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Father Muench Says...

As Catholics, we are called to community

June 20, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I would like to continue to share with you my thoughts on the challenge that is ours – yours and mine – as Catholics to become church, a church that is truly a community. Jesus set the tone for our church when he drew his disciples into a community, as he did at the Last Supper. Throughout the years since, the challenge for our church, the body of Christ, is to become truly a family, a community.

Each year, the Church celebrates certain feast days as part of our Catholic liturgical year. Those feasts remind us of the message of Jesus, the call of the Lord, that our Church must be united, must be a community. Our life as a Catholic is not an individual adventure, rather we are on a journey, united with others in a community, praying and working together as a family.

Recently, the Church celebrated an annual holy day commemorating Christ’s institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. This is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The frequent celebration of this sacrament unites us all in a special way to our God and unites us in a special way to each other as the Catholic Church, a community of faith.

Each time, we celebrate the Holy Eucharist together, something transformative happens for us all. Each person who participates at Mass leaves that Mass a transformed person, more alive in the life of the Savior. Jesus instituted this sacrament with his apostles at the Last Supper. He also ordained his first priests at that Last Supper.

Each time we, Catholics, celebrate Mass together, our union as church and community is strengthened. Let us consider the Mass. We begin by joining our hearts with song and prayer. Then we consider our own personal lives, seeking God’s blessing and forgiveness if we have somehow failed in love for others. Our Mass then invites us to consider the sacred Scriptures, the word of God. This leads us to the altar of the Lord and a celebration of the Holy Eucharist. I, through my ordination to the priesthood, am allowed to say the very words of Jesus over the bread and wine in consecration to the body and blood of Jesus.

The Prayer of the Eucharist begins with members of the community bringing bread and wine, and the community’s donations to the altar. The people who bring forth the bread and wine are very important to this celebration. They carry forth to the altar the hopes and dreams of all those present. They bring the intentions and needs of the entire congregation to be placed on the altar with the bread and wine to be consecrated in the Eucharist.

I remember attending a Mass while traveling in the Serengeti in Tanzania. It was a very impressive and prayerful Mass. The music was especially wonderful. At the Offertory, every person there walked up to the sanctuary to place their offerings in large baskets. I looked upon that as an opportunity for all of us to place our intentions and prayers on the altar ourselves, seeking consecration with the bread and wine. It was a very sacred moment, all of us walking up together as a community, united in our pleas to the Lord. Even as a stranger there in Africa, I recognized being part of a family, if only for that day and for that Mass.

I like to think that at the time of Communion, we receive the body and blood of Christ, and also all we are praying for, now blessed and consecrated with the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. We receive back something of ourselves, so that we can now live this life of ours with new power and life.

The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is all about thanksgiving. The very word Eucharist means thanks. Each celebration of Mass is a time to offer our gratitude to our God. We offer gratitude for Jesus and all that he brought to our world – his life among us, his death for us, his resurrection to new life. We also join in gratitude for all the gifts that God gives us each day of our own lives. Jesus wants to be part of our lives. Jesus wants to unite us to himself in a people, living in his Spirit and life.

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