By Bishop Michael Pfeifer
On Tuesday, March 13, Pope Benedict XVI issued for the entire Catholic world a beautiful and inspiring Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist entitled, “On The Eucharist As The Source And Summit Of The Church’s Life And Mission.” This statement of the Pope is a follow-up to the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that was held in the Vatican in October 2005. At the Synod of Bishops were representatives of Catholic Bishops from the entire world. Hence, this statement of the Holy Father on the Eucharist represents the reflections and latest teaching of the Catholic Church on the most wonderful gift that Christ has left the Church in His Eucharistic presence. In his Apostolic statement, our Holy Father calls the Eucharist “The Sacrament of Charity and points out the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself in the wondrous Sacrament of the Eucharist manifests the great love that Jesus has for the Church, even to the point of “laying down his life for his friends.” [Jn.15:13] I encourage our priests, pastoral councils, all those involved in religious education and in every ministry of the Church, to study this inspiring document very carefully, as it has great meaning and importance for the life of all of us as co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord.
Here I would like to share with you the reflections of our Holy Father on one of the major points of this Exhortation on Eucharistic Consistency. Pope Benedict states in #83, “Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationship with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defense from conception until natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. These values are non-negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature. There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist [cf.1 Cor.11:27-29]. Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of the responsibility to the flock entrusted to them.”
This past November, the U.S. Catholic Bishops published an important document on the worthiness that is required to receive the greatest gift Jesus has left His Church in His Eucharistic presence. To truly receive Christ worthily in Communion, implies that one is in communion with the faith and teachings of the Church established by Christ. The Eucharist is the expression of the union that should exist among all the members of the Church that comes from baptism, and is strengthened in the common profession of faith, and by following the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.