WITNESSES TO THE EUCHARIST IN THE HEART OF THE WORLD
Catechesis Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi
We are gathered to reflect upon the Eucharist, but especially to celebrate it. Jesus did not give us the sacrament simply for us to contemplate it, but rather to take and eat it: “Take it and eat, take it and drink.”
But how can we be witnesses to the Eucharist in a world where everything is called into question, where doubt and skepticism reign supreme, where the very abundance of food—at least in the Northern Hemisphere—causes disease, while elsewhere hunger rules with an iron fist?
I believe we need to ask this question based on a fundamental pillar of the Christian faith, without which the Eucharist could become a chimera! I am talking about the mystery of the resurrection. Above all, being witnesses to the Eucharist means being witnesses to the resurrection throughout the world. And whoever speaks of resurrection, speaks of a way of life radically different from what came before.
St. Paul said to the Christian community of Corinth, “If Christ is not resurrected, our faith is in vain” (I Co 15: 14–19). His words extend to the Christian community in Douala, in Yaoundé, in Montreal, in Paris, and in Washington… The Church today has nothing else to say!
“If Christ is not resurrected, our faith is in vain.” In its clarity, this affirmation resonates with the provocative assurance of assumptions that are always right. Who could or would dare assert the contrary? For generations, Christians have repeated this primary evidence that centuries of Christian experience have rooted in them: If Jesus, the son of God, has not been raised, he is definitively dead. If God is dead, God is not God. If God is not God, what does that mean for our faith in God?
Christ is our resurrection. Through this experience of faith, at the core of the human realities that we share with all people, we Christians can no longer accept, existentially speaking, the distortion between the stuff of life and the stuff of faith. The stuff of faith is the stuff of life experienced in the light of Jesus Christ. He is the resurrection, our strength. If the resurrection is the primordial essence of faith, it must be the primordial essence of life. That is why if our lives are in vain, so too is our faith. The resurrection assures us that someone is full of life—full of life for today, full of life for each and every one of us. “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.” (cf., Jn 10:10).
The resurrection is a call to every person—married or single—to take up the cause of the Kingdom. It is meaning the meaning of life. It is a choice to make, a path to take.
We are thus convinced that by drawing on the mystery of the resurrection, we can address the mystery of the Eucharist, which is the sign of a better world. If Christians are truly convinced—I use this word often because it says it all for me; it’s the expression of my faith—well then, they are above all convinced of the triumph of life.
Our Christian witness may be “dull” because we do not sufficiently hunger for the Eucharist, the body of the risen Christ, as our nourishment and the strength of those who believe in him. The Eucharist is the prayer of humankind. And through this prayer, I join with all those I love on Earth and in heaven; I join together with all those who I name around the world. God, I join with you in prayer, join with the hope in me, the hope of the world: peace, justice, love, truth, light, joy… these are no longer solely my intentions, but the intentions of God on Earth.
Thus, because God gave us the Eucharist in the heart of our lives, we can say, “I am hungry. And if I am hungry, others around me are also hungry. And if I cannot eat alone, I cannot have my fill alone.” The Eucharist, bread of life, clearly expresses the meaning of hunger: being regenerated, fulfilled by another. In its need for nourishment, the body reveals its inability to live without strength that comes from outside itself. In the act of Communion, people who hunger for God, who reach out with their hand or tongue to receive the bread, recognize their nonexistence without the existence of he who is life. It is thus that we can become “him who we receive” in everyday life.
You have listened to me. I did not set out to say everything there is to say about the Eucharist, about the witness to our life in society as married or single people for the cause of the kingdom. It would be impossible to do in so little time.
But I will sum it all up with these words: the Eucharist can only be conceived as humankind’s passion and a passion for God in the heart of humankind. By sharing with us the body of the risen Christ, by giving us his life, by intoxicating us with his blood, and by igniting us with the fire of the Spirit, the Eucharist can do no less than convey Christ’s very feelings for humankind, for God. It can only make us passionate about humankind and—if you will—crazy about God.
It would be scandalous if it left us wasted away or destitute. Its true purpose in today’s world is to inspire in us a passion for love. If the Eucharist does not lead us to love our brothers and sisters more deeply and to give of our lives no matter what the risk, then let us forget about everything! This is why the Eucharist is terribly dangerous: passion for love is always dangerous. The Eucharistic person is a dangerous person, burning with the fire of the Spirit and whose only purpose is to extend that fire and to become fire for others. This person is bold and confrontational, a person of radicalism and absolutes. This is a person who feels obliged to commit himself for God, for humankind. This person disturbs and challenges others, giving them a bad conscience. This person’s passion is for God and humankind; it is devoured by this thirst, it is their vocation, their destiny.
How can we celebrate the Eucharist, how can we be witnesses to Christ without bearing within us this passion for man and Christ’s torment for the poor and the unloved without looking at humankind through Christ’s eyes and with his love? Because it is impossible to think of Christ without thinking of humankind and it is impossible to truly speak of humankind without speaking of Christ in humankind and humankind in Christ.