The Eucharist and our Pro-life Commitment, Part 1
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At this point in the liturgical cycle, the Sunday Gospel readings have been taking us through the Eucharistic discourse in John 6. For many years, I have been preaching and teaching about the ways our commitment to defend our pre-born brothers and sisters from abortion receives its form and sustenance from the Eucharist as a sacrament of faith, unity, life, worship, and love.
The Eucharist and our Pro-life Commitment, Part 1 - In this column I will consider the first two connections, with faith and unity, and in part two will consider the connections with life, worship, and love.
The Eucharist is a sacrament of faith. The Consecrated Host looks no different after the consecration than before. It looks, smells, feels, and tastes like bread. Only one of the five senses gets to the truth. As St. Thomas Aquinas' Adoro Te Devote expresses, "Seeing, touching, tasting are in Thee deceived. What says trusty hearing that shall be believed?" The ears hear His words, "This is My Body; this is My Blood," and faith takes us beyond the veil of appearances.
Christians are used to looking beyond appearances. The baby in the manger does not look like God; nor for that matter does the man on the cross. Yet by faith we know He is no mere man. The Bible does not have a particular glow setting it off from other books, nor does it levitate above the shelf. Yet by faith we know it is uniquely the Word of God. The Eucharist seems to be bread and wine, and yet by faith we say, "My Lord and My God!" as we kneel in adoration.
The same dynamic of faith that enables us to see beyond appearances in these mysteries enables us to see beyond appearances in our neighbor. We can look at the persons around us, at the annoying person or the ugly person or the person who is unconscious in a hospital bed, and we can say, "Christ is there as well. There is my brother, my sister, made in the very image of God!" By the same dynamic we can look at the pre-born child and say, "There, too, is my brother, my sister, equal in dignity and just as worthy of protection as anyone else!"
Some people will say the child in the womb, especially in the earliest stages, is too small to be the subject of Constitutional rights. Is the Sacred Host too small to be God, too unlike Him in appearance to be worshipped? The slightest particle of the Host is fully Christ. Eucharistic Faith is a powerful antidote to the dangerous notion that value depends on size.
The Eucharist is also a Sacrament of Unity. "When I am lifted up from the earth," the Lord said, "I will draw all people to myself" (Jn.12:32). He fulfills this promise in the Eucharist, which builds up the Church. The Church is the sign and cause of the unity of the human family.
Imagine all the people, in every part of the world, who are receiving Communion today. Are they all receiving their own personalized, customized Christ? Are they not rather each receiving the one and only Christ? Through this sacrament, Christ the Lord, gloriously enthroned in heaven, is drawing all people to Himself. If He is drawing us to Himself, then He is drawing us to one another. St. Paul comments on this, "We, many though we are, are one body, since we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor. 10:17). When we call each other "brothers and sisters," we are not merely using a metaphor that dimly reflects the unity between children of the same parents. The unity we have in Christ is even stronger than the unity of blood brothers and sisters, because we do have common blood: the blood of Christ! The result of the Eucharist is that we become one, and this obliges us to be as concerned for each other as we are for our own bodies.
Imagine a person who receives Communion, accepts the Host when the priest says, "The Body of Christ," says "Amen," and then breaks off a piece, hands it back, and says, "Except this piece, Father!" This is what the person who rejects other people may as well do. In receiving Christ, we are to receive the whole Christ, in all his members, our brothers and sisters, whether convenient or inconvenient, wanted or unwanted.
As St. John remarks, Christ was to die "to gather into one all the scattered children of God." Sin scatters. Christ unites. The word "diabolical" means "to split asunder." Christ came "to destroy the works of the devil" (1Jn.3:8). The Eucharist builds up the human family in Christ who says, "Come to me, feed on My Body, become My Body." Abortion, in a reverse dynamic, says, "Go away! We have no room for you, no time for you, no desire for you, no responsibility for you. Get out of our way!" Abortion attacks the unity of the human family by splitting asunder the most fundamental relationship between any two persons: mother and child. The Eucharist, as a Sacrament of Unity, reverses the dynamic of abortion.
For a powerful video about the Eucharist and our pro-life commitment, see PriestsForLife.org/ThisIsMyBody. Stay tuned for part two of "The Eucharist and our Pro-life Commitment."
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