Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Eucharist and Love of Neighbor

Mathias, a seminarian for Lansing, MI, and a friend of mine, sent me this text, a portion of a catechesis given by His Excellency Luis Antonio Tagle, Bishop of Imus, in the Philippines. Beneath it, I have included my friends response (in dark red) and then my own thoughts (in dark blue).

“Jesus' sacrifice uncovered the link between the worship of false gods and insensitivity to the needy.An idolater easily loses compassion for the weak. Though he was judged, Jesus was the one actually judging the untrue worship that kept people blind and deaf to the true God and the poor. The Church that lives the life of Christ and offers his living sacrifice cannot run away from its mission to unearth the false gods worshipped by the world. How many people have exchanged the true God for idols like profit, prestige, pleasure and control? Those who worship false gods also dedicate their lives to them. In reality these false gods are self-interests.

To keep these false gods, their worshippers sacrifice other people's lives and the earth. It is sad that those who worship idols sacrifice other people while preserving themselves and their interests. How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god of profit? How many women are being sacrificed to the god of domination? How many children are being sacrificed to the god of lust? How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god of "progress"? How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed? How many defenseless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security?
The Church however must also constantly examine its fidelity to Jesus' sacrifice of obedience to God and compassion for the poor. Like those who opposed Jesus in the name of authentic religion, we could be blind to God and neighbors because of selfrighteousness, spiritual pride and rigidity of mind.”

Mathias: In other words, the more we worship the true God, the more we are drawn to service and love of the weak and the poor. This is a sort of litmus of true worship of the Eucharist. The bishop’s words, therefore, are a gut-check for all of us, a call for us to examine whether or not our self interests have become idols that render us blind to the needs of the weak and vulnerable. Worshiping God in the Eucharist, therefore, does not just concern the proper worship of Holy Mass or Eucharistic Adoration (which is indeed important), but it also necessarily encompasses a loving compassion toward the weak. You can’t have one without the other.

Ryan: The word used in Genesis 1 for image, as in "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them," (Gn 1:27) is the same word used in Exodus for the sorts of things we are not supposed to carve out of stone to worship (Ex 20:4). If we want an image with which to reverence God, He has already provided us with one: our neighbor. We are not to worship images of false gods because the gods are false and their images will distract us from the reverence we are to show one another. We cannot honor God rightly without honoring rightly those He loves, those He cast in his own likeness. The Eucharist, the very name of which means "thanksgiving," is the right worship of God because it is a thanksgiving composed of Christ's self-sacrifice, of Christ's self-gift - to which we are to unite our own. Rather than worshipping false gods to attain our own purposes, we Christians worship the True and Living God to attain His purposes. In worshipping the Eucharist we learn to be like Him: humble, obedient, chaste, grateful, self-giving. Not only to we learn to aspire to His kind of love, but by consuming Him, the Perfect Sacrifice, we are filled with the ability actually to attain His kind of love. Not only are love of God, godly love, and selfless love of neighbor intrinsically connected, they are bound together by the Eucharist. Even those who do not know the Eucharist for what it is - Christ Himself in eternal self-sacrifice and thanksgiving - are still nonetheless nurtured in godly love by it.

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