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“They set out immediately” (cf. Lk 24:33)
The two disciples of Emmaus, upon recognizing the Lord, “set out immediately” (cf. Lk 24:33), in order to report what they had seen and heard. Once we have truly met the Risen One by partaking of his body and blood, we cannot keep to ourselves the joy we have experienced. The encounter with Christ, constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist, issues in the Church and in every Christian an urgent summons to testimony and evangelization. I wished to emphasize this ... based on the words of Saint Paul: “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). The Apostle closely relates meal and proclamation: entering into communion with Christ in the memorial of his Pasch also means sensing the duty to be a missionary of the event made present in that rite.(22) The dismissal at the end of each Mass is a charge given to Christians, inviting them to work for the spread of the Gospel and the imbuing of society with Christian values.
The Eucharist not only provides the interior strength needed for this mission, but is also —in some sense—its plan. For the Eucharist is a mode of being, which passes from Jesus into each Christian, through whose testimony it is meant to spread throughout society and culture. For this to happen, each member of the faithful must assimilate, through personal and communal meditation, the values which the Eucharist expresses, the attitudes it inspires, the resolutions to which it gives rise…
One fundamental element of this plan is found in the very meaning of the word “Eucharist”: thanksgiving. In Jesus, in his sacrifice, in his unconditional “yes” to the will of the Father, is contained the “yes”, the “thank you” and the “amen” of all humanity. The Church is called to remind men and women of this great truth. This is especially urgent in the context of our secularized culture, characterized as it is by a forgetfulness of God and a vain pursuit of human self-sufficiency. Incarnating the Eucharistic “plan” in daily life, wherever people live and work—in families, schools, the workplace, in all of life’s settings—means bearing witness that human reality cannot be justified without reference to the Creator: “Without the Creator the creature would disappear”.(23) This transcendent point of reference, which commits us constantly to give thanks for all that we have and are—in other words, to a “Eucharistic” attitude—in no way detracts from the legitimate autonomy of earthly realities,(24) but grounds that autonomy more firmly by setting it within its proper limits.
...Christians ought to be committed to bearing more forceful witness to God’s presence in the world. We should not be afraid to speak about God and to bear proud witness to our faith. The “culture of the Eucharist” promotes a culture of dialogue, which here finds strength and nourishment. It is a mistake to think that any public reference to faith will somehow undermine the rightful autonomy of the State and civil institutions, or that it can even encourage attitudes of intolerance. If history demonstrates that mistakes have also been made in this area by believers, as I acknowledged on the occasion of the Jubilee, this must be attributed not to “Christian roots”, but to the failure of Christians to be faithful to those roots. One who learns to say “thank you” in the manner of the crucified Christ might end up as a martyr, but never as a persecutor.
The way of solidarity
The Eucharist is not merely an expression of communion in the Church’s life; it is also a project of solidarity for all of humanity. In the celebration of the Eucharist the Church constantly renews her awareness of being a “sign and instrument” not only of intimate union with God but also of the unity of the whole human race.(25) Each Mass, even when celebrated in obscurity or in isolation, always has a universal character. The Christian who takes part in the Eucharist learns to become a promotor of communion, peace and solidarity in every situation. More than ever, our troubled world, which began the new Millennium with the spectre of terrorism and the tragedy of war, demands that Christians learn to experience the Eucharist as a great school of peace, forming men and women who, at various levels of responsibility in social, cultural and political life, can become promotors of dialogue and communion.
At the service of the least
There is one other point which I would like to emphasize, since it significantly affects the authenticity of our communal sharing in the Eucharist. It is the impulse which the Eucharist gives to the community for a practical commitment to building a more just and fraternal society. In the Eucharist our God has shown love in the extreme, overturning all those criteria of power which too often govern human relations and radically affirming the criterion of service: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mc 9:35). It is not by chance that the Gospel of John contains no account of the institution of the Eucharist, but instead relates the “washing of feet” (cf. Jn 13:1-20): by bending down to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus explains the meaning of the Eucharist unequivocally. Saint Paul vigorously reaffirms the impropriety of a Eucharistic celebration lacking charity expressed by practical sharing with the poor (cf.1Cor 11:17-22, 27-34).
Can we not make this ... an occasion for diocesan and parish communities to commit themselves in a particular way to responding with fraternal solicitude to one of the many forms of poverty present in our world? I think for example of the tragedy of hunger which plagues hundreds of millions of human beings, the diseases which afflict developing countries, the loneliness of the elderly, the hardships faced by the unemployed, the struggles of immigrants. These are evils which are present—albeit to a different degree—even in areas of immense wealth. We cannot delude ourselves: by our mutual love and, in particular, by our concern for those in need we will be recognized as true followers of Christ (cf. Jn 13:35; Mt 25:31-46). This will be the criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged.
Excerpted from the APOSTOLIC LETTER, MANE NOBISCUM DOMINE OF JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGYAND FAITHFUL for the YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST, OCTOBER 2004-OCTOBER 2005. ©Libreria editrice Vaticana