July 1, 2011


Life in Christ is what the Eucharist is all about

“If it is true—as we believe it is—that Christ is really present in the Eucharist, then this is the event that is at the center of absolutely everything.”
—Pope Benedict XVI

Life in Christ is what the Eucharist is all about.

It is about the personal communion with Jesus Christ that is experienced each time we receive the holy Eucharist. It is about the ecclesial communion that takes place whenever we gather as Church around the altar to participate in the Lord’s sacrificial meal.

It is about his real presence in the sacrament, and his radical closeness to each of us as we witness to him in our words and actions every day.

At Sunday Mass, we remember and renew the great mystery of our redemption through Jesus Christ. Faithful to the Lord’s command, we eat his body and drink his blood. We give thanks for the sacrificial gift of Christ’s love, and for the communion of faith that has united us in his name.

But celebrating the Lord’s Day includes more than participation in the Sunday Eucharist. Keeping the Lord’s day holy—the third commandment—challenges us to extend the Eucharist to the entire day and, ultimately, to the entire week.

For modern Americans, a faithful observance of the Lord’s Day is truly countercultural. It challenges us to give top priority to our faith, to our families and to a grateful appreciation of all God’s gifts. The Lord’s Day is part of the celebration of the Creator’s work.

On Sunday, we rejoice in God’s accomplishments in creation and salvation, and we share in the rest and joy of the Creator. This rest is not simply physical inactivity, but is fundamentally concerned with contemplation—not working, but taking the time to enjoy what has been accomplished by God for us and through us.

Many of us today feel stressed out because we can’t find enough time to do everything that is expected of us. The Lord’s Day invites us to experience time differently.

Sunday is the first day of the week, but it is also the eighth day insofar as it looks forward to the completion of this work of redemption.

On Sunday, we look forward to the day when Christ will come again and bring creation to its perfection in eternal life.

Through our celebration of the Lord’s Day, we are invited to experience time not as the hurried, fragmented passage of hours, days and years, but as the beginning of new life in Christ and as the constant renewal of God’s creative and redemptive activity in our daily lives.

The Lord’s Day is also the day of the Church. In particular, the celebration of the Eucharist in the parish community on Sunday manifests the nature of the Church as the whole mystical body, connected as it is to the universal Church through union with the local bishop.

As modern life tries to pull us farther and farther away from our families and from the community of faith, observance of the Lord’s Day helps provide us with the grace we need to keep first things first. We are not isolated individuals struggling to make our way in a hostile world. We are sisters and brothers in Christ, who are united in faith, hope and love and who are called to give witness to the goodness of God’s creation.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis recently offered the following reflections on the Sunday Eucharist:

“Gathering together each week to keep holy the Lord’s Day is not optional. It’s what’s expected of each one of us. Sunday Mass should not be a burden. Celebrating the Sunday Eucharist with our parish community and, indeed, with the whole Church allows us to worship God, to learn about our faith, to open our hearts to the Word of God, to receive the Bread of Life at the table of the Lord, and to be strengthened for the work we must do during the coming week.”

On Sunday, we celebrate the joy of the Risen Christ, who reveals in his resurrection the true nature and dignity of humanity. We proclaim the Good News of salvation, and it is therefore fitting to engage in virtuous practices of prayer and works of charity—on Sunday and throughout the week that follows.

If we are true to our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ, Sunday can be so much more than simply one element of the secular holiday we have come to know as “the weekend.”

It can truly be the Lord’s Day, a day of peace, a day of joy and a day of communion with all those we love in Jesus’ name.

—Daniel Conway

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