We announce the Gospel as lay people by living the Gospel message. St. Francis of Assisi was said to have commissioned his friars to “preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words”, meaning that we primarily preach the Gospel by living by Gospel values.
How do we love and serve the Lord? Pope Benedict, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, described the Eucharist as a ‘Sacrament of Charity’ (Sacramentum Caritatis 1; cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III, q. 73, a. 3), a Sacrament of Love. God loved the world so much that He gave Himself to save us (cf. Jn 3:16). After receiving Jesus in Holy Communion we are asked to follow His example… to give ourselves to the love and service of others. If we reflect on it, most of us are living this way already. As parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, children, teachers, volunteers working in the community… we are already sharing our love with our families and members of the community. We are already living eucharistically. In receiving Holy Communion we are asked to go even further… we are challenged, as Pope Benedict says, “in God and with God… [to] love even the person whom I do not like or even know” (Deus Caritas Est 232; Sacramentum Caritatis 88).
Loving strangers, in a sense, is easy. I don’t know enough about them to dislike them, but to love the person who drives you nuts, you know that person that you duck down an aisle at the supermarket to avoid or cross the street so they don’t see you… or that person who is at home or at work or at school whom you find difficult to get on with… that takes the grace of God that we receive through the Eucharist. Christian love is not about feelings. We don’t have to like every person we meet, but we do have to love them. We love these people especially, as Pope Benedict says, ‘in God and with God’. In other words, God loves them through us, if we allow Him to and He helps us to love them with Him.
On the odd occasion that I have missed Sunday Mass, I truly felt as if something was missing from my life. You know the phrase: “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. I need God’s grace to be a Christian. I cannot do it without Him. I am a worse version of myself when I neglect my prayer life or I miss going to Mass. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “We cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist; the moment we do, something breaks.” Our attendance at Sunday Mass is intimately related to every part of our daily lives. Attending Sunday Mass is a precept of the Church, not because the Church likes burdening us with rules and regulations and obligations, but because regularly receiving Jesus and spending time listening to His Word brings us closer to the Holy Trinity. Celebrating Mass together as a parish community each Sunday is a fountain of grace for us (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 10)… It makes us better people and better Christians. It is a well spring where we are nourished and renewed so that we can go out again refreshed to love and serve the Lord during the coming week.
In the Eucharist, Christ fulfils His promise to stay with us always (cf. Mt 28:20; Mane Nobiscum Domine 16), to give us His love and grace and help (cf. Mane Nobiscum Domine 15). Perhaps during this Year of Faith one little promise we could make to ourselves is to spend a little time each week reflecting on the mystery of God’s love for us in the Eucharist and how we are called to live the Eucharist in our daily lives.