SEATTLE – On the feast of Corpus Christi, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne officially began the Year of the Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Seattle.
“My prayer is that this Year of the Eucharist will strengthen our belief in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,” the archbishop said in his homily during a livestreamed Mass at St. James Cathedral June 14, “and that through our prayer and study, we will grow in our understanding of all that implies for life, for love, for unity, for charity, in the church and in the world.”
To guide Catholics around the archdiocese during the coming year of prayer and study, Archbishop Etienne wrote a pastoral letter on the Eucharist, The Work of Redemption.
In the Gospel reading for Corpus Christi, Jesus says, “in plain language, he gives us his body and blood that we might have life, eternal life,” Archbishop Etienne said. “So the Eucharist is food for our journey. The Eucharist gives us grace to grow in holiness, the grace for conversion.”
“But the Eucharist also provides us with a significant spirituality of how to live every day more like Jesus,” the archbishop said. “This is full, active participation in the Eucharist that we seek. This is perhaps the great fruit that I pray for as your archbishop for us in this Year of the Eucharist.”
“Please join us for this year of prayer and study, this Year of Eucharist,” he said. “May God bless this effort and draw us deeper into the mystery of Jesus Christ.”
Below is a transcription of Archbishop Etienne’s June 14 homily on the feast of Corpus Christi and the beginning of the Year of the Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Seattle:
Today, this feast of the solemnity of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we as an archdiocese begin a Year of the Eucharist, a year dedicated to more specific prayer, more specific study that we might grow in the truth, the understanding of this reality that Jesus gives us his body, his blood, as food and drink in the Eucharist.
The Second Vatican Council document on the liturgy speaks of our celebration of the Eucharist as the work of redemption. And it’s important for us to understand that when the church gathers to celebrate the Eucharist — as much as great attention goes into every celebration, from the eucharistic ministers, the presiders, the musicians, the congregation — we can be deceived in thinking that the Eucharist is what we do. It’s what God does. It’s the work of God upon us. It’s the work of God for our redemption. It’s the saving work of Jesus that is perpetuated throughout all of history, it is the means by which Jesus keeps this promise that he gives in the sixth chapter of John, to truly give us his body, to truly give us his blood.
And so this Year of the Eucharist for us in the archdiocese is to renew our faith in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but also to grow in our understanding of all that that implies for us in our Catholic living. Because the Catholic life is a eucharistic life. And one of my great hopes for this year is that we will learn those implications in our day-to-day life.
This great work of redemption, the Eucharist, is our life in the person of Jesus Christ. And so it is absolutely essential, important, appropriate that we adore the Lord in the Eucharist. It is absolutely essential, appropriate, important that we worship God in every Eucharist. And while the Eucharist is the ongoing work of God through his Son to redeem us, to redeem the world, Jesus does not leave us in sin. Jesus in every encounter with sinners in the Gospel forgave, but he also said do not remain in your sin, do not commit this sin again. Jesus does not leave us in our sins. So in other words, the Eucharist speaks to us of the importance of conversion in our day-to-day life, the Eucharist necessarily sends us back out through these doors, into the world, to continue the work of Jesus in our life personally and through us in the world.
The language I want to really focus on in the rest of the homily today is the language that Paul uses in the First Letter to the Corinthians, our second reading today, where he says that we participate in the blood of Christ, we participate in the body of Christ, when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist.
Again, the document on the liturgy from the Second Vatican Council speaks of active and full participation. And, my friends, that is about a whole lot more than just what we do when we gather for the Eucharist, when we gather in the church to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Our full attention, our full, active participation during that time is absolutely essential and important. But the Eucharist calls us beyond the moment of celebration, the Eucharist calls us beyond the moment of adoration and worship, to participation in the same self-offering of Jesus, to the same sacrificial love of Jesus. This is our full, active participation within the Eucharist and back out into our day-to-day life. We continue to participate in the blood of Christ. We continue there to participate in the body of Christ.
I’m presently reading a book on a very influential founder of the faith here in this archdiocese, of Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart. She was a Sister of Charity of Providence, Servants of the Poor. And she was one of the earliest members of this community founded in Montreal, Canada, by Mother Gamelin and was with Mother Gamelin when she died about 10 years after the founding of the community. And she was profoundly moved by that. And the sister that wrote this biography of Mother Joseph, in reflecting upon the deep sorrow and mourning that touched Mother Joseph when Mother Gamelin died, she wrote this: that Sister Joseph was able to realize that the mystery of pain is impenetrable and to know by faith that the passion of Christ, the Son of God, is never in the past, but always in the everlasting now, being perpetuated in the members of his mystical body.
And, my friends, this is what I’m speaking of in a full, active participation in everything that is fully present in the Eucharist, namely the person of Jesus. The Eucharist is most certainly the body and blood of Jesus. And Jesus tells us in the Gospel today, in plain language, he gives us his body and blood that we might have life, eternal life. So the Eucharist is food for our journey. The Eucharist gives us grace to grow in holiness, the grace for conversion. But the Eucharist also provides us with a significant spirituality of how to live every day more like Jesus. This is full, active participation in the Eucharist that we seek. This is perhaps the great fruit that I pray for as your archbishop for us in this Year of the Eucharist.
One final thought about participation. In every Eucharist, even now, when the priests are not able to give Communion from the chalice to whoever may be present with them now because of the pandemic, the priest must consume not only the consecrated host, the body, but he must consume the chalice, he must consume the blood. And that word consume comes from the word consummate. It consummates the sacrament. It consummates this perpetual sacrifice, this perpetual self-offering of Jesus. And, my friends, we know that this consummation means an entering into, in a very personal, physical way, the love of Jesus. It’s not all that different from a husband and a wife consummating their sacrament of love with each other, which nourishes how they live each day in faithful love to one another, in faithful love to their children. This is full, active participation and consummation in the life of every Catholic. To enter into this life, this mystery of the life of Jesus, in our entire life.
So my prayer is that this Year of the Eucharist will strengthen our belief in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and that through our prayer and study, we will grow in our understanding of all that implies for life, for love, for unity, for charity, in the church and in the world.
God bless you all. Please join us for this year of prayer and study, this Year of Eucharist. May God bless this effort and draw us deeper into the mystery of Jesus Christ.