Promoting Life and Dignity Around the World

Sr. Margaret Scott, aci
Notes from an address to the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering
February 21, 2005
Washington, DC
Broken and Shared. The Eucharist and the Justice and Peace Ministry

Thank you for inviting me to be part of this gathering. To celebrate with you your outstanding and inspirational commitment to justice and social action. Special word to CRS who made possible 2 expeditions to the Holy Land in 2002 and 2004.

Great privilege to be with so many passionate men and women; passionate about Christ and passionate about his people, the poor. Id like to share with you something of my own passion. Share how Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, who captivated me, in a small chapel in London, 40 years ago, has shaped my life ever since and made me who I am now  and continues to shape and energize my life, thought and ministry, convincing me that there is a critical relationship between Eucharist and justice. That the Eucharist commits us to the poor, RC Catechism, 1397.A connection made, but not developed by the US Bishops in their document: A Place at Table (2002).

There is a new urgency now, in 2005, to make that connection and to develop it for two reasons.

  • In the UK, the Make Poverty History campaign wants 2005 to be remembered as the year that changed the world. At present, according to its compelling manifesto: Every 3 seconds, poverty takes a child's life Every day 30,000 people die from extreme poverty Don't let a billion lives fade away. If we can change 8 peoples minds, we can transform 800 million lives. i

  • The Pope would appear to address the same challenge in 2005, the Year of the Eucharist, when he speaks of the Eucharist as a project of solidarity and goes on to say: Can we not make this Year of the Eucharist an occasion for diocesan and parish communities to commit themselves in a particular way to responding with fraternal solicitude to one of the many forms of poverty present in our world? ii

In this context of passion for the Eucharist and passion for the poor, I am led to bring these two loves together and to ask:

  1. Is the Eucharist more than we think it is? Is it meant to reach beyond the membership to the whole world? Has it something to say about the impact that economic globalization has on the poor? Is there something in the dynamic of the Eucharistic celebration that can inform globalization and make it more human, inclusive and sustainable? Does the Eucharist offer a paradigm for sharing the earths goods and building community? Can it provide a language that can be used by institutions and man and women of good will to address the problem of the alleviation of poverty? Can it enable the poor to make globalization work for them too?

  2. Has a Eucharistic reflection on globalization and the poor something to say to us Catholics about the way we celebrate and live Eucharist? About bridging the gap between the theory of Eucharist as a project of solidarity for all humanity iii and our sacramental practice which is often disconnected from reality? Is Jorge Costadoats comment an indictment of us all: Many ask how it is in Latin America that the rich and poor both receive the same body of Christ in communion, but fail to make this region the most just in the whole world? iv Whatever happened to the heart beat of Christ in the Eucharist, pulsating with his special love for the poor and marginalized? Can our Eucharistic celebrations overflow with a passion for justice,. Can they create a context in which there can be a fusion of horizons v between globalization and world poverty?

Obviously it would be impossible to answer even one of these questions in 30 minutes. (I have already spent 5 months of reading and reflection and I'm only half way there.) But, in attempting to do so, I would like, very briefly, to share a few ideas, hoping that I can invite you to rediscover and to begin unpacking certain dimensions of the Eucharist  NB. Eucharist as it is meant to be. Dimensions that can offer an exciting program of reflection during the Year of the Eucharist and a challenge to our liturgical creativity, while re-passioning us about the social implications of the Eucharist.

  1. The Eucharist is essentially integrated into reality.  The Eucharist is about the basic elements that make up our daily lives and the issues that affect the women and men of our time: food and drink, hunger and survival, work and celebration, economics and the use of power. Hence as M. Diaz Mateos, SJ, writes: The Eucharist should have the dimensions that God meant for it: the life of the world. vi And the Christ, whom we encounter in the Eucharist, meets us in and through the real structures of historical existence matter, time, space, language, community, culture and social, economic and political relationships. For that reason, the Eucharist impacts daily life. It is alive with a vibrant relation to the existence and struggles of all women and men, everywhere, especially the huge majority, who are poor. How do we make our Eucharistic celebrations more alive and relevant? More about real people, not reduced to a private, spiritual experience, lost in rubrics(Cf. Godfrey Diekman OSB, made an entry in his diary, during Vat II., 1964: O God who through the Order of Rubricists has impeded the way to heaven for us, we pray that you give us another way to eternal life! vii I'm not talking about a celebration limited to 45/60 minutes on a Sunday or Saturday evening. Then that's it for a week. Or just minor changes of external nature, a few more hymns an extra petition or two. But rather a deeper orientation required by a Eucharistic community that is both reflective and action-orientated, leading to the development of a Eucharistic spirituality, shared by priests and people.

  2. The Eucharist is about the resources of the earth and basic human needs. The Eucharist is about food. The words of the Offertory, that speak of bread which earth has given and human hands have made and wine, fruit of the earth and work of human hands, are an on-going challenge to the creativity of our celebrations and the authenticity of our commitment to feed the world and to social justice in a world of agricultural subsidies and sweat shops. For those Eucharistic words, are pregnant with meaning and embrace a whole host of issues around poverty, bringing together those who have and those who have not. The rich and the poor; the richest and the poorest. The Offertory also plunges us into the world of work, both remunerated labor and utter exploitation. There's a whole conversation there about work. It also initiates a conversation about land: of those who possess it and those who have been dispossessed, forced off their land, for example, by subsidized grain imports. The Australian Bishops speak about the wheat that makes our Eucharistic bread, grown on land owned by others. In developing countries they speak of wine which is always the work of hands in Spain, France, Cyprus or California! In BBC WORLD I read about the indigenous leaders in southern Argentina [who] have rejected an offer from Italian clothing giant, Benetton, to hand over land to end a dispute A spokesman said the Mapuches could not accept the ancestral lands as a gift because they were theirs by right. viii The Offertory surely makes them present in our celebration too. At the same time, the Offertory sets us against the backdrop of the whole of creation, present in the symbols of bread and wine, while initiating another conversation around an economic ecology that brings together thanksgiving for creation and reaching out to the poor, while leaving us with the question: Is our bread and wine costing us the very earth itself? The list of topics is endless. The opportunities for thought mind-boggling. Ideas for celebration awesome. In the early Church, there was a close relationship between the Offertory and the care of the needy. Collection of contributions for orphans, widows, the sick and those in any kind of need. How can we refresh and nurture that relationship in our own Eucharistic celebrations during the procession and presentation of the gifts? Instead of the blessed mutter or an offertory drowned out by a hymn that has nothing to do with gifts : Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling for you to come home Displaced by the collection. Because of its scope the Offertory also has the power to convoke all those who care. Those of any creed or none. Those of every race and nation. Liturgists, poets, social activists : First let there be bread, and then freedom. Freedom with hunger is a flower placed on a corpse. Where there is bread, there is God. Rice is heaven, says the Asian poet; the earth is a gigantic plate of rice, a huge loaf of bread, ours for the hunger of all. God becomes bread, work for the poor, says the prophet Gandhi. The Bible is a menu of fraternal bread. Jesus is the living Bread. The universe is our table, brothers and sisters. ix

  3. The Eucharist is global.   The scope of the Eucharist is essentially global and inclusive. It is always richer and deeper; always more than we can ever imagine or dream. It is a project, a prophetic word spoken and celebrated from east to west x; an action concerned with the unity of the whole human race. xi It reaches out beyond the Church to the world, from the temple into the street, and from the altar to all Gods people. In the same way, the issue of global hunger leads beyond the Eucharistic table to embrace the whole human family. For that reason, the Eucharist provides a commentary on policies of exclusion like the recent failure by the IMF and the World Bank to alter the bank and funds voting structure and board composition, to include more representatives from developing countries around the table of the institutions. It also fosters the emerging global consensus on poverty. xii It nurtures a global spirituality centered on the whole human family, Gods children, gathered from age to age around Gods table. The Eucharist is also about communion and eating together. It is about widening the tent and extending the table; making the table communal and, therefore, round; - no top and no bottom; no sides - a table as big as the whole world. As the words of consecration remind us: This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all Let us remember too that the majority of those all are not Catholics, just as the majority of Gods poor are outside the Christian Churches. For the Eucharistic community is not to be identified only with the people at church today; we are being constituted as a community to come. It is a case of reading and re-reading the episcles, the calling down of the Holy Spirit on us all.

  4. The Eucharist is essentially about solidarity and sharing. The Eucharist, the Pope tells us, is a project of solidarity. Samuel Rayan SJ., develops the theme in poetry : Rice is for sharing; bread must be broken and given. Every bowl, every belly shall have its fill, To leave a single bowl unfilled is To rob history of its meaning; To grab many a bowl for myself is to empty history of God. xiii The Eucharist anticipates a just sharing of all the gifts of creation and offers a comment on the structures of a society which permit very little sharing. Are we like the Christians in Corinth who gathered for Eucharist but left the poor without food? The Pope goes on to say: It is the impulse which the Eucharist gives to the community for a practical commitment to building a more just and fraternal society. xiv The Eucharist also offers a model for sharing earths goods and building a communal body. It provides a strategy for shaping a more equitable society. A society that is no longer based on the individual but on solidarity in which the efforts of the poor and the rich are combined. xv Our reflection goes further. The Eucharist constitutes a call to humanize globalization, taking poverty out of the context of economic indicators, statistics and categories and giving it a human face. It is about people and about relationships. About re-defining the world according to people not profit. The Eucharistic words: This is my body personalize the Eucharist and make us one. Paul tells that because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we partake of the one loaf. xvi While Matthew states that Jesus Christ identified himself with those who are hungry. xvii Hence, in the Eucharist, the body of Christ is each one; the body of Christ is everyone. I experienced this in a very moving way while I was living and working in a shanty town in Santiago de Chile. One afternoon, as I was about to go to the chapel for Eucharistic adoration, an elderly grandfather, came to the door to ask if someone could take his blood pressure. I took his blood pressure, we chatted over a cup of tea, Chilean style, and, eventually, he toddled happily away. I made it to adoration, a little late, but as I knelt on the floor gazing at Jesus Christ in the host, he seemed to say to me: Margaret, that was me! Never before had the words in St Matthew 25, seemed so powerfully real. But that's not the end of the story. The following Sunday at Mass, as I was giving out Communion, Grandpa approached me. At the words, the Body of Christ, his face broke into a smile and he winked!

  5. The Eucharist is about life.  The Eucharist is about life and death; life through death. It is the presence of the Risen, Living Christ who died and rose for us so that we might live. (Slide) It is about the Risen Christ who transports the Last Supper into for ever and transforms the bread broken and wine poured out, into life for the world. The Eucharist texts are full of references to life: the bread of life, life giving bread, we offer the body and blood of Jesus Christ who has brought life to the world. May this mingling of the body and blood of our lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it. Let the text fill our minds, hearts and imagination. In the bread of life, the Eucharist offers us abundant life. It gathers in all the justice issues around life and quality of life. It speaks to the life of the individual and life of society. It links human life and human dignity. It challenges us to seek a place at the table of life for all Gods children. (USCCB, 2003) The Eucharist has something to say about those who. Like Christ, give their lives for others: Oscar Romero 25 years ago; Sr Dorothy Slang, Notre Dame, shot 10 days ago in Anapu, Brasil for defending the poor farmers and the Amazon rain forest. About those who give life to others in different ways: Sr Ronnie Daniel, OSB. How can we make our Sunday Mass more life-giving?

  6. The Eucharist is about change  Finally, the Eucharist is dynamic. It makes things happen. In and through the Eucharist the healing tenderness with which the Father, Son and Spirit caress the whole of humanity is happening NOW. The death and resurrection of Christ is happening NOW. The Eucharist does what it says. The epiclesis is a prayer for the transformation of both the gifts and the community. The Eucharist changes bread and wine; it changes us. It has a transformative power and hence, the potential for personal and global transformation. There is an energy in the Eucharist that is liberating, making present, as it does, Christ who sets us free; free from personal and national interests ; free from greed and the desire for power. that we might live no longer for ourselves. xviii Liberation from allowing ourselves to be satisfied with present conditions; liberated to set others free. On February 3rd, 2005 Nelson Mandela addressed the Make poverty History campaign in Trafalgar Square in London. In this new century, millions of people in the worlds poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved, in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free. That is what Eucharist is about. The Eucharist is above about Gods action, making the impossible, possible. Its not about us but about, but about God tumbling into our lives. We are called just to be there. Let it happen and say wonderingly: it is just and right; Amen .Eucharist is about Gods activity in and through everyone and everything. All is Gift. Eucharist invites us to the adventure of gift; of being gift and of gratuitous giving to others, especially those in need. A comment on the reduction of aid to the third world from richer countries in recent years, on trade rules and on debt. The Eucharist is essentially active, enabling us to do this, all of it, in memory of me.


I have attempted to share with you my conviction that there is a critical relationship between Eucharist and social action. A liturgy that does justice in a world in which injustice, poverty and oppression are ever present realities. A celebration of Eucharist that drives us towards a new social, economic and political vision.

The Eucharist, as we have seen, is such a rich mystery, surprising in its inexhaustibility, like a bottomless well; a mystery that lends itself to more and more reflection. It gathers us into a heuristic adventure of theological reflection and liturgical renewal, taking us, as Tom Knowles wrote: to the brink of a new place and a new time. That new place and new time are here and now.

The Year of Eucharist provides a locus for all those who think about and who celebrate Eucharist to re-imagine Eucharist, recapturing the global and social dimensions of the Eucharist already present in the insights of the early fathers of the Church. A particularly striking text in John Chrysostom, where he tells us that the love of the poor is a liturgy whose altar is more admirable than the one on which the Eucharist is celebrated, the latter being holy because it receives the body of Christ, the former because it is the body of Christ.

It is a time to discover the potential of the Eucharist as a hermeneutical key to globalization; as a prophetic statement; as a strategy to transform the neo-liberal economy of commodity into a Eucharistic economy of gift. A time to revitalize our Eucharistic celebrations as a protest for justice. A time to recall that we are members of Gods prophetic and priestly people and that these two dimensions of our identity are inseparably intertwined.

I have merely offered a few ideas around a few dimensions of Eucharist that could provide food for reflection and criteria perhaps by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged. xix The Pope and the world challenge us in 2005.

The great challenge today is to convert the sacred bread into real bread, the liturgical peace into political peace, the worship of the Creator into reverence for the Creation, the Christian praying community into an authentic human fellowship. It is risky to celebrate Eucharist. We may have to leave it unfinished, having gone first to give back to the poor what belongs to them. xx

Now its over to you.

Parallel: Development of Social Doctrine in Church and liturgical renewal.

Began in Europe 1890s, early 1900s. Labor encyclicals of Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1891 and liturgical reforms of Pius X 1903
Influenced Virgil Michel OSB.1935 keen awareness of the breaking of bread and the establishment of peace and justice. Catholic Action, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement steeped in liturgy. Quadragesimo Anno, Pius XI , 1931, on reconstruction of the social order.

I980s . JP II: Laborems Exercens, 1981; Solicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987.

For all of us. Not just priests. Can happen. It does. Mariano Puga. Our Lady of Good Counsel in Pa.

Practical points

Sometimes commitment leads to Eucharist; sometimes Eucharist leads to more commitment.

Our manner of thinking is conformed to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist confirms our manner of thinking. Irenaeus. (Adv, Haer. IV,18,5)
But a deeper orientation is required. Not just minor changes of external nature. Choice of texts, music, songs etc. Refreshing and nurturing our Eucharistic awareness. Repassion.

Eucharistic community must be a reflective, action-orientated group, committed. Leading to the development of a spirituality of the Eucharist.

i . Cf. BBC World News report, December 28th, 2004.

ii Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Mane Nobiscum Domine, October 4th, 2004, # 27 and 28.

iii Ibid

iv Jorge Costadoat,SJ., En nombre del Padre, en nombre del Hijo, en nombre de la creatividad, Mensaje, May, 2004, p.16.

v Cf. Hans Godamer, Truth and Method.

vi Manuel Diaz-Mateos,SJ., Fruto de la tierra y trabajo de los hombres, in Paginas, 1987.

vii Kathleen Hughes, The Monks Tale, Liturgical Press, p.257

viii BBC World Report, November 10th, 2004.

ix P. Casaldaliga, Fuego y ceniza al viento, Santander, 1984 p.41

x Eucharistic Prayer III

xi Pope John Paul II, op. cit. 27

xii Tony Blair in Keynote speech at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, January 26th, 2005.

xiii Samuel Rayan, Asia and Justice, in Vidyajyoti, 1986, 357-8, quoted by Kirsten Kim in Bread and Breath in India,

xiv Pope John Paul II, op.cit, 27

xv Values worth fighting for, IDB America. Reprint from the online magazine of the inter-American Development Bank.

xvi I Cor 10:17

xvii Cf. Matt. 25, 45.

xviii Eucharistic Prayer IV

xix Pope John Paul II op. cit., 28

xx Raimundo Pannikar, Man as a Ritual Being, in Chicago Studies, 16, (1977), 27.