Eucharistic Theology

The Eucharist Makes Us Pro-Life

In honor of the recent March for Life (and all those who work tirelessly to defend the pro-life cause), we bring you a reflection from Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington. Special thanks to our friends at The Arlington Catholic Herald for sharing this article!

The Vocation to Defend Life

Our responsibility to care for every human life is not a uniquely Christian vocation but also a human one. As Catholics, we have a particular awareness of this duty. When, at the Last Supper, Christ commanded, “Do this in remembrance of me,” he left a memorial of his saving Death and Resurrection. That command reminds us daily of his sacrificial love for every life. In the Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest renews that sacrifice at the altar, and the baptized are invited to offer themselves to God “by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 48). In the Eucharist, we are incorporated into Christ’s unique sacrifice for all of us… and for each of us. We cannot look at another person as dispensable and disposable, or simply as a part of the larger society. “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

Black-and-white silhouette of a mother holding her newborn child

The Eucharist Bears Witness to the Gift of Human Life

That union with Christ in his saving Death and Resurrection is deepened and nourished by sacramental Communion, where we receive Our Lord truly, substantially and personally present under the appearance of bread and wine. The consecrated bread and wine are not ordinary food. They are the Body, Blood, soul and divinity of Christ Jesus, who revealed to St. Augustine, “I am the food of strong men; grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you convert me, like the food of your flesh, into you, but you shall be converted into me” (Confessions, VII.10). Unlike any other kind of food, when we partake of Communion, we do not transform him into us; rather, we are transformed into him.

In its document, The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently recalled, “The personal and moral transformation that is sustained by the Eucharist reaches out to every sphere of human life.” In this, my brother bishops and I echo the reminder of Pope Francis that we participate in Mass not simply to fulfill a precept but, more importantly, “because only with Jesus’ grace, with his living presence within us and among us, can we put his commandment into practice, and thus be his credible witnesses” (Audience, Dec. 13, 2017). In other words, our specifically Catholic witness to the gift of human life flows from the Eucharist.

Black-and-white photo close-up of a priest’s hand holding a consecrated host to distribute for Communion

Sent Forth, Fulfilled in the Eucharist

All of this is to say that the power and effectiveness of events such as the upcoming March for Life, as well as our hope for their success in bringing widespread protection to the child in the womb, emanate from Christ and the transformation he brings in the Eucharist.

Joining us to himself, Our Lord Jesus Christ transforms us so that, day by day, we might recognize more clearly that all human life is a gift and respond more fully with profound self-offering. So transformed, we are sent forth to work always with God’s grace to ensure that each person has this same opportunity to experience as fully as possible the gift of our existence and to respond with great love to our Creator.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge is the Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington. This essay was originally published in The Arlington Catholic Herald on January 14, 2022.