Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Become what you receive

The following post, written by Susan Stabile, was published on Creo en Dios!

Become What You Receive

Last night I attended a talk in my parish by Archbishop Harry Flynn, retired archbishop of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Diocese. He spoke on the Eucharist and on the centrality of social justice in the lives of Christians. There are many things I could share, many things that I want to reflect on from his talk. But I share here one that seems to me central.

The Archbishop observed that when he ate a piece of the lemon square that was served for dessert at the dinner preceding his talk, he changed the food into himself. In contrast, when we receive Eucharist, we don’t change the Body of Christ into ourselves. Rather we are changed into the Body of Christ. We become what we receive. The Body of Christ doesn’t become Harry Flynn; rather, Harry Flynn becomes the Body of Christ.

I think he right in observing that we don’t always receive the Eucharist with a consciousness of what it means, of what it does for us and to us. The Eucharist doesn’t just nourish us; it transforms us. We become Christ. So there is nothing figurative about saying we are the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

Similarly, as I become Christ in the receipt of the Eucharist, so too does everyone else in the assembly. And I don’t become one Christ and you a different Christ. Rather, we all become part of the same Christ. Thus, when we say that we are many parts but one body, we are not speaking figuratively, but quite literally.

To me this gives a much fuller picture of the meaning of Christ’s words at the Last Supper - do this in memory of me. If we take seriously this understanding of the Eucharist, the invitation to do this in memory of me is not just an invitation to eat bread and drink wine. Instead, it is an invitation to eat the Body of Christ so that we can be the Body of Christ in the world. The “this” in “do this” is not just the eating and drinking, but the being in the world what Christ was when he walked in the world. That’s a much more demanding invitation - an invitation to become what we receive.

And this, also by Susan Stabile, was published on Mirror of Justice:

Eucharist and Social Justice

Archbishop Harry Flynn, retired archbishop of the St. Paul and Minneapolis diocese, is giving a mission in my parish. Although I missed the taco dinner beforehand, I was able to make it for the evening program last night. The focus of the Archbishop's remarks was on the Eucharist and its relation to social justice.

He emphasized that Catholics do not have the option of viewing social ministry as something reserved for a few, as a parish sideline. Rather, it must be integrated into all of our lives and a central part of our lives as a parish community. He emphasized that this is not some new teaching of modern theologians, but is rooted in Scripture, particularly in the human life of Jesus. He reminded us that in Luke, the beginning of Jesus ministry is his action in the temple at Nazareth. Jesus stands up and quotes Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, becuse he has anointed me to being glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." He then tells the people that the scripture passage is today fulfilled in their hearing.

Flynn emphasized that social ministry means both charity and justice. Direct service to those in need is important, but we must also work to create a more just society. As Christians we can't just sit back, and we can't just write a check. We must be an active part of transforming the world into Kingdom by working to change the structures that allow the diminution of the human dignity of our brothers and sisters.

It was a powerful talk and a needed one, since I think too many people either don't understand the centrality of social justice to our lives as Christians or forget that social justice has two legs - justice as well as charity.

In a post on my own blog this morning, I focus on Flynn's remarks about the Eucharist transforming us into Christ. You can find that post here.

Thanks, Sharon, for sharing this!

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."