Eucharistic discipleship, Part II: Receiving instruction

Last week I returned to the theme of the Church, the sacrament of intimate union with God and the unity of all mankind, as a sign of hope in a divided world. For the Church to bring hope to the world she must first of all be herself, that means she must live from the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as “the source and summit of the Christian life.” (LG 11)

That requires that in the first place that baptized Catholics, who appear in today’s world very often as a scattered and divided flock, be gathered into the unity of Christ’s Body through the full, conscious, and active participation in the Holy Eucharist that is their baptismal birthright.

I have sought to set this goal before St. Peter’s parish in a very concrete way with a 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.” We can call this the path of ‘eucharistic discipleship’.

During this Easter Season I want to develop the theme of eucharistic discipleship first in terms of entering in to receive instruction, then entering in to receive healing, then entering in to seek union with God, and finally going forth as missionary disciples to bring light and hope to others.

The root meaning of ‘disciple’ is a ‘student’, one who receives instruction. The first part of the Mass is called the Liturgy of the Word; since the earliest days of the Church, before the Eucharist itself was celebrated, the word of God was read to the people and explained. Full, conscious, and active participation in the Mass requires faith before anything else; it requires a faith that is well instructed so as to be awake and active. The activity of faith consists first of all not in doing things, but in contemplating the mighty works of God in Jesus Christ. (cf. Acts 2:11; 1 Pe 2:9)

That means that we must learn who Jesus Christ is and what he has done and what he continues to do in his Church. That is not something we should take for granted. The bare name ‘Jesus Christ’ is so familiar in the world today, is used by so many people and in so many ways, that if we are not careful we can easily find ourselves embracing a false christ.

In Jesus’ own time, when he asked his Apostles, Who do men say that the Son of Man is, the answers were many, various, and false. (Mt 16:13) When he asked the Apostles, Peter answered on behalf of all them saying, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Mt 16:15) Only Peter’s answer was the answer given by God himself; only his answer was the true answer to the most important question.

Yet even Peter’s answer can be deceptively simple. Peter’s answer leads into the two central mysteries of the faith, the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the mystery of the Incarnation. During the course of 2,000 years countless books have been written trying to give some measure of explanation to our basic profession of faith. Much has been written well and truly, but much also has been written that in the end betrays the faith and returns to the many and various human opinions.

Also, when we try to understand the basic truth about Jesus Christ, we must recognize that he did not suddenly appear from nowhere. He came as the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Every page of the New Testament leads us back to the Old Testament; unless we come to understand the Old Testament our understanding of Jesus Christ, son of David, Son of Abraham, will be limited. (cf. Mt 1:1)

The Old Testament has the greater framework of the creation: God created the whole universe and he created man in his image, male and female he created them. In the Middle Ages it was said that God wrote two books: the book of the created world and the Bible.

Nevertheless the work of creation was marred by Adam’s sin, which led to expulsion from paradise and the beginning of history. Within the framework of creation we then encounter the history of people of Israel, chosen by God out of all the people’s of the earth, as his special people with whom he entered into a covenant.

In this context, Jesus Christ makes known to us the ultimate purpose of creation and the inner meaning of human history, including the personal story of each one of us.

The more that we can feed upon and assimilate the instruction of God’s word, contained in the book of creation and the books of the Bible, the better we will be able to enter into a full, conscious, and active participation in the Mass.

There is so much about which we must be instructed. To start off we must recognize our ignorance and desire to learn. To learn we must apply our minds in order to understand.

Further, what we learn should not remain as seed in unfertile soil, but should bear fruit both in the praise of God and conversion of life, turning away from sin and doing good to all.

There is so much about which we must be instructed and the basic instruction for every Catholic is found in the readings for Sunday Mass, which are the same throughout the world.

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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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