Eucharistic Discipleship, Part I: Introduction

I began the year writing about the Catholic Church as a sign of hope in a world divided. The Church is a sign of hope in a particular way as the sacrament of intimate union with God and the unity of all mankind. (cf. Lumen Gentium 9) The Church is a sign of hope as a visible institution in this world, bound together by the bonds of the same faith, the same sacraments, and the same government.

I started out on this theme, but speaking about the Church as a visible ‘institution’ led to a lengthy detour in order to address the problems people have with the ‘institutional Church’. Then my detour continued as I addressed the subject of ecumenism and the possibility of salvation outside the Church.

Now as we move into the Easter season it is time to return the theme of the Church as a sign of hope. Here the first thing we must keep in mind is that the hope the Church offers is not peace on earth, but eternal life in Jesus Christ. Her focus is always, in the first place, upon God. While the Church has always engaged in outstanding works of charity on behalf of men in their innumerable needs, it is above all by leading men to God that she helps to improve human life upon earth.

The Church is then most herself not in the soup kitchen, but when she is engaged in offering worship to God through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, “the source and summit of the Christian life.” (LG 11) If the Church is the sacrament of intimate unity with God and the unity of mankind, it is above all through the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, that we enter into union with God and are bound together in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life, which means that we must first be gathered into the unity of Christ’s Body through the Holy Eucharist before we can go out to the world as ‘missionary disciples’.  Here we have a problem: the flock is scattered.

One of the great goals of the Second Vatican Council was that the faithful might enjoy the full, conscious, and active participation in the Holy Eucharist that is their baptismal birthright. (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 14)

That involves more than just being there, but for starters Mass attendance is abysmally low. Few Catholics even take the Sunday obligation that seriously anymore.

That requires more than just doing things at Mass, but it requires a true, intentional, interior participation in the Mass, a participation that moves beyond the signs and symbols to the reality.

In a word, full, conscious, active participation requires a faith that is both well instructed and lived out in hope and charity.

Before we can go out as missionary disciples, we must enter in as disciples. We must first build truly Eucharistic communities from which disciples can go out to lead others in. The Eucharistic community is itself the greatest sign of the presence and action of Christ in the world.

Of course if we speak of a Eucharistic community the first thing that comes to mind is the parish, which for us means concretely St. Peter Catholic Church. For us, Sunday Mass here at St. Peter’s is where the rubber meets the road. That is also why I have proposed as the new parish mission statement: “To walk the path of love in the Body of Christ, which is the Church, nourished by the Body of Christ, which is the Eucharist.”

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.

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