QUEBEC, JUNE 16, 2008 (Zenit.org).- When Catholics attend Mass they are not mere bystanders, but rather participants in the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection, says the archbishop of Washington, D.C.
Archbishop Donald Wuerl said this today at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, which is being held through Sunday in Quebec. He spoke on "The Institution of the Holy Eucharist, Gift of God."
Some 11,000 pilgrims, 50 cardinals and more than 100 bishops have gathered in Quebec for the weeklong congress, which is titled "The Eucharist, the Gift of God for the Life of the World."
"This Eucharistic congress is intended to lift up for us once again the events of our salvation," said Archbishop Wuerl, "but to do so in a way that we actually participate in those saving actions. The Church calls us not just to a commemoration of the events of 2,000 years ago, as laudable as that might be, but also to enter the mystery itself today.
"We are not bystanders, but rather participants."
He continued: "Unlike any other form of remembrance or commemoration, the Mass, the Eucharistic liturgy, thanks to God’s gracious gift, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, has the power to make present the very reality it symbolizes.
"In the Eucharist, Jesus has instituted the sacrament in which his Passion, death and resurrection would be made present again in our lives in a way that enables us to share in the benefits of the cross.
"We speak of our dying to sin and rising to new life because we participate in the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection."
"The Church uses the word 're-present' to speak of what is happening in the Mass," the archbishop explained. "The term 'holy sacrifice' of the Mass is also exact because sacramentally, but really and truly, the death and resurrection of Christ are once again made present."
"We are not simply bystanders at this memorial, at this Eucharist. We are participants in the new Passover," said Archbishop Wuerl. "This new ritual instituted at the Last Supper transforms us into God’s new people."
He asked: "What do we bring to this Eucharistic banquet, to this paschal celebration? As guests who have been invited not only to witness the memorial of our redemption but actually
participate in it, what do we bring? Certainly, we do not come empty-handed to the table of the Lord."
"The first gift we bring as we approach this extraordinary memorial is our own lively faith," the archbishop said. "Like Peter, we can reply when Jesus asks us, 'Who do you say that I am?' that 'You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.'
"We can reply as Martha did when Jesus proclaimed that he was the resurrection and the life and asked her, 'Do you believe this?' With her, we proclaim, 'Yes, Lord, I have come to believe.'"
"We also bring the gift of hope," he added. "Because we believe, because we see with the eyes of faith, because we place our trust in the words that Jesus has spoken to us, we can with confidence live out our faith."
The archbishop continued: "We can also approach the altar with hearts filled with love. At that Last Supper Jesus taught us that since we were sharers of his Body and Blood we were members of the same family and brothers and sisters to each other."
"When we look around at this Eucharistic Congress," continued Archbishop Wuerl, "we see an expression of God’s grace at work even though each one of us remains in our uniqueness in what the Holy Father calls our particularity."
He continued: "Each one of us with our own heritage, tradition, ethnic and cultural background, speaks to a pluralism that is part of the human condition and yet in our faith, when we come forward, baptized in one Spirit to receive one Lord in the Eucharist, we are united in one faith in his one Church. We are, in fact, one people -- his people.
"Because we see with the eyes of faith, we see in the Church and in her sacraments Christ continuing to be with us, to touch us, to change us, to transform us.
"The institution of the Eucharist was to ensure that each of us today, here in Quebec in June 2008, is able to enter the mystery of the cross and the resurrection as if we actually were present, not as bystanders but as participants."