Eucharistic Theology

Flesh for the Life of the World

I am excited about the Eucharistic Revival as an opportunity for the members of Christ’s Body, the Church, to become “flesh for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51). When Our Lord declared that “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51), he gave us words for the mystery-reality of his Real Presence in the Eucharist. His Presence in the Eucharist is “bread” which nourishes, “life” which sustains us, and is for “the world” he created and loves.

“His ‘do this’ compels us to ‘become what you receive’ and ‘imitate what you celebrate’ by giving our lives, our flesh, for the life of the world.”

While his “Bread of Life discourse” in John 6 helps us understand Our Lord’s Presence in the Eucharist, his institution of the Blessed Sacrament at the Last Supper instructs our participation and even imitation of this Presence. In his “other” great act at the Last Supper, washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus presents himself as “among you as the one who serves” (Lk. 22:27) and commands that “as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn. 13:15). The institution narratives recounting Jesus’ direction to “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24) certainly pertain directly to the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass. These words also point us to Christ’s model of service. His “do this” compels us to “become what you receive” and “imitate what you celebrate” by giving our lives, our flesh, for the life of the world.

Faith in Action

I recently saw this dynamic lived out among high school youth of the Diocese of Arlington (Virginia). Over 600 teenagers gave a week of their summer to “WorkCamp,” a diocesan home repair program that seeks to make our neighbors’ lives “warmer, safer and drier.” Gathered under the theme “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24), youth (and their adult supporters) began each day with Mass, going forth to bring the Eucharistic love of Christ to those in need of roofing, flooring, plumbing, and other construction and repairs.

“...the loudest cheers and applause were always for the photos of Bishop Burbidge elevating the host at Mass each morning...”

How did these young people live out the connection between the Eucharist and works of charity? In the daily evening slideshows documenting scenes from the work sites, the loudest cheers and applause were always for the photos of Bishop Burbidge elevating the host at Mass each morning: Christ’s flesh for the life of the world, and our bishop’s “flesh”—his time, energy, attention, concern—for the young members of his flock.

Christ’s Healing Presence

WorkCamp organizers report that every year, youth rank Tuesday night Adoration and Reconciliation as the highlight of the week: Christ’s healing Presence, and the flesh of his priests, for their own restored life. Given the opportunity to share an experience of Christ’s power in the Eucharist, one young man on my work crew explained that, in response to a cousin’s hospitalization six months prior, he began praying for his cousin every time he received Communion: “And you have seen him here, participating in WorkCamp. He’s doing well!” Christ’s flesh, and his own, for the life of his cousin. Residents participating in the end-of-week celebration testified to the love they had received and reciprocated: Christ’s flesh, transforming our own, mutually given for the life of others.

Ora et Labora

I participated in WorkCamp when I was in high school. While I cannot draw a straight line from that experience to the clarification of my call to consecrated life, I can “connect the dots” from the WorkCamp way of learning to give myself in service to others to discovering how God was calling me to give my life, my flesh, for the life of the world. May this Revival awaken in each of us a desire to follow the example of our Eucharistic Lord.

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Biblical citations from NABRE at https://bible.usccb.org/bible

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