A ‘theological banquet’ on the Eucharist

Catholic News, Trinidad, Sunday September 27, 2015 

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica, treated over 300 persons, largely comprising local catechists, to a theological banquet on the Eucharist – on how it empowers the faithful for mission.

The occasion was a conference hosted by the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office at the auditorium of Holy Faith Convent, Couva, over the weekend of September 12–13 as part of its celebration of Catechetical Month 2015. The theme of the conference was: “Caribbean People Empowered for Mission.”

Bishop Malzaire challenged all gathered to broaden their understanding of the Eucharist and to view it as:

(a) The link between faith and action.

(b) A catalyst for bringing about social justice.

(c) An instrument for promoting peace and justice in the world.

(d) A school of social love

(e) Creator of a disposition to build a new world of love.

He argued that it is only when we believers broaden our view of the Eucharist to include these and other elements that the Eucharist truly becomes the “source and summit” of our faith.

He explained that the Eucharist must not just be an object of devotion but the initiation of fundamental change as believers become what we eat. As we partake of the Eucharist, we are transformed into little Christs to go into the world and transform it.

Bishop Malzaire spoke of the modern Church as a faith community geared towards penetrating the society and positively impacting the culture with its values: our faith must lead to action. He pointed out that Jesus Christ demonstrated compassion for the poor and marginalised. If our action as Church is limited to spirituality, then we lack practical and relevant connection to the community.

The thrust of Bishop Malzaire’s arguments drew heavily from his book titled “The Eucharist and the Poor”, which is based on the teachings of Pope Paul VI, whose Pontificate lasted from 1963-1978. Catholics have to learn at the table of the Eucharist, practical ways to alleviate the plight of the poor. Any human being lacking the necessities of life is poor: whether it be material, spiritual or psychological poverty.

Christians are called to work for peace. But to obtain peace we must work for justice, as justice and peace do not fall from the sky. The Eucharist both signifies and concretises justice and peace in the temporal order. When we leave the table of the Eucharist, we are called to produce what we consume. Hence, the Eucharist is the sacramental basis of the connection between works of social justice and the realisation of peace in the social sphere. Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is the source of the Eucharist, the sacrifice where justice and peace meet.

The Bishop argued that we must also see the Eucharist as the “school of social love”, where Christians learn to hear the heart of Jesus beating for

human beings. It is also a place where we learn to respond to the reality of the earthly order, and pledge gratuitous service to our fellowmen.  Social love stresses the dignity of the whole human person, and always informs the physical. He commented that liturgy cannot be properly celebrated if the Christian community ignores existing social needs.

Our partaking at the table of the Eucharist gives us a disposition to build a new world order of love, because when we leave the Eucharistic table, we bring all it contains to others. Jesus told his disciples to “give (the crowd) …something to eat yourselves”. Hence sharing is an important attitude of Christians. Salvation, therefore, is not for ourselves alone. If the love we share is patterned on Jesus’ love for us, then we will surely build a new world order of love. For nothing can construct a world of love, but love itself: love is both the end and the means.

He concluded that in the Eucharist, the entire theology of the life of the Church is to be found. All that we need for salvation is there. Given that the Eucharist contains Christ himself, it therefore contains all that is required to bring about increased understanding and appreciation, and the transformation required in the life of the believer and of those whom he encounters on mission. We need to allow ourselves to be stretched as we carry out our mission in the service of the Lord, particularly since the world seems to be more in need of witnesses than of teachers,

The conference ended with a common pledge to mission.

 Alphie Skerrette, catechist