What is Eucharistic living? Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Jun. 02, 2011 -- 12:00 AM
Under the Gospel Book by Bishop Robert C. Morlino
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

Already it’s been about a month and a half since our celebration of Holy Week and Easter. Since that time, many have asked me to write here a bit of what I mentioned with regard to “Eucharistic living” during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. In nearly a month we will celebrate the great Feast of Corpus Christi — the Body and Blood of Christ — and all around us now, from parish to parish, we are celebrating so many First Holy Communions, so it seems a good time to reflect upon these themes.

The celebration of First Communion in the parish provides a terrific opportunity for us to reflect on the tremendous gift that is given us in the Eucharist. Who are we that we should deserve such a gift? The answer is simple, we are God’s beloved. We are those who, though we don’t deserve anything, have received the tremendous gift of God Himself really and truly present, so great is His love for us!

The real presence of Christ

For a while there has been some confusion about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and it has led to a problem that really is grave, for many Catholics don’t really believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist at all.

Many Catholics want to believe in this, they intend to, they’re good hearted, they even say they do, but then we watch what happens when so many come to Communion, and we realize that the belief is not really there. Sometimes it gets so bad that somebody, right before or right after they receive, will go and share some words with a friend in the front pews, when the Lord of Heaven and Earth is either still in their hand or still in their mouth. This cannot mean that they believe or understand the presence of Christ at that moment. Nobody would act in such a way if the president or the queen had come to be with them, but what about the King of Kings?

Now, except in very specific circumstances, nobody means anything bad or irreverent, and this is not meant to be a condemnation. What I am doing simply is pointing out a reality and posing a question: if we truly believe that Jesus Christ is present, shouldn’t that affect our corresponding actions and attitudes?

Eucharistic living

This is precisely where the beautiful story of the washing of the feet comes in. It is no accident that in John’s Gospel the washing of the feet comes right in the midst of the Last Supper — when in the Gospels we have also the Institution of the Eucharist. The signs of bread and wine are what the risen Christ looks like, in the reality of the sacramental mystery of the Eucharist. But the washing of the feet is what we could call the prime example of Eucharistic behavior, of Eucharistic living.

We have the gift of celebrating the Eucharist, we have the beautiful practice of adoring the Eucharist, and then we have our daily call to Eucharistic living — to which we are all called outside of the Mass and outside of the confines of our churches.

I propose that many people have a problem believing in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist these days, because they are not engaged in Eucharistic behavior. And, further, the world has a problem believing in the presence of Christ, on earth and in the Church, because they don’t see us — priests, bishops and religious, along with the Christian people — consistently engaging in Eucharistic behavior. That, I think, is where the problem is.

And the solution? If we could regularly live out Eucharistic behavior, our reverence for the real presence would manifest itself. If people had reverential service as their attitude toward others, they would have far deeper reverential service as their attitude toward Christ. And if we showed that reverential service toward others as an outpouring of our reverence for Christ, the whole world could be transformed.

Washing the feet of others

Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles and then he told them to go out and wash the feet of others — especially each other’s feet. It’s very easy to see the way that priests are to live out Eucharistic behavior by washing the feet of their Catholic community. The role of service for our priests, especially the service of the Truth, is well defined. But so too, every last disciple of Christ is called to go out and to live a life of Eucharistic behavior in precisely the same kind of service where, in a way that is truly caring, they help one another. And this type of Christ-like service is not meant just to look good for others, nor because maybe in some instances or in some way we are getting paid or rewarded, but because we really care.

The Eucharistic behavior, the washing of the feet, in the many forms it takes, is necessary for the proper attitude of Eucharistic reverence at Mass and at Eucharistic Adoration. And likewise, as we come more reverently before the Lord in the Eucharist, we should grow in our reverence for one another in Eucharistic living. You can’t have one without the other.

There cannot be real adoration of the Eucharistic presence, real celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice without Eucharistic behavior. And if Eucharistic behavior is lacking, that attitude of being ready to wash the feet of the other, then the faith in the real presence at Mass and at Adoration will inevitably dim, because that faith is incomplete without the Eucharistic behavior which always accompanies it.

Our responsibility to witness

Now some of you are well known for your deep faith, accompanied by Eucharistic behavior, and that is wonderful, but what we have been given as a grace, we also have to give. Faith in the real presence at Mass and in Adoration is only going to grow for people if they make the connection between that faith and the Eucharistic behavior which is called for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

The problem is not an easy problem to correct — it’s much easier to talk about. Certainly, we should talk about it, we should think about it, we should pray about it, but let’s also act. Let’s lovingly witness to the Eucharistic way of life, which alone gives final credibility to the real presence of Jesus Christ under the sign of bread and wine.

Let’s also pray for and support all of our boys and girls who are receiving Jesus Christ for the very first time at the Eucharist in these days, and let us reflect upon these mysteries and place them into action as we arrive at Corpus Christi Sunday.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. God Bless each one of you. Christ is Risen! Indeed he is Risen!