The Eucharist our Hope

The oldest biblical account of the institution of the Eucharist comes to us from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.   At the end of the narrative, St. Paul says something that is not found in either one of the four Gospels, but it is reflected in the Liturgy’s Memorial Acclamation options; “for as long as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26).    This passage is read at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.   Two points can be derived from this brief statement, the first is “proclaim” and the second is “hope”.   

The Apostle speaks of a frequent communication of the Eucharist and by which the Christian is called to “proclaim”, to “evangelize” to partake of his baptismal role as prophet.    Consider that at every Eucharist in which we receive communion we participate in a prophetic witness to the Lord’s salvific act.    We “proclaim the death of the Lord” as St. Paul writes.   In fact we can say that at every communion we are given a summons or issued a mandate to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.   This is a serious commitment we make.   For not only do we unite ourselves to the Lord and to one another (communion) but we are also called to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23).  

We can take the liberty to use a play on words for we are called to “communicate” the Gospel.   This means that as Christians none of us can keep our faith to ourselves, it cannot be a private matter.   Faith is never a private matter, but always one that must be lived in public, for others to see.   When we express our belief in the Lord’s Real Presence, we are proclaiming to the world that we worship the God who was crucified on Calvary and rose from the dead and is now seated at the Father’s right hand.   This has been the constant theme of Pope Francis’ call for the New Evangelization, for we are all called to be “missionary disciples”, taking what “I received from the Lord” and “handing it on” to others.  

There is another message hidden in our frequent communions, and that is this hope in the Lord’s second coming.   We Christians are convinced of the Lord’s promise of eternal life for those who “eat the flesh of the Son of Man” and “drink his blood” (cf. Jn. 6).   This Eucharist which we partake of at each Mass is the foretaste, a pledge of heaven, of the fulfilled promise of eternal life.   This promise then gives us hope in a future free from the domain of sin and death, a future teaming with God’s everlasting love.   The future, this promise is encompassed in Paul’s words “until he comes again”, referring to the second coming of the Lord, radically different from his first coming.    This second coming ushers in the final judgment which for the faithful Christian, forged in union to the Lord by the Eucharist, is the day of victory.   Every Eucharist we partake of is a “communion of hope”, that forges in us a burning desire to be with the Lord forever.  

In the Church’s spiritual heritage, the mystic saints like St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross or St. Ignatius of Loyola, all had their sights, their hopes, their dreams on a future in heaven.   They were radically convinced of the Lord’s promise to be with them in eternity, a conviction that can only be shaped and formed in them by the Eucharist.    We can therefore say that at every communion, our hearts ache with a greater desire to be with the Lord in heaven.   The more we receive Holy Communion, the greater our desire.   Hidden in each Eucharistic banquet, is a wealth of treasures that await us.   The Eucharist is our very life, our direction, and our hope. 

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