The Holy Eucharist and the Life of Charity

Solemn Latin High Mass, courtesy of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP)

For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mk. 10:45).

Taken as a unified whole, the lessons of the Mass today contain all that we need to know to understand how the Son of God saves us and how we participate in the gift of salvation. When we look at the saving mission of Our Lord, we see that it is at once universal and intimately personal in scope. He has redeemed the whole world; but as Saviour the offer of salvation is personal for He offers it to each one of us individually. How we respond determines how we participate in this saving work. Will my response be fervent or will it be at best nominal? All of us are very familiar with the word economy. As we grow up, it becomes an important reality that determines so much of what we do or don’t do. The word itself literally means house management; so when we speak of a divine economy at work we do well to think of how each one of us manages the great treasure that is the gift of salvation. The parable of the talents comes to mind. Successful management of this treasure can produce great benefits to ourselves obviously, and to others. We participate in this divine economy in what we call the communion of saints, all of the faithful united in Christ; in Heaven, on earth and in Purgatory.

As we approach the end of the liturgical year we are reminded that just as there is an earthly year with its seasons, an earthly nature with its creatures, its fruits, and its peculiar properties, so also there exists an economy of a higher order for the restoration of our fallen race. It has innumerable graces and means of salvation all linked together in the course of the spiritual year which also has its different seasons. Each year, each day, each hour, ripens these fruits for our eternal salvation. As we grow and our faith deepens and matures we come to a deeper understanding of this economy of divine grace and we endeavour to participate in it as fully as we can. The means by which this spiritual growth and transformation is brought about is our full, conscious and active (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14) participation in this divine economy. This is the grace of the liturgical year observed in all its beauty and formative depth.

The central truth of the Christian Faith and life is the Mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation: the truth that for us men and for our salvation the Son of God became man and that He suffered and died on the Cross. We understand this to mean that God is not distant and inaccessible but one with His creation though distinct from it. At the pinnacle of the created order there is humanity created in the image and likeness of God and destined to share God’s life not in some indefinite, indeterminate manner but in and through Christ Our Lord, who alone reveals the full truth about man, about our nature and destiny. Both God’s revelation and the understanding of ourselves bring us before the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. At the very heart of this revelation is the truth that the human person is a relational being; created in the image and likeness the one, true and living God, a Trinity of Divine Persons.

In the Eucharistic Sacrifice offered by Christ the High Priest through the ministry of priests at the Altar, this relational union with humanity and among humans is perpetuated through the ages and celebrated as communion. Our participation in this Sacrifice is not that of spectators. Our full, conscious and active participation expressed principally by our conscious and prayerful union with Christ the High Priest, enables us to understand that it is not simply Jesus who offers Himself to the Father. We also are offered with Him. When we begin truly to understand that the Mass is Calvary then we begin also to appreciate that we too are offered to the Father in union with Our Lord. Our spiritual worship is the uniting of our lives especially our own sacrifices to the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Only then do we become the true worshippers that Our Lord spoke of: But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him (Jn. 4:23). The union of Christ Our Lord with humanity both in the sharing of our human nature and in the sacrifice of the Redemption is fully revealed to us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice that defines the manner in which authentic Christian life must be lived. This is why the celebration of the liturgy, specifically the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is essential for an authentic Christian life which is always a Eucharistic life. As we grow older we know how absolutely essential sacrifice is to a meaningful and purposeful life. This is the reality that we must endeavour to communicate to our children and young people as effectively as possible because only in Christ do all things find their meaning and purpose, especially our sufferings and sacrifices.

As we grow spiritually and enter more deeply into the Mystery of Christ we come to realise that the spiritual journey that each one of us undertakes is never a solitary journey for we all walk along one path. The more we grow in our knowledge of God in Christ, the greater our commitment becomes to the needs of others, both materially and spiritually. Practically speaking, this means that our faith in Christ manifests itself in a personal commitment to conform our own life to the pattern of His life; for through Him and in Him we have communion with God and with all of humanity.

The vitality of the Church in any age, including ours, is ultimately determined by the intensity of our Eucharistic life. Last Sunday, in Rome the Synod on Synodality began. It is officially known as Synod 2021-2021: For a Synodal Church. The process involves an expansion of an established institution known as the Synod of Bishops. This means that bishops around the world will consult with everyone from monks and nuns to parishioners on how the Church can learn to become more synodal in its governance. May everyone who participates in this unprecedented undertaking heed Our Lord’s words contained in our Gospel reading today: ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognise as their rulers lord it over them. But it is not so among you; whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ This is a lesson that we learn anew at every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Let us pray therefore that throughout the world Catholics, especially those who no longer attend Holy Mass with any regularity may rediscover the necessity and the beauty of the Mass as the indispensable aid to authentic Christian life. ⧾