Q: Archbishop J, the Paschal mystery: how does it relate to family life? (Pt 10)
The Feast of the Body and Blood and Christ is pivotal in the life of the Catholic. It contains core mysteries and invites us to reflect, live and act very differently. In the strictest sense, Corpus Christi is not part of the Paschal mystery; it falls outside of the Easter time. But what the Feast celebrates is at the heart of the Paschal mystery.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life: it must also be the source and summit of family life.
For a family to become domestic Church, it must draw from the source of all grace—Jesus Christ in the communion and sacrifice of His body and blood. Its participation in the Eucharist calls the family to be more than itself—human beings living in one house—the family is called to be a Church miniature where Christ is constantly being made present.
What has Corpus Christi to say to families? There is much to say but let us focus on the Eucharist as meal and sacrifice. In this, we will find a fruitful relationship between family and the Eucharist.
That first Eucharist was a meal: “And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15).
Holy Thursday and Good Friday are inseparable; that is why it is called the Paschal mystery. The book of Hebrews speaks of Christ’s saving mystery as a sacrifice: “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God … For by a single offering, he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb 10:11, 12, 14). Meal and sacrifice are themes of family renewal: without them there is no family and no renewal.
In the culture of Jesus, a meal was a matter of great intimacy. Jews did not allow Gentiles or the ritually unclean to table fellowship. The meal was a space of intimacy—people leaned on those next to them for support as they reclined against each other. They were in each other’s space.
Jesus breaks the mould of Jewish table rules to the horror of the teachers of the law (Mk 2:16). He eats with sinners and tax collectors and retorts: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2: 17).
There are several instructive elements here for today’s family. First, the family is called to intimacy. We live in a fast-paced culture where families do not eat together anymore. This is a great tragedy.
It is at table that family members give themselves to one another in love; to listen to the stories and exchange ideas, putting everything aside to be with the other.
There is a second and more instructive point flowing from the Eucharist. In the 1980 Letter to Priests, Pope St John Paul II said that the Eucharist is a school of active love for neighbour. “If our Eucharistic worship is authentic, it must make us grow in awareness of the dignity of each person. The awareness of that dignity becomes the deepest motive of our relationship with our neighbour” (6).
Because Christ offers Himself equally for each one of us, we in turn need to recognise in the other the true dignity with which Christ sees us. This is the foundation of the family, as a school of love. It works best when the family is fed from both the Eucharistic table and from the table of the home.
Human dignity, inclusivity, treating others right, stopping prejudice and discrimination are all lessons of table fellowship. In this school of love, the family should grow daily in both human virtue and divine love. This is how we birth a new Caribbean humanity.
The Eucharist is also a sacrifice. “The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving'” (CCC1360).
This element of sacrifice is not always present in family life. We look at sacrifice as a bad or difficult thing. It is not. It involves pain, delaying gratification, suffering and a desire to serve others.
A sacrifice is giving up something good for the sake of something better. We delay some ‘me time’ so the family could have a wonderful meal together. That is a great sacrifice.
Matthew Levering, a layman and theologian says: “In a world gone wrong, there is no communion without sacrifice.” Such is the challenge of the modern family. The point of sacrifice is in building communion. When family members hurt each other there is no communion without pain and sacrifice.
Do we teach our children to make daily sacrifices—to offer up something good for something better? Do we help them to delay gratification in small things, so they will be able to do it in the big things? To build communion in the family, sacrifice will be demanded of each member.
By participating in Mass and meditating on the Last Supper and the Cross, we also begin to understand the nature of true love. Christ gave His all for our sake that we may understand what true love really is.
This measure of love is what each person in the family is called to imitate. By imitating this self-sacrificing love, the family is transformed into a school of love and a house of healing for others.
The family draws from the Eucharist vital lessons and rituals to transform it into a school of love.
Reflect on the Eucharist, its intimacy and sacrifice. Is your family being transformed into a school of love?