By AJ Garcia/Office of New Evangelization and Justice
Attending Mass frequently during the week and visiting our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration are moments that provide us with grace, but by choosing to attend and participate are we hoping to be sustained in our faith, or transformed and converted into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ?
There is a close connection between evangelization and the Eucharist. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) the Eucharist is described as the “source and summit of the Christian life” (1324). It is the source for our lives that fuels us to pursue holiness and to be Christian. If we are doing those things separate from the Eucharist, it’s possible we’re doing them separate from Jesus. When I hear “summit,” I think of a mountain, something that people exhaust themselves in order to climb. The summit of the Christian life is heaven. If our goal is the summit - to spend eternal life in heaven - we need a source! We need Jesus; we need Him in the Holy Eucharist. In the Gospel of John, chapter six, Jesus says, “… unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”
Let’s focus more on the relationship between evangelization and the Eucharist. Evangelization is not proselytizing or the forced teaching/sharing of the faith with the goal of being heard. It is not only for Protestants; many do it well and as Catholics we may look to them as an example, but we must also take action. Evangelization is not the work of professionals only. Priests, religious, parish staff members and all of the baptized have a role in evangelization.
A quote that captures the essence of evangelization from Pope Blessed Paul VI is this: “For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new.” Note the word transform and that no one is excluded from benefiting from evangelization. I would add that evangelization is incomplete without the kerygma. The kerygma is a word for proclamation of the Good News and in my experience, evangelization is most effective when - after the kerygma - an invitation is extended to follow Jesus and make Him central in one’s life.
The Eucharist is not a symbol; it is not simply bread and it is not a new sacrifice. It is also, as stated in chapter six of St. John’s Gospel, the bread of life, the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Do you find that hard to believe? If so, you aren’t alone! Consider Jesus’ disciples who, in John chapter six, express unbelief in Jesus’ words. The same disciples who left their families, jobs, entire livelihoods to follow Jesus tell Him that it is too hard to accept the teaching that bread (Jesus’ body) could be his body and blood. However, the twelve apostles believed in Jesus. Peter said in response to Jesus when asked about his understanding of Jesus’ words, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).
If we, too, are convinced that Jesus Christ is who He says He is - the bread of life that has come down from heaven - and that unless we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood we will not have life within us; if we are convinced of this truth, we must evangelize. It can no longer be an option to share the love and Word of God with others as it has been shared with us. It is through the Eucharist - through Jesus - that we can live the faith and share it.
The next time you attend Mass, consider the love Jesus is sharing with you in his very body and blood and reflect on what Jesus is inviting you to. Consider whether Jesus is offering himself to sustain your relationship with him or to more deeply transform your life with Him.