Eucharist commits us to the poor

by | Jul 19, 2014 | Society of St. Vincent de Paul

featured-image-generic-svdpTHE EUCHARIST COMMITS US TO THE POOR

This is the title of article 1397 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The text is a quote from St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople, a Church Father from the fourth century. “To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ, given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren: You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother. . . . You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food someone judged worthy [by God] to take part in this meal. . . . God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become more merciful.”

St John had a deep understanding of Eucharist, which he explained in a practical manner, specific to everyday life. He was the first to apply his teaching, founding a series of hospitals in Constantinople to care for the poor.

Another of his quotes says: “Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill clad. He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.

Fast forward to our times, in a similar vein, Robert Pace, an internationally known Christian preacher, told a story about a photographer working for a religious journal. The editor commissioned him to photograph someone that characterized the destitute condition of humanity. After a great deal of searching, the photographer captured the perfect picture. From a shadowed alley, he spotted a beggar pleading for food. The beggar lay stretching from his side toward a grocery store that displayed freshly baked bread. The photographer got into position and excitedly snapped the picture. Moments later, he rushed the picture to his editor. The editor agreed that it perfectly depicted humanity’s misery. After congratulating the photographer, the editor peered deeply into his eyes and asked: “And what assistance did you give the beggar after the photograph?” With a twist of discomfort, the photographer softly confessed that he had done nothing. The editor responded: “You got the picture but you didn’t get the message.”

Questions for Reflection

  • Do we always share ourselves with others as God shared Himself with us?
  • Do we continue to recognize Christ in everyone we meet?
  • Are we staying open to everyone: the poor, the homeless, the addicted, the undocumented migrants, etc.?

Found in

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Western Region
Year 4, No. 4 JULY 2014


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