The 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines was joyfully opened last Sunday with a mass celebrated by the Papal Legate Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar. He was our key note speaker during our 6th CBF – Southeast Asia Bible Workshop held in Bandung, Indonesia last August 6-10, 2012. Sr. Emma Gunanto, OSU and Ms. Estrella C. del Mar with some members of the CBF SEA attended this great event. The Congress will close this coming Sunday, January 31, 2016. Here is the message, key-note address and homily of the Papal Legate (courtesy of the IEC2016 official website):
Message and Homily of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo at the Opening Mass
Monday, January 25th, 2016
Charles Maung Cardinal Bo, SDB, DD
I stand on this holy ground, full of gratitude and joy, bringing the message of hope and joy from the prophet of the millennium, our dear Holy Father Francis.
Pope Francis loves you very much!
Ang atong San Padre gihigugma kamong tanan!
Kayong lahat ay mahal na mahal ng Santo Padre!
We are grateful today. Gratitude to God that an event of immense significance as this International Eucharistic Congress has brought together the Catholic Church to the cradle of Catholic Faith in Philippines, Cebu. I am grateful to Our Holy Father for his trust and the honor he bestowed your humble servant to be the legate. I am grateful to the warm welcome, the deep communion we feel as Catholics all over the world. I am humbled and grateful to this opportunity to be with you.
You are a great nation, the light to Asia, the biggest Catholic Community in Asia. This pivotal Catholic Nation that has promoted the growth of Catholicism in Asia. Your light has shown in every part of the world through your sons and daughters whose exemplary faith has been for ages, the beacon of evangelization.
In some parts of the world, Catholicism means Filipino presence. Every migrant working from Philippines is a Paul of Tarsus in more than 120 countries they serve. Sa Hong Kong, London, sa Cairo, sa Roma, sa Dubai ng Pilipino ay nasa lupa. Ang Pilipino ay na sa hangin. Ang Pilipino ay na sa tubig. Nasa lahat ng dako ang dugong Pilipino! For the last five decades, the only place that welcomed our priests, religious and laity with open arms and cared for them is you and the Church in the Philippines.
Today, Myanmar church is a confident church, your communion was a poignant show of Eucharistic fellowship with a suffering church. You have shared the bread of hospitality, the bread of knowledge, the bread of your love for the people who came here.
We are gathered on a global stage, a global table, for a Cosmic Eucharist, Eucharist as a Mission in Cebu! You are the door of Christianity to this great nation. After a week-long celebration of Senor Santo Niño de Cebu, you have gathered here, commemorating 500 jubilee of the arrival of faith with the people and after 79 years of a Eucharistic congress in this great land of faith, you have come forward to celebrate this global fellowship.
The theme: The Christ in you is the Hope of Glory – taken from Colossians is a theme that echoes through your mountains, through your beautiful rivers, soothes the heart of millions of Filipinos. This is a historic moment. God gave you a nation of unparalleled beauty, but sadly challenged with the frequent natural disasters. your beloved Bishop Claver, SJ once said that the Philippines has the unenviable title of being the disaster capital of the world, but time and again, you have proved your resilience, your faith, rising from all challenges. May this 51st IEC be the moment of healing the earth, the wounded planet, and healing the graceful people of this country and everyone gathered here.
You have wisely chosen a theme of timeless relevance: Christ in you is the Hope of Glory – the Eucharist- the source and Goal of Mission. This theme assigns three tasks:
- To promote awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in life and mission
- To help improve our understanding and celebration of Eucharist liturgy
- To draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist
Eucharist: The Treasure of Faith for Christians
Five hundred years ago, Christianity entered this land as a treasure, a command to be executed, a promise to be repeated, a mission to be fulfilled. But the treasure of faith started with a few simple sentences:
“You shall love God and your neighbor as yourself. What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul? God loves this world and he gave his only son, not to condemn, but to redeem.
You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.”
But all of these words, a short sentence, changed history. They are the words:
TAKE AND EAT, THIS IS MY BODY! TAKE AND DRINK, THIS IS MY BLOOD!
Yes. The most powerful words in the human history, the most powerful words in the dialogue of God with man. The powerful words by which the world is nourished today. Mother church has cut these verbal diamond into a single word: EUCHARIST. Thomas Aquinas summed up the centrality of the Eucharist for us with the great lyrical praise:
O Sacred Banquet in which Christ is received; the memory of his Passion renewed.
The mind filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory to us is given. Alleluia
Eucharist is the spiritual jewel. Any jewel needs to be seen in various angles and lights. We are fortunate to gather these days through seminars and gatherings to see its various splendor.
The Eucharist encompasses various facets of Christian life.
Vatican II tells us that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life.” (Lumen gentium, no. 11)
This mystery of the Eucharist has two eyes: the Presence and the Mission.
PRESENCE – the quest of Human dignity – Man in God’s Image.
Eucharist is a historic faith event. Eucharist is the presence of Jesus. It is the same Lord of Moses, Abraham and Isaac.
It is the same Lord who through the Paschal meal liberated the Israelites from slavery, through his son, the Paschal lamb extends to the WHOLE humanity. The gift of redemption and salvation. The celebration of Eucharist and its adoration continue to affirm that the work of liberation and redemption is not yet over.
We adore Jesus in the sacrament of the most Holy. In our personal moments with him, in our solemn benedictions and in our adoration chapels, the Presence of Christ continues to be adored. The Eucharist and adoration is the intense faith encounter with Jesus, But this encounter needs others, the community.
It was Mother Teresa who contemplated this mystery of Presence.
She says every Holy Communion fills us with Jesus and we must go in haste to give him to others.” Mother Mary, whose body became the first altar of the Eucharist, Jesus, when she was conceived with him, the Bible says, she rushed in haste to meet Elizabeth.
Adoring Jesus in the Eucharist is also accepting our fellow men and women as created in the image of God. In a world that kills children in the womb, I a world that spends more on arms than on food, in a world that continues to have millions of poor, Eucharist is a major challenge to the whole humanity. Can we feel the presence of God in our brothers and sisters? Pope John Paul talked about the culture of death. Pope Francis spoke of a culture of indifference.
Eucharist then, cries out from the womb to tomb human dignity. Abortion, death penalty, euthanasia, etc. are vital challenge to Eucharist today. Our adoration of Eucharist affirms our unalienable faith in human dignity. Governments and others need to appreciate our faith vision.
So millions of Catholics attend mass, adore the sacrament. As we gather not only the bread on the altar becomes the body of Christ. Each one of us is joined with our brothers and sisters as one body “We, though many, are one body (1 Cor 10:17). The great awareness brings us to the first great task: Eucharist and Mission.”
- From Eucharistic Celebration to Eucharistic Commitment – Mission Adoration alone may make us good devotees. But being a devotee in one of the easiest things. Debosyon sa Santo Ninyo, Debosyon kay Hesus Nazareno. It is good.
Christ is calling us to be disciples, to carry his cross; the Mass of the devotee ends in an hour. But the Mass of the disciple is unending. The Eucharist of the devotee is confined to the clean, decorated altars of the church. The Eucharist of the disciple continues with the streets as altar.
Christ died in the street, dragged on the streets, proclaimed his good news on the streets, and affirmed the human dignity in the streets. His altar was the world, He broke the bread of healing, He broke the bread of feeding, He broke the bread of reconciling, He broke the bread of Good News. His disciples carried the task. The very act of Eucharistic assembly was revolutionary in the Act of the Apostles. The first disciples were martyred for the act of coming together and breaking of the bread.
John Paul said, “It is the impulse which the Eucharistic gives to the community for a practical commitment to building a more just and fraternal society”. (Mane Nobiscum Domine-Ap Letter Oct 2007- #28). Pope Benedict in: SACRAMENT CARITATIS 2007 says, “Personal encounter with the Lord occurs in the Eucharisti. And this is preciously the personal encounter with the Lord that strengthens the mission contained in the Eucharist.”
Yes, Eucharist leads us to mission. What is the mission? Vatican II defines the three fold mission of Christian – in the Ws: Word, Worship, and Witness. The first W is knowing the word of God and Proclaiming the Good News, The second is the worshipping as a community, affirming the oneness of the Christian community in the image of the triune God as the first Christians did, the third is the Witnessing through social mission with our concern for the weak and the vulnerable, what Pope Francis calls the “view from the margin”.
That brings us to the next important role of the Eucharist:
- Eucharist and the Poor
Once a priest told me uttering the consecration words in the Mass was becoming very difficult. The words “Take and Eat” are very difficult for me, he said. He was living in a place affected by war and displacement and food was hard to come by. He was reminded by his people’s hunger and difficulty in uttering the words by Jesus.
Yes we break bread in an unjust world. UNICEF says everyday 20,000 children die of starvation and malnutrition. That is 900,000 every month and 10 million a year. A silent genocide, the biggest terrorism in the world; what is the greatest moral sin that seeing a child dying of starvation today?
The Eucharist and the poor are inseparable. It was the church Father John Chrysostom who said “Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. He who said ‘this is my Body’ is the same who said: You saw me hungry and you gave me food”. Mother Teresa advised her sisters: The love for the Eucharist helps us to love the poor. Be the love, the compassion, the presence to the poor.
Eucharist is a dream and a reality because Jesus is truly present. A dream because it is the hope of the future, the eschatological meal of human equality. Today you have gathered from various backgrounds, the rich and poor, the noble and peasant, aristocrat and the servant. But when you approach the altar, the Eucharist strips you off all your social status. You are just an equal among equal. In an unequal and uncaring world, the Eucharist steadfastly remains the beacon of human equality. The Eucharist calls us to justice. No other religion elevates justice to this level. No other religion elevates the poor to this level as Mary narrates after the word was flesh in her “the mighty will be brought down and the lowly will be raised up”.
This calls for our commitment to a world of justice. Eucharist calls for a third world war, a third world war against poverty. A third world war against the cruelty of dogs fed with sumptuous organic food while poor children scramble for crumbs from the table, a third world war against a world that produces more weapons whilst more than half a billion do not get enough food every day.
Despite this happening, the Eucharist will remain a revolutionary flag hoisted everyday on millions of altars, crying for justice like the prophets of old. “The real fasting I need is the breaking the chains of injustice, remove the yolk of oppression, share the food with the hungry, sheltering the homeless” (Is 58:6-14). This country’s urgent task is to fulfil the prophecy. This biggest Catholic country in Asia needs to declare a war that fights for thousands who are still in poverty and forces them to unsafe migration. The economic injustice and the environmental injustice penetrated with impunity in this country and elsewhere make our Eucharistic celebrations vulnerable to prophetic attacks. “I do not look at your communion sacrifices; spare me the noise of your chanting, let me not hear your strumming of lyres; let justice and righteousness flow like a never failing stream. (Amos 5)
This I think is the clarion call to mission today for all of us who attended this congress. Another world is possible. An economic system that does not treat human beings as commodities is possible, another world where the world is our common home is possible. Until that happens, the Eucharist will continue to be challenged. Our mission remains incomplete.
- Eucharist as the healing Power for Unity
We are journeying through uneasy times. Hatred based on religion and culture is expanding. Being Christian is such a risk today. “Take the cup; this is my blood” is not just Eucharistic words. It is true in the lives of many Christians today. Not only Christians, the country from where I come from faced war and conflict for the last sixty years. The world is fragmented. Humanity is soaked in tears and blood today. Cain continues his hatred for his brother.
Christianity offered a new version of humanity through Eucharist. Before the Passover meal, Christ offered an example of service, washing the feet of his disciples. Instead of killing a scape goat, Christ became the lamb of God. He exhorted, “Pray for those who persecute you”. He forgave from the Cross. The Eucharist remains a sign of hope for humanity.
The community life of the first Christians were such an inspiring fellowship. (Acts 2 and 4) Breaking of the bread was a spiritual experience, but it was also a political statement in a colonized Israel, fragmented as Romans, Pharisees and the poor. Paul could boast “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentiles, neither slave nor free nor there is male and female, for you are all one in Christ” (Gal: 2:28). Reality is different but God is the same. Paul once again defines Eucharist as: The bread is one though we are many, we share one body. (1 Cor. 10:17)
Ang bansang Pilipinas ay nangangailangan ng kapayapaan!
Ang mundo ay nangangailangan ng kapayapaan!
Let this Congress set in motion a movement for reconciliation.
The Eucharist is always preceded by reconciliation. The gospel of Matthew stipulates the condition for a true reconciliation: “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5: 23-24).
Christians need to pray with St. Francis of Assisi “Make me a channel of Peace, where there is hatred let me sow love”. This unity and reconciliation need to start with our families, our parishes and communities, among religions. Blessed are the peace makers (Mt 5:9). Peace is the bread that the Catholic Community waits to share with all communities.
This Congress highlights the presence of God through our veneration to the Eucharist. This Eucharistic Congress, held in this great city and a great country, make us move from Eucharistic celebration to Eucharistic commitment in promoting the Eucharist as a mission, the Eucharist as the bread of justice to the poor, the Eucharist as the bread of peace in conflict areas.
God bless you.