Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Eucharist and health care

In National Catholic Reporter, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton relates the teaching on the Eucharist from John's Gospel to the debate on health care reform. He says:
The President is saying we need to provide health care for everybody. That might mean we have to change something that I already have, not that any of us would ever be asked to give up our health care if we have it. Don't we have to wonder how people who have what they need can be so angry that we're trying to spread this out to others? It seems like there's some kind of terrible fear that suddenly I'm going to lose everything I have, or if the government does it, it won't work, even though we already have government health care that does work.

There's something strange here happening out of fear, and I think maybe some selfishness, that we just don't let ourselves be aware of 49 million people in this country without health insurance. Even many millions of those who have it can't get adequate care. So there is an effort now to spread this so that everyone has adequate care like every other developed country in the world provides.

What is it in our nation that brings people out with such anger, and a seemingly uncaring spirit, especially if they think of themselves as Christians, and especially as we who are Catholic Christians and many other Christians have a sacrament like the Eucharist? The whole sacrament means Jesus pouring himself out for others, giving up himself for others.

It seems to me that as we reflect on this teaching that Jesus has been providing for us the last few weeks, that teaching about the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Eucharist, we have to ask ourselves how can Jesus give us his flesh to eat, his blood to drink and this is a hard saying, "who can accept it?"

If we're going to say, "Yes, I will accept it," I hope we will say it with a full understanding of what Jesus is teaching about the Eucharist, not just that he's present, but that he's present to give himself. When we receive the Eucharist, we too must commit ourselves to what Jesus did: pour out his blood, give his flesh for the life of the world. We have to commit ourselves to do the same thing.

Maybe if we are going to do that, it's good to hear once more what St. Paul says because he makes it very specific and very clear: "Pay attention to how to behave and how to live, what your attitudes are. Do not live as the unwise do, but live as responsible persons. Do not let yourself be ignorant, but understand what the will of God is. Be filled with the Holy Spirit."

Paul goes on to say, "Sing songs and pray, giving thanks to God in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord, always and for everything."

That giving thanks to God, in Greek, is "be eucharists." The word Eucharist means thanksgiving. So Paul says, "Be eucharists." That's the challenge to us today, to be Eucharists, but in the very way that Jesus taught it, giving ourselves for others as he did.

This excerpt is from the Bishop's homily for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The entire homily may be found here.