The Eucharist as a Sacrament of Charity

This article was posted on: July 9, 2024

Bearing fruit in love of neighbor.

Bearing fruit in love of neighbor

As we pass the midpoint of the three-year National Eucharistic Revival and are on the heels of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage passing through our diocese, I would like to address a stereotype that occasionally arises. It’s the stereotype that people who are deeply devoted to the Eucharist and who give serious time and effort to deepening their prayer lives are indifferent to social concerns, that they give little attention to helping the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the marginalized. The stereotype is that they are too focused on “Jesus-and-me,” and not enough on “Jesus-in-my-neighbor.”

St. Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day

I can think of no better response to this stereotype than the example of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose Missionaries of Charity continue her legacy of tending to the poorest of the poor or, as she liked to call them, “Jesus in His distressing disguise”—the dying, the starving, the leper, the outcast. 

Mother Teresa once said, “People ask, where do the sisters get the joy and the energy to do what they are doing?” Her reply: “The Eucharist. To be able to live this life…we need our life to be woven with the Eucharist. That’s why we begin our day with Jesus in the holy Eucharist.  With Him, we go forward.” She wrote to her sisters: “To make our lives a true sacrifice of love, we will consciously and actively enter into the spirit of the eucharistic sacrifice and offer ourselves with Christ to be broken and given to the poorest of the poor…so that they may have life and may have it in abundance.”

The Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Works of Mercy

It is beautiful to see that a key component of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, whose Marian Route passed through the Diocese of La Crosse on June 7-12, is love of neighbor in action.  As noted on the national website for the Eucharistic Pilgrimage, each of the four pilgrimage routes devote Saturday afternoons to expressions of this love.  “Saturday is about stepping into our identity as the Body of Christ—being His hands and feet in service of the community. Perpetual Pilgrims will exercise the Corporal Works of Mercy during the day, participating in a service project.”  In the Diocese of La Crosse, this consisted of visiting nursing homes on Saturday afternoon, June 8. 

It is also worth noting that a distinct stop during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s journey through the Diocese of La Crosse occurred on Monday, June 10 at the gravesite of Blessed Brother James Miller. Blessed Brother Miller was martyred in Guatemala on Feb. 13, 1982, where he was working as a missionary. The same evening, another presentation featured Servant of God Father Joseph Walijewski, founder of Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II, our diocesan orphanage in Lurin, Peru.  These events, these memorials, along the way of the Eucharistic Pilgrimage likewise testify to the inseparability of love of neighbor—especially our neighbor in need—and our Communion with Jesus in the Eucharist.

Sacrament of Charity

In 2007, the late Pope Benedict XVI wrote an apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist titled Sacramentum Caritatis, “Sacrament of Charity.”  I would like to conclude these reflections with a touching quote from it: “In the Eucharist, Jesus makes us witnesses of God’s compassion towards all our brothers and sisters.  The Eucharistic mystery thus gives rise to a service of charity towards neighbor…. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God.  Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ.  In all those I meet, I recognize brothers or sisters for whom the Lord gave his life, loving them ‘to the end.’”

Story by Chris Ruff, Director of the Office for Ministries and Social Concerns
Published in the July/August 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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