In November 2021, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church. The document is divided into two sections, “I. The Gift,” and “II. Our Response,” followed by a brief concluding reflection (“Sent Forth”). Section I emphasizes the gift of Jesus’ real presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist, which we experience personally and communally as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. This reflection guide by the USCCB Dept. of Justice, Peace and Human Development focuses on the “Transformation in Christ” passages in Section II, which guide our response to the gift of the Eucharist.
Begin your time of reflection with the following prayer: May the Sacraments Move Us to Love and Serve. This prayer is from the USCCB publication, Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples.
Listen to God’s Word
The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church references several Scripture passages. In the subsection on “Transformation in Christ,” a key passage is Matthew 25: 31-46, where Jesus instructs us to care for the least of our brothers and sisters. Begin by reading the passage from Matthew and invite God to be present with you as you reflect. If time allows, practice lectio divina in order to ready your heart for study. In your prayer, try to listen for how God is speaking to you today.
Study and Reflect
Next, you can prayerfully approach the “Transformation in Christ” reflection (no. 34-43) in Section II of the bishops’ statement, The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church. Read the passage slowly and carefully, pausing to note important points or phrases. To aid your reading, the following summarizing points may be helpful:
- In the celebration of the Mass, “we receive grace that enables us to imitate the love that Christ shows us” (no. 34).
- This love must “permeate all our relationships” and “can also reshape the life of society as a whole.” Christ’s love is “not for ourselves alone”—it “extends particularly and ‘preferentially’ to the poor and most vulnerable” (no. 35).
- The laity must work “to transform social relations in accord with the love of Christ,” in pursuit of the common good (no. 36).
- “The Eucharist commits us to the poor” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1397). The witness of St. John Chrysostom and St. Teresa of Calcutta challenge us to recognize Christ in the poor (no. 37).
- Pope Francis urges us to challenge the tendency of our “throwaway culture” to see people as “disposable” (Fratelli Tutti, no. 18), including “the unborn, migrants and refugees, victims of racial injustice, the sick and the elderly” (no. 38). This echoes the Second Vatican Council’s call to address all that prevents life or the means to living it with dignity (no. 39).
- “Just as we are impelled by the Eucharist to hear the cry of the poor, and respond in love, we are also called to hear the cry of the earth and, likewise, respond with loving care” (no. 40).
- As people of faith, we look forward to the Kingdom of God, when evils will be eliminated (no. 41). This Kingdom is already present, but not in its fullness (no. 42). With Christ’s grace, we must each “do whatever we can to contribute to the coming of the Kingdom” by working to transform social structures, seeking peace, overcoming hatred, and establishing justice (no. 43).
The bishops’ reflections in The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church are rooted in our Catholic tradition, including the writings of Popes Francis, Benedict XVI, St. John Paul II and St. Paul VI. Delve more deeply into this tradition by prayerfully reading these brief reflections:
Reflecting on these teachings, and the reflections of bishops in The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church, respond to the following questions, which are adapted from the above handouts:
- What did you find inspiring? What did you find challenging? How might God be speaking to you?
- When you reflect on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, can you sense his compassion? His love? His desire to transform all that opposes human life and dignity?
- How does the Eucharistic meal compel you to care for those who are hungry?
- What issues affecting your community and the world today weigh deeply on your heart? Spend some time bringing these concerns before God in prayer.
- What gifts has God, the Father, given you? How might he be asking you to use these gifts in the service of others?
- How might the Holy Spirit be moving you to join with others to respond to problems in your family, neighborhood, or community?
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern how you will respond. Oftentimes, we can be inspired by the example of others who illustrate a missionary spirit in their daily lives. Explore one or more of the following examples of Eucharist-inspired missionary activity:
- Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia: the Eucharist Calls our Families to Transform the World, by Michael Jordan Laskey, on responding to Pope Francis’ invitation to families to fraternity, social consciousness and commitment to those in need.
- Jesus, Healer of Wounds and Source of Mercy, by Tom Grenchik, on an evening of adoration and reflection on the scandal of clergy sexual abuse, racism, the refugee crisis, abortion, and exclusion.
- Setting the Table for Eucharist and Dignity, by Michael Carlson, on the work of the Naugatuck Valley Project as an example of how celebration of the Eucharist extends beyond the altar and into our communities.
- Mass at the Border—Celebrating Our Migrant Brothers and Sisters Departed, by Marco Raposo, on a tradition that gathers the faithful on both sides of the border.
- Public Policy in the Pews, by Laurie Konwinski, on helping Catholics connect worship and action by offering opportunities for advocacy at the end of Mass.
For Further Reflection
Popes Francis, Benedict XVI, and St. John Paul II offer extensive reflections on the Eucharist and the call to mission. Read their reflections directly:
- Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, nos. 73-74 on the Eucharist, the Good Samaritan, and opening our hearts to others.
- Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, nos. 236-237 on how the Eucharist calls us to be stewards of creation.
- Homilies of Pope Francis on the Feast of Corpus Christi, especially 2021, 2020, 2018, 2016, and 2013
- Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, nos. 185-186 on the “social character” of the Eucharist.
- Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, nos. 88-92 on Eucharist for the life of the world
- Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, no. 13 on the Eucharist and the concrete practice of love.
- St. John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine, no. 28 on Eucharist-inspired love which allows us to live our Christian vocation.
- St. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 20 on the Eucharist and our sense of responsibility for the world.
- St. John Paul II, Dies Domini, nos. 69-73 on Sunday as a day of solidarity.
- St. John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae, no. 6 on the Eucharist awakening us to the dignity of all people.
- See also this Vatican resource for a one-hour Eucharistic adoration to Care for Creation.