A Transforming Eucharist
§ Leander Barrot, OAR
On the second day of the IEC, the persona of St. Paul looms large. His conversion is commemorated and celebrated and how the saint preserved and promoted the memory of Christ’s love from possible demise is highlighted.
Paul’s devotion to the Eucharist began with his meeting with the Resurrected Christ (cf. 1Cor 15:8). Christ transformed him from within and he, recognizing the “surpassing value of knowing Christ” (Phil 3:8), considered everything that he once boasted of–his sense of ethnic supremacy, his hard-earned zeal for the faith of his forebears, his fanaticism to defend the same even to death—as rubbish. Everything he earned through diligence, hard-work, and industry cannot compare to the splendor of Christ’s love manifest in His taking of the cross for humanity’s justification.
Christ’s passion, death and resurrection has occasioned the greatest equality before the eyes of God, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
The leveling of the playing field, so to say, for all humanity is very much evident in the Eucharist. Before the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, all prostrate reverently irrespective of one’s status in society and socio-economic prestige. Before our Lord, all are servants, in front of the Father all are children, and before God all are equally loved.
This equality that is an immediate consequence of Christ’s sacrifice leading to everybody’s justification remains to be the constant challenge of Eucharist. The increasing gap separating the rich and the poor is a constant reminder of how we have become simple devotees of the Eucharist but not committed to the moral consequences of our faith. The disregard for the dignity of women, the stealing from children their innocence by subjecting them to labor, the indifference to the plight of the elderly are affront to our very own faith and remain to be constant challenges to our faith in the Eucharist.
The constant celebration and reception of the risen Lord in the Eucharist strengthen our pledge to leave behind what St. Paul calls the “desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). The Eucharist spurs us on to be passionate to care for the poor, to value every person, to respect the dignity of others’ name and honor, to promote equality irrespective of color, religion or nationality, to breakdown walls of defiance, and to promote the dignity of children and elderly. The same Eucharist sustains us in our quest for humaneness.
Perhaps the moral question one can ask is how has our reception of the Eucharist transformed us from within. St. Paul has identified the beginning and summit of his conversion as “the surpassing value of knowing Christ.” This has transformed him from being a persecutor of believers to become a defender of the faith and a missionary of Jesus Christ to the gentiles. The value of Christ for Paul is everything.