This piece arose out of a very important conversation I had with Colin Miller about the Source of All Hope mission in Baltimore, MD. The ideas flow entirely from his vision for the mission (he is its founder). I can only hope to have approximated what it means, in my own words. It is a shared reflection on how to minister to those outside the Church in the power of the Eucharist.
FROM SOURCE TO SOURCE
The crucial question for the missionary Christian is how to make Christ present to the other. This presence is an existential reality, something felt in the heart and soul first of all. Therefore, evangelization is not first about getting others to adopt this or that proposition or belief (e.g. “become a Christian”) but rather to give them an experience of God’s love in Christ. The evangelist can trust that, once someone experiences God’s love, they will be well on their way to belief in God and Christ.
For the Catholic Christian, the highest intensity of Christ’s presence in the world is the Eucharist. We are beyond blessed to partake in this mystery. But the missionary must ask: How does God’s love pass from the Eucharist, through us, to the other? (And especially to the poor, who may not know Christ at all.)
It would appear that we are dealing with three modes of Christ’s presence in the world: Eucharist, communicant, and non-Catholic other. According to the universal commission given to the Apostles–spread the Gospel to all peoples of the world–our evangelical hope is for these three modes of Christ’s presence to merge in communion. Our aspiration should be for the christification of the world: for everyone to be where Christ is, for everyone to be “eucharistically transformed,” so that God is “all in all.”
First, there is the “intensive” presence of God in Christ in the Eucharist: that is where he truly dwells. But it is not enough for him to sit on our altars: what we need is for him to dwell in us, so that we are his house on earth–just as Paul says, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). By partaking in the Eucharistic meal with earnest devotion and sincere inner participation, we are assimilated (bit by bit) into God’s “extensive” mode of presence in the world. This is just another way of saying that God extends himself into the world through us, who are members of Christ’s mystical Body. (Clearly, Christ needs us to be good, faithful disciples who are able to act with him at the head; otherwise, his Body is less than it could be and delayed in its work.)
From our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist, we move on to our encounter with Christ in the poor, the downtrodden, the other no-matter-who. Our hope is to transmit the love of the Source to others. We are Christ’s quasi-mediators in the world– “quasi-” because, ultimately, it is God acting through us when we reach others with Christ. The more we adore and abide in communion with him, the “better” we get at allowing God to act (this is sanctification). We grow more and more into accordance with God’s good will. And by relinquishing whatever we are outside of Christ (which is nothing), Christ comes into us that much more abundantly. He raises up our creaturely nothingness into his Spirit, grants us a share in his salvific plan. That is where he fills us with true living water, which will become in us “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn 4:14).
In the missionary encounter, God’s presence and love is somehow (we don’t exactly know how!) transmitted from the Source and Summit of the faith to others; and we are somehow the relay-point, the deliverer of the message, the vessel or extension of that presence and love. Our formation is so important because the more we are entrusted to God and in consent to his will, the more we are emptied and free of whatever gets in the way of the transmission. The better the formation, the more Christ can work through us to reach the world.
However, there is a third, “elusive” mode of Christ’s presence in the world, the one most easily overlooked, yet perhaps the most important for the Source-work.Continue reading