By Mitos Gonzales
“I don’t know right now any Church in the world more vibrant than that of the Filipino Church,” greeted Rev. Robert Barron, and the whole pavilion responded with a resounding applause. Considering the challenges being faced by the Church at this present time, he then continued, “It is the Filipino Church that is keeping it alive!” and with that the pavilion was once more filled with even more thundering cheers.
On the third day of the IEC, January 26, 2016, Most Rev. Robert Emmet Barron, a prelate of the Catholic Church, and Catholic evangelist, known for his Word on Fire ministry, and an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, graced the congress and generously gave a catechesis on The Eucharist: Celebration of the Paschal Mystery which Bishop Barron simplified to Hungering for the Bread of Life.
“The fathers of the Second Vatican Council referred to the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life, that from which authentic Christianity flows and that toward which it tends. It is the alpha and the omega, the be-all and the end-all of Catholicism. Therefore, understanding the Eucharist is key to the renewal of Catholic catechesis and evangelization. If we get our Eucharistic theology wrong, the entire Christian project will go off the rail,” and so he began.
The assembly centralized their attention on him, sat up tall, and fell unto a reflective mood, ready to be inspired.
Father Barron outlined his talk in three points: Eucharist as Meal, and Eucharist as Real, and Eucharist as Sacrifice Presence relating each one respectively to the texts on the Road to Emmaus from Luke, John 6, and Matthew 26. Firstly, on the Eucharist as a Meal as reflected in the story on the Road to Emmaus that only when Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and offered it to them, repeating precisely the words and rhythms of the Last Supper then the two disciples of Jesus who were going the wrong way recognized him despite Jesus being with them for most of the journey. Also, Fr. Barron explained further on this context by quoting Henri de Lubac, one of the most influential theologians at Vatican II, who expressed that, after the words of consecration, the most sacred words of the Mass are Ite, missa est: “Go, the Mass is ended.” de Lubac meant that the Eucharist finds its fulfillment in the sending out on a mission of those who have received the body and blood of the Lord – these two accounts denote that in the Eucharist a banquet as well as a mission is shared by and with the Lord for everyone.
Secondly, on the Eucharist as a real presence, Fr. Barron supported this with the Gospel of John which says, “I am the bread of life; those who come to me will never be hungry; those who believe in me will never be thirsty” (Jn.6:35). And then he becomes even more explicit: “I am the living bread come down from heaven. If you eat this bread, you will live forever. The bread that I will give you is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51). These lines emphasize that Jesus’ words are of transformative value, they are not simply descriptive, but creative, and that things happen as He willed and as He promised.
Lastly, on the Eucharist as a sacrifice, as Fr. Barron recalled the text on the Passover, At the heart of the Passover meal, of course, was the eating of a lamb, which had been sacrificed, in remembrance of the lambs of the original Passover whose blood had been smeared on the doorposts of the Israelites in Egypt. Making his Last Supper a Passover meal, Jesus was signaling the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s prophecy that he, Jesus, would be the definitive Lamb of God, he was expressing that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, which was made even clearer with Jesus’ very own words when he said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” And then taking the third cup, toward the end of the supper, he said, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”
With all these insightful points and Fr. Barron’s emphatic sharing, the delegates were compelled to make notes, exchanged gestures of agreement, and expressed gratitude through cheers. Everyone was energized, and Fr. Barron was indeed successful in his hope to not only clarify the people’s minds, but above all to awaken their hunger for the Bread of Life, Jesus.