In this series of teaching editorials on Communion at Mass, we conclude with a look at how our reception of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist calls us to go forth as transformed people sharing the mission of Christ and witnessing the Kingdom of God in our daily lives.
At the end of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus announces the great commissioning to his disciples, which begins, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” and concludes with “And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.”
Prior to this, Jesus establishes his teaching, his miracles and his call to discipleship within the context of the Kingdom of God. Jesus does not merely suggest that his followers continue his work, he commands them to do so because proclaiming the Good News to others and bearing witness to the Kingdom or Reign of God was not an option.
But what did he mean that he would be with us always? This presence certainly exists through his ongoing presence in the Spirit and through the gift he gave to his disciples at the Last Supper: his very self in the Eucharist.
The Eucharist becomes an essential element if we are to embrace the command of Jesus to go forth. We receive the Blessed Sacrament as worthily as possible and as often as possible because we need this sacred food for our mission. We need this presence of Jesus with us and in us if we are to be authentic witnesses to the Kingdom of God in this world.
But what did Jesus mean when he proclaimed the “Kingdom of God?” Jesus was ushering into existence a new way of being in the world — a new way ruled by the unconditional love of God. This new way of being would change hearts, humble the powerful and remind the poor that they matter, too.
The Kingdom or Reign of God was not a place but an event — God’s salvific power entering our broken human condition. This event culminated in Jesus’ redemptive offering of himself on the cross and his glorious return to new life in the resurrection.
Does our Mass not celebrate all of this? God’s salvific power enters our human condition during our sacred liturgy and transforms the bread and wine into Christ’s sacred Body and Blood. We receive this gift and hopefully we are open to allowing Christ to change our hearts, humble our egos and remind us that we are also the poor that matter, too. Now we are ready for the mission that challenges us to serve the people that God sends to us with a love that knows no limits.
But is not this approach to the Eucharist too lofty? What does the mission look like on a practical level? The Mass concludes with the words, “Go forth, the Mass is ended,” or “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” These words from the concluding rites of the Mass echo the command of Jesus to “Go … make disciples.”
We should not receive the gift of Jesus and keep him to ourselves. We are called to share the gift of Jesus with others through our own unique proclamation of the Kingdom in our words and deeds.
This call to mission could be as big as Mother Teresa’s call to serve the poor or as simple as being more attentive to my mother who is in the nursing home.
The mission could be answering the call to be a catechist, a lector at Mass or a volunteer at Catholic Charities.
The mission could be establishing a better work environment for my employees.
The mission could be starting a new friendship with a person who feels invisible.
The mission could involve taking a pro-life stand for the unborn, the prisoner on death row or the victim of racism.
Our mission could take on many forms, but we must remember the source of our mission. The source is Jesus, who commands us to “go” and to proclaim the Kingdom of God with love.
As Pope Benedict wrote in “Deus Caritas Est,” “Worship itself, Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”
The Eucharist is the sacrament of the Kingdom of God that calls us to action. What is Jesus asking you to do?
Art Turner is the director of the Office of Faith Formation of the Archdiocese of Louisville.