The Eucharistic focal point

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2 Jul 2023

With the Eucharist, the Spirit of Christ gathers us together and forms us as Christ’s church.

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for July is that we will place the Eucharist at the centre of our lives. That flows from placing Jesus at the centre of our lives. Not just by remembering him, but by finding him present to us as we celebrate how he gave his life for us. The Eucharist is more than one of the many things we do as Christians such as saying our evening prayers, contributing to the collection, attending baptisms and marriages. They are also important because we meet Jesus there. But the Eucharist is a special meeting place. In it the Spirit of Christ gathers us together and forms us as Christ’s church. It is the point where we meet Christ by gathering together with one another.

Of course, sometimes we shall inevitably become mechanical and distant in the way we take part in the Eucharist. It may slip from being the heart of our lives to being its clothing. Even so, it can keep us attentive to Christ and leave us open to be shaped by him. That is why Pope Francis puts great emphasis on our relationships within the communities with whom we celebrate. They can help form our lives, encouraging us and assisting us to grow in down-to-earth and messy ways. Although the conversion stories of many great saints can persuade us otherwise, for most of us our inner transformation is a slow process. It involves hanging in, noticing and learning from our weakness and betrayals, responding to the promptings of the Spirit through family, friends and changed circumstances, and gradually developing a taste for prayer and reflectiveness. The Eucharist is the focal point of this process.

Pope Francis describes this change in us as becoming open to the encounter with God and with all our brothers and sisters. God, of course, is present in all the things we do and suffer, in the world in which we live, in the people we meet, the actions we take, and in our waking and sleeping. Our challenge is to notice God’s presence and to attend to the beauty and pain of the people and places of our world. To encounter someone is to see and notice them for who they are in themselves and not simply pass them by as the garden furniture of our own lives. To develop our relationship with God, with others and with the beautiful world in which we live is about noticing, paying attention and engaging with them in prayer and respect.

The Eucharist is central in this because it gathers us together in a way in which we can attend to God’s presence and to one another. It is messy because it is a human event in which we and Christ are present in our bodiliness.

Above all the Eucharist draws us into the lives of the people whom Jesus noticed – the blind, the lame, the poor and the imprisoned.

In the Eucharist we find God’s love for all human beings shown in Christ’s death for us. It allows us to acknowledge our own poverty of spirit and to reach out to others who like us are poor in so many ways.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ is an editorial consultant at Jesuit Communications
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