Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Eucharist and Living in Communion

It's easy to forget that less than two years ago, Benedict XVI was still pope. I mention this not out of any desire to indulge in nostalgia. I am quite confident in the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the Church through the ministry of Pope Francis, and I am learning and being challenged to grow in new ways by his spiritual fatherhood.

It remains true, nevertheless, that Benedict's teaching is still important. Indeed, we have scarcely begun to appreciate its depths.

As Francis has often noted, however, we live in a "throwaway culture," a culture of 24 hour news that pours over information about today's current story only to forget everything about it tomorrow, a culture of tweets and texts and combox verbiage that amplify whatever clamors most for attention and appears most sensational.

The wisdom of Pope Benedict has been forgotten by the information systems that we depend upon and participate in. But it is not thereby diminished in itself.

It is every bit as much food for the poor today.

When I feel weighted with sorrow, I still turn to Benedict XVI. Not surprisingly, a day like today (election day in the United States) leads me to reflect upon being a Catholic Christian in the political and social realms of the early 21st century. As the affluent world expands and casts monstrous shadows everywhere, it is easy to feel alienated, marginalized, and isolated.

I wonder where in the world I belong.

Even some of my brothers and sisters in Christ seem caught up in fevered speculations and preoccupations with current events viewed without adequate perspective. It's easy for me to get caught up in this myself, but not for too long. My mental fragility forces me to recognize that I cannot figure these things out in my own head. I'm overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed in the shadows. And tempted to a kind of morbid loneliness. Am I some kind of a freak in this world?

I am not the only one who suffers from this kind of stress. I know that many find themselves poor in the midst of strange wealth, hungry in front of a glut of indigestible food.

Today, Benedict XVI helped me to focus. These words from a homily in March of 2006 reminded me of where I belong -- where everything belongs -- and where to find the food that satisfies:

"In the Eucharist, Jesus nourishes us,
he unites us with himself,
with his Father,
with the Holy Spirit
and with one another.
This network of unity that embraces the world
is an anticipation
of the future world in our time.
Precisely in this way,
since it is an anticipation of the future world,
communion is also a gift with very real consequences.
It lifts us from our loneliness,
from being closed in on ourselves,
and makes us sharers in the love
that unites us to God and to one another.
It is easy to understand how great this gift is
if we only think of the fragmentation and conflicts
that afflict relations
between individuals, groups and entire peoples.
And if the gift of unity in the Holy Spirit does not exist,
the fragmentation of humanity is inevitable.
'Communion' is truly the Good News,
the remedy given to us by the Lord
to fight the loneliness that threatens everyone today,
the precious gift that makes us feel welcomed
and beloved by God,
in the unity of his People gathered in the name of the Trinity;
it is the light that makes the Church shine forth
like a beacon raised among the peoples."

~Benedict XVI