Pope St. John Paul II and the Eucharist (pt 1)

St. John Paul II, pray for us.

St. John Paul II, pray for us.


No one in the history of the church has written more consistently, eloquently or devotionally on the Eucharist than our present reigning Pope John Paul II. He has truly been called and is an apostle of the Eucharist. He has included the theme of Eucharist devotion and adoration in every one of his major addresses and encyclicals. In fact, the signature that he has placed on all his writings are two themes: devotion to the Eucharist and devotion to Mary, our mother, who is the mother of the Eucharist. The following is compiled from the Pope’s writings on the Eucharist.

  1. The Eucharist, the Core of Christian Life

From the Eucharist, we all receive the grace and strength for everyday life, for living a truly Christian existence, in the joy of knowing that God loves us, that Christ has died for us and that the Holy Spirit lives in us.

Full Participation in the Eucharist

Our full participation in the Eucharist is the true source of that Christian spirit we should like to see in our own lives and in every aspect of society. Wherever we work – in politics, in the economy, in culture, in the social or scientific fields – it does not matter what our job may be – the Eucharist is a challenge to our daily lives.

There must always be consistency between what we believe and what we do. We cannot live on the glories of our Christian past. Our union with Christ in the Eucharist must be manifest in the truth of our lives today: in our actions, in our sense of values, in our life-style, in our relationships with others.

Summoned To Live as True Followers of Christ

For each of us, the Eucharist is a summons to make an ever greater effort to live as true followers of Christ: truthful in what we say, generous in what we do, caring for and respectful of the dignity and rights of all, whatever their class or their income may be; ready to make personal sacrifices, loyal and just, generous, prudent, compassionate and self-disciplined; aiming at the good of our families, of our young people, of our country, of Europe, of the world. The truth of our union with Christ in the Eucharist is attested by whether or not we truly love our neighbor, whoever that may be, and by the way we treat other people, especially our own families: husbands and wives, children and parents, brothers and sisters. It is attested by the effort we really make to be reconciled with our enemies, to forgive those who wrong us or offend us.

Given the agnostic society – a sadly hedonistic and permissive one – in which we live, it is essential to deepen our teaching on the august mystery of the Eucharist, in such a way as to acquire and maintain absolute certainty over the nature and purpose of the Sacrament which is rightly called the core of the Christian message and of the life of the Church. The Eucharist is the mystery of mysteries; so its acceptance means totally accepting the nexus ‘Christ-and-the Church’, from the preambles of the Faith to the doctrine of the Redemption, to the concept of sacrifice and of consecrated priesthood, to the dogma of ‘transubstantiation’, to the importance of legislation in liturgical matters.

Restore the Eucharist and Priesthood

Today, this certainty is necessary before all else, in order to restore the Eucharist and priesthood to their absolutely central position, to have a proper sense of the importance of Holy Mass and Holy Communion, to return to eucharistic pedagogy, this being the source of priestly and religious vocations and inner strength for practicing the Christian virtues. Today, is a time for reflection, for meditation and for prayer for Christians to recover their sense of worship, their fervor. Only from the Eucharist profoundly known, loved and lived can we hope for that unity in truth and charity which is willed by Christ and urged on all by the Second Vatican Council.

Sacrament of His Body and Blood

The Eucharist is the sacrament of his Body and Blood, which he himself has offered once and for all (cf. Hebrews 9:26-28), to set us free from sin and death, and which he has entrusted to his Church for her to make the same offering under the species of bread and wine and so to feed his faithful people forever – that is, us who stand about his altar. The Eucharist is thus the sacrifice par excellence, that of Christ on the Cross, by means of which we receive Christ himself, Christ entire, God and man. The Son’s sacrifice is unique and unrepeatable. It was made one single time in human history. And this unique and unrepeatable sacrifice ‘endures’. The happening on Golgotha belongs to the past. The reality of the Trinity constitutes a divine ‘today’ forever. Thus, it is that all humanity shares in this ‘today’ of the Son’s sacrifice. The Eucharist is the sacrament of this unfathomable ‘today’. The Eucharist is the sacrament – the greatest one the Church has – by which the divine ‘today’ of the Redemption of the world meets our human ‘today’ in a manner ever human.

Sunday Eucharist

We must once again emphasize how important it is, in obedience to the precept of the Church, to take part in the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. For everyone, this is the highest act of worship in the exercise of the universal priesthood, just as the sacramental offering of the Mass is the highest act of worship, for priests, in the exercise of the priestly ministry. Participation in the eucharistic banquet is a vital condition for everyone for union with Christ, as he himself has said: ‘In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you will have not life in you’ (John 6:53).

Participation of the Laity

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds all the faithful about the significance of participating in the Sunday Eucharist (cf. nn. 2181-2182). Here I wish to conclude with those famous words in the First Letter of Peter, which portray the laity participating in the Eucharist Church mystery: “You too must become living stones making a spiritual house as a holy priesthood, to offer the spiritual sacrifices made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:5). For every faithful Catholic, participation at Holy mass on Sunday is at once a duty and a privilege: a sweet obligation to respond to God’s love for us, so that we can then bear witness to this love in our daily lives. The fulfilling of the dominical precept ought, for every Christian family, to be a fundamental source of joy and unity. Every Sunday, all and everyone of you have an appointment with God’s love. Don’t fail to keep it!

From “My Father’s House”

By Fr. Bill McCarthy, MSA

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