent out with the same Spirit to set in motion "a series of transformations leading ultimately to the transformation of the world when God will be all in all", so that "violence is transformed into love, and death into life" (Pope Benedict, WYD 2004). We need to come back to the mass and Eucharistic Adoration frequently because here we find Jesus. We receive from him the strength to live this mission in the brokenness of our lives and of our world. Pope John Paul gives us a beautiful paragraph in his encyclical letter entitled The Church Draws Her Life from the Eucharist (No. 60): "Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Church's mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw the strength it needs from the Eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to that mystery as its culmination. In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have his redemptive sacrifice, we have his resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father. Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency?". So, we can now summarize how the Eucharist is really a primary source of hope for us. How does this happen? Six points.
4 One. The Eucharist is a source of hope basically because Jesus is our source of hope. And in the Eucharist we find his real presence for us, a joyful and loving presence. That would be enough to sustain that the Eucharist is a permanent source of hope for us. He is there, he comes to us in a hidden form, but in his full glorious living presence. And nothing can fill us with more hope than just being with him. Two. We now know that in the Eucharist we celebrate the full meaning of Jesus' life as revealed in the Paschal Mystery. He portrayed himself fully in what he did and said that night, including the washing of the feet of the apostles. We understand that his life was always Eucharistic, in a permanent self-giving attitude. His heart was always a loving offering to his Father. Three. By Looking at Jesus' Eucharistic life, we understand the meaning for our own existence. Four. The Eucharist has the power to transform us into Christ's likeness, through the invocation of the Holy Spirit. The sacraments make present the events they memorialize, namely, Christ's presence in his Paschal Mystery. It is really he who comes to our lives, in his death and resurrection, making all things new. We find far more than a merely intellectual meaning for our lives. Five. The Eucharist sends us out to transform the world. This is a source of hope because the Church collaborates in bringing about the kingdom of God. We can hope for justice and peace as more and more Christians are moulded to the likeness of Jesus, putting love and forgiveness where there was selfishness and intolerance. We learn to have a heart like his, to care for the ones he cared, to fight for the causes he fought. We work as him, with him, in him, to heal this broken world. Six. It is source of hope because it is source of strength. In our weakness, we can always find here the strength to overcome the daily difficulties and temptations that make our lives sadder. My words could finish here, for I have answered the question in the title. But there is something else. In the Eucharist we are invited to let ourselves be transformed by the Holy Spirit and then to go out and transform the world. When this happens, the Eucharist is certainly "A gift of God for the life of the world" (Eucharistic Congress, Quebec 2008). But how do we open ourselves to receiving this gift every day? How will God accomplish this transformation of my life and of the world? Is there a practical way to keep our lives united to Jesus? Is it possible to lead a truly Eucharistic life? Here is where the Apostleship of Prayer comes in, teaching us a way to live our daily lives always connected to this source of hope, the Eucharist, and not only when we are at mass. What is the basic practice of the Apostleship of Prayer? The basic practice of the members of the Apostleship of Prayer is, through prayer, to make a daily offering of our lives to God. What is the meaning of this prayer? As we begin our day, we offer ourselves to God and ask that every moment of the day be lived in unity to the Heart of Jesus. We put our lives in the Father's hands in the same way the priest puts the bread and the wine on the altar. He offers the gifts and asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit so they may become Jesus himself. Likewise, every morning we ask the Holy Spirit to take our lives and mould them to Jesus' image. We offer our joys, our sufferings, our works, our prayerseverything we will think or say or do that day. We tell him we want our whole day to be transformed so we may live for him and with him. We are living our baptismal priesthood, "offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and pleasing to God, our spiritual worship" (Rm 12:1). This Scripture quotation is referring to our own lives as a Eucharistic offering.
5 The Daily Offering prayer is not really a promise of what we will do, for we know our own weakness and cannot guarantee the results. It is a sincere manifestation of what we would like to do. We are wishing nothing less than to lead a saintly life in this day. Our daily prayer expresses our heartfelt desire to live in God's will and in Jesus' heart. For this we ask to be guided by the Holy Spirit rather than by our own selfcentred tendencies. In this way, through our constant practice of offering ourselves, we learn to live our whole lives as Eucharist. The Mass will begin for us in the morning when we awake, and will continue all day long as we offer everything to the Father, united with Jesus' perfect offering. The Eucharistic is "a mystery to be lived", as described by Pope Benedict in Sacramentum Caritatis No. 71: "Christianity's new worship includes and transfigures every aspect of life: "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1Co 10:31). Christians, in all their actions, are called to offer true worship to God. Here the intrinsically Eucharistic nature of Christian life begins to take shape. The Eucharist, since it embraces the concrete, everyday existence of the believer, makes possible, day by day, the progressive transfiguration of all those called by grace to reflect the image of the Son of God (cf. Rm 8:29ff.). There is nothing authentically human - our thoughts and affections, our words and deeds - that does not find in the sacrament of the Eucharist the form it needs to be lived to the full. Here we can see the full human import of the radical newness brought by Christ in the Eucharist: the worship of God in our lives cannot be relegated to something private and individual, but tends by its nature to permeate every aspect of our existence. Worship pleasing to God thus becomes a new way of living our whole life, each particular moment of which is lifted up, since it is lived as part of a relationship with Christ and as an offering to God. The glory of God is the living man (cf. 1Co 10:31). And the life of man is the vision of God". Since we Apostles of Prayer are sinners, we are not able to live up to the generous offering we made in the morning. Each night, we do our examen, a review of the day, to see in the first place what God has done with the gift that I gave him at the beginning of the day. We also see what we have done wrong, but it is more important to see what God has done right. We thank him, ask for his forgiveness and his help to correct what is wrong. The next day we begin again, once more putting our life in his hands. Let us now move on to the connection between all we have said and the heart of Christ. It should be quite obvious by now. Offering his heart to his Father was what Jesus' life was all about. The words of the Eucharist, as we have said before, summarize his whole existence and show us what was always in his heart. It was always given out in love for his Father, and for his brothers and sisters. When we live the Eucharist by means of the daily offering we align our lives with the self-giving attitude that was always in Jesus' heart. In the mass we are receiving the Holy Spirit that works to transform our hearts to the likeness of Jesus' heart. But there is more. Jesus gave his life, his body and his blood, for love of us all. He died to bring together the entire family of God. In his heart we all meet; we all fit; we are all welcome. Here he offers the whole of humanity to his Father along with himself. As we pray our daily (Eucharistic) offering, we bring our family, our neighbours, our work, the poor. in short, all of humanity, into his heart. The Eucharist is the foretaste of the heavenly banquet of all nations, of all peoples, gathered and sheltered under God's loving protection. The Eucharistic altar is the place where we bring the whole world into Jesus' heart. We in turn are sent from the Eucharist back to the world, with Jesus, taking his heart to all who need him. A final word on why we pray for the Pope's intentions. Jesus is present in the Eucharist giving his life for the salvation of humanity and for the prayer intentions of the whole world. These intentions are made concrete for us in the Pope's monthly intentions. He is whom knows best as to where the Church should focus its concerns and its missionary action today. As we strive to live our day according to God's will, we are enacting the Church's mission in our small share of the world. By praying for the Holy Father's major concerns today, our hearts grow to the dimension of the world and of the heart of Jesus. The Apostleship of Prayer joins our personal lives and our prayers to the whole Church's mission and prayer.
6 In conclusion, Jesus, our only source of our hope, comes close to us in the Eucharist. Here we recognize his heart given out for all of us. We could then conclude by saying this talk titled "The Eucharist, primary source of our hope", could also have been called: "The Heart of Jesus, primary source of our hope," and both titles would refer to the same content. Glory be to Jesus and his loving heart, open and merciful to us sinners, inviting us to live in his friendship. To him the honour and the glory forever and ever. Amen. Keynote speech given July 3rd, 2008 by Claudio Barriga, S.J. at the Regional Convention of the Apostleship of Prayer, Naga City, Bicol Region, Philippines