Session 15: The Holy Eucharist

Resources for participants

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

15A

  • If God is everywhere, what’s the point of going to church on Sundays?
  • What is your experience of coming to Mass or to other Christian Sunday services?
  • Which parts of the Mass, or which symbols within the Mass, do you find most interesting or helpful?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

15B

  • When are the times that you feel closest to God?
  • Have you ever experienced God’s presence in Church?
  • What do you think about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? Do you find it easy or hard to believe? What difference could it make to your life and faith?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

15C

  • If you discovered that someone had died to save your life, what difference would it make?
  • Can you describe any crosses or crucifixes you have seen? What do you think about the idea that Jesus offered his life on the Cross to take away our sins and bring us salvation?
  • What do you think about the idea that the Mass is a Sacrifice that unites us with the Cross of Jesus? What difference could it make to your life and faith?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

READINGS FROM THE YOUCAT FOR THIS SESSION

If you are using the YouCat with your Sycamore group, please click here for general advice about the YouCat and how to use the readings. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

  • #208 to #223 – the Holy Eucharist [11 pages]

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the YouCat and not to page numbers. The number in [square brackets] at the end tells you roughly how long this passage is in terms of the pages you need to read (excluding picture pages).

 

LONGER READINGS FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

If you have more time, and if you want to go deeper into the topic of this session, you can follow up by exploring the longer Catechism of the Catholic Church. See the standard online version here, and a digital “flip-book” edition here. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the Catechism and not to page numbers. Click on the links themselves to read the paragraphs in the online version.

 

KEY IDEAS FROM THE FILM

15A – The meaning of the Mass

The Celebration of the Eucharist is the centre of Christian worship. Catholics in the Western tradition often call it “the Mass”, and the Eastern Churches speak about “the Divine Liturgy”.

The Mass is far more than just a community gathering or a prayer service. It connects us with the Last Supper. It unites us with Jesus Christ, and with his eternal offering to the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit. It makes us one with the prayer of the whole Church: with Christian communities around the world, with those who have died, with the angels and the saints, with the worship of heaven. And at the end, we are sent out on mission, to serve others and share the good news of salvation, because this incredible gift is not just for ourselves.

The sacrament of the Eucharist was given to us by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. And in the Acts of the Apostles, the first Christian communities meet together for the Eucharist, which they call “the breaking of bread”. It’s thoroughly biblical.

Why is it so important? Because Jesus himself is present at every Mass. He speaks to us through the words of the bible. Without the bible there is no Mass! He is present through the ministry of his priests, who represent Christ the Good Shepherd, even with their weaknesses. Jesus is present in the midst of the congregation, because he promised to be with his people whenever they pray in his name. And he is present above all when the bread and wine are changed into his Body and Blood, and when he gives himself to us in Holy Communion.

15B – The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

One of the hallmarks of Catholic faith, shared with many other Christians, is belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Bread and wine are brought to the altar at Mass. The bread is often in the form of small round wafers or hosts. The priest says the prayer of consecration, using the words of Jesus from the Last Supper: “This is my body… This is my blood”. And through the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We call the consecrated elements “Holy Communion” or “the Blessed Sacrament”.

This is much more than a symbol or a metaphor. The external form stays the same – it still looks and tastes like bread and wine. But the deepest reality, the substance, has completely changed. Jesus Christ himself is now present, his whole being, in the fullness of his humanity and his Divinity. We adore Jesus on the altar. We receive him as food and drink, and in this way we are given consolation and spiritual strength and all the graces we need to grow in holiness.

And after Mass the consecrated hosts are kept with great reverence in the church. They are normally placed in a small mounted box called a “tabernacle”.

This becomes a place where people can pray in worship and adoration. And the communion hosts can be taken to those who are sick or housebound and unable to attend Mass.

The Mass is an extraordinary miracle. Jesus Christ becomes present in our Catholic churches. He is not a distant God. You can meet him face to face, heart to heart, in Holy Communion, in the Blessed Sacrament.

We can believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist because of the words of Jesus and because of the teaching of the Church in every generation. He’s the one who said: “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”, and “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink”.

15C – The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

Catholics speak about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, because when we go to Mass we are united with the Sacrifice of the Cross. We share in its saving power and offer our lives to the Father with Jesus.

The Mass is a real sacrifice, but it’s not a new offering – as if Jesus hadn’t done enough already. The offering of his life that Jesus made on the Cross once-for-all has infinite value. It fulfils all the sacrifices of the Old Testament and all the promises of God to his People. And this one sacrifice is now re-presented on the altar, is made present, in a sacramental manner, and we are made one with that offering.

At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and said, “This is my body – which is given for you”. He took wine and said, “This cup – that is poured out for you – is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:19-20). He told the apostles to do this in memory of him.

Notice those words of Jesus: “Which is given for you”, “Which is poured out for you”. The Last Supper is not just a meal; it’s also an offering, a sacrifice, which links us with the crucifixion. The same is true for every Mass. The Catholic priest represents Jesus sacramentally for the Church. He stands “in the person of Christ” the High Priest: offering that same sacrifice, in union with Christ the Priest; and offering his own life too, in union with Christ the Victim.

What difference does this teaching make? It puts the focus on God. We don’t have to create a magnificent worship service every Sunday, through our own efforts and ingenuity. Instead, we unite ourselves with Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as he offers his life to the Father in praise and thanksgiving. We can share in all the graces that have been won for us on the cross. And in a very personal way, when we go to Sunday Mass we can offer up my life to the Father with Jesus. Whatever has happened in our week, whatever is happening in our lives, we can bring it to Jesus at Mass and trust that he will bring it to the Father.