Summary: Eucharist is the supreme manifestation of the unity of Christians

January 19, 2009

Sacramentum Caritatis

There is a special co-incidence of today’s readings, the week of prayer for Christian unity, and the words of the Holy Father in Sacramentum Caritatis, where we are at article 15. This Mass, this memorial of Christ, is the supreme sacramental manifestation of communion in the Church, as John Paul wrote. Here we witness to the unity of Christian communities and we renew that unity. It is the Eucharist that unites the Churches of the Catholic communion, but also, by varied rites, it is the Eucharist that shows their diversity. Here we allow ourselves, and the Church allows itself, to be drawn into the Open Arms of the Savior, and thus we are drawn into his one and undivided body. That universal quality of Eucharist and Church is what makes us catholic.

The reality, of course, is that there is separation, schism, in the Christian community. But if we understand together the eucharistic basis of our ecclesial communion, we will be drawn into true, not phony, dialogue with our separated brothers and sisters. There is already a kind of unity between us and the Orthodox, although we cannot yet celebrate Eucharist together. The Holy Father tells us that when we emphasize the ecclesial character of the Eucharist, we will also be able to draw closer to the communities of the Reformation.

At the same time, however, we must understand that there is a prophetic quality to our Eucharist, in which we proclaim that Jesus’ divine presence is here to transform the world, to bring it the new wine spoken of in the Gospel. Men and women are invited and led “to offer themselves, their works and all creation in union with Christ,” and under his law. All the sacraments derive their efficacy from the presence of Christ, made real in this Eucharistic sacrifice. And the sacraments are for the transformation of the world into a culture of life, and a constant witness to the faithfulness of God. Let’s pray that we can continue to witness in peace, even as the culture of death celebrates its temporary ascendancy this week. Because in peace or persecution, we must witness, and cannot stop being the sacramental presence of Christ in our world.

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