Look deeper to see the ‘spiritual reality’ of the Eucharist, the unborn, and unhoused

In a new reflection, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone identifies a common thread linking abortion, homelessness, and the urgent need for Eucharistic revival among Catholics: a challenge to look beyond outward appearances and see “the deeper spiritual reality.” Cordileone released the reflection to CNA on October 29 in advance of a Requiem Mass for The Homeless he will preside over on Nov 6. The reflection also comes just weeks before the fall general assembly of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, to be held from Nov 15-18 in Baltimore, where consideration of a new document on Eucharistic revival will be one of the chief items on the agenda.

Nov 05, 2021

In about a week’s time, the bishops of the United States will come together to debate and vote on a teaching document about “Eucharistic coherence.”

The term comes from the 2007 Aparecida document of the Latin American bishops, which used it to explain why public servants such as government officials and health care workers who act to encourage “abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and the family” cannot receive Holy Communion. A chief architect of Aparecida was the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who now, as Pope Francis, rightly reminds bishops to think and speak as pastors, not as politicians: It is souls that are at stake, not elections. Lost sheep are to be lovingly called to return to the fold, not angrily denounced in a way that would imitate so much of the animosity of our political culture.

As I approach these next few weeks, I am struck less with the conflicts the media likes to project than with the deeply reinforcing unity of Church teaching, grounded in the Catholic sacramental sense.

Some in the popular culture who view life through a lens more political than sacramental, may think it is incongruous that on November 6, for example, just days before the USCCB meeting begins, I will be celebrating a newly commissioned Requiem Mass for the Homeless.

Frank La Rocca is the composer. Richard Sparks will lead the Benedict Sixteen Choir and Orchestra. It will be beautiful and it will be holy. We will gather together to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the eternal repose of those who died on the streets and to demonstrate our profound respect for the equal dignity of every human life.

As political issues, homelessness and abortion are treated as separate things. But with the Catholic sacramental sense, we can see that whether we are speaking of the unhoused or the unborn, the underlying issue is the same: Can we see beyond the merely material to the deeper spiritual reality?

What we Catholic bishops and other leaders must seek is not just words on a page, but a profound Eucharistic revival, which requires a renaissance in the Catholic sacramental imagination.

Every Mass is a miracle. Do we see it? When we receive the Eucharist, do we see beyond the appearances of bread and wine to the reality of Jesus Christ offering Himself for us? Do we priests celebrate the sacred mysteries in a way that makes this supernatural reality visible to the flock we shepherd?

The child in the womb in the early stages doesn’t look exactly like a newborn baby, any more than the toddler exactly resembles the grown man or woman he or she will become. Can we see beyond the physical appearance to the reality that science now shows us: That each child in its mother’s womb is a unique, living human being? That each abortion kills a human life?

When politicians pontificate about abortion as a choice or even as a human right, do we see beyond the rhetoric to the ugliness of what they propose: the deliberate snuffing out of innocent lives, each one of them unique, irreplaceable, and loved by God?

The two things are intimately connected: reverence for the sacred Eucharist and reverence for human life where it is most vulnerable and defenceless.

As the Apostle John tells us, God so loved the world – each one of us – that He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to die for us.

Pope Francis underscored the importance of this gift of solidarity after a Nigerian immigrant named Edwin froze to death on the streets last January, not far from St Peter’s Basilica:

“Let us think about Edwin," the Pope asked. “Let us think of what this man, 46-years-old, felt in the cold, ignored by all, abandoned, even by us. Let us pray for him.”

Yes, let us remember to pray for Edwin, and for all of those who suffer as he suffered. Policy solutions to homelessness may not be simple, but one thing is clear: Merely warehousing the homeless in dysfunction is not respecting their human dignity.

Let us remember that their dignity, like our own, is not ultimately rooted in ability, intelligence, usefulness, wealth, power, or physical attractiveness. Let us see beyond the accidents of birth, ability, position and the like, to the reality of who we are, including the unhoused and the unborn: beloved children of the living God.

May the Eucharist set us on fire for Jesus Christ and unleash the rebuilding of a civilisation of truth and love. -- CNA

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