November 19, 2023- Pastor Message12/10/2023
THE YEAR OF MISSION
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples, said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:26-28).
We conclude our reflection on the seven sacraments, and our Year of Mission, by reflecting on the heart of our sacramental life, the Eucharist. This is entirely appropriate as we join the Church across our country in the Eucharistic revival, seeking to renew our understanding, appreciation, and celebration of this pivotal sacrament, which is the source and summit of our mission to sow and nurture the seeds of God’s saving love in the hearts and minds of all our neighbors and beyond by living the Gospel.
The matter for the Eucharist is bread and wine. It must be unleavened bread made solely from wheat flour and water and pure, fermented grape juice. This is in keeping with the bread and wine used by Christ when he established the Eucharist at the Last Supper. The form is the minister’s taking the bread and wine and praying the words of consecration, also known as the words of institution, again used by Christ at the Last Supper: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you…Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”
The minister of the sacrament is a priest or bishop, whose connection to the Eucharist is the spiritual character they receive through the sacrament of Holy Orders, conforming them in a unique way to Christ, the head of his Mystical Body, the Church, through their share in the specifically apostolic ministry, as he commanded his apostles to “do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19). The recipient of the sacrament is a properly disposed, baptized Catholic with the use of reason such that he or she recognizes the special nature of the sacrament, which is why First Holy Communion typically happens around the age of reason, or seven years of age.
These are the canonical basics of the Eucharist, but, like all the sacraments, it is a much richer mystery than the bare minimum. We will explore that richness in the coming weeks by reflecting on our celebration of the Eucharist in the Mass. And while this week’s column concludes our Year of Mission, our mission is also a much richer mystery than what we’ve discussed. It is meant to be a source of grace for all, and my hope is that our reflection on our mission over the past year has helped all of us to recommit ourselves to making that grace grow in our community, our diocese, and our world, by serving our parish mission always and in all ways.
Fr. Marc Stockton