The Eucharist, Wellspring of the Spirit
Homily on the Solemnity of Pentecost, June 5th, 2022
Today we celebrate the anniversary of the Disciples’ birth in the Church. It has been thirty-five years since we began our journey and twenty years since our definitive approval. Whenever a journey of following Christ in the Church begins, it is because we have received a gift from God. To give thanks is to return to the original gift in order to renew our desire to live in a manner worthy of this gift. We do it as Disciples together with all of you who are part of the great Disciples’ family: Families of Bethany, schools and parishes, all our friends whom the Lord has placed on our path so that we can make you participants in our call.
In this Discipulada[*] we have set forth the motto, “The Eucharist, source of harmony.” The times of crisis we live in, in which the cisterns that contained our water to survive in the future seem to be breaking, are times of a search for the original source. We return to the Eucharist because our reservoirs are cracked and hold no water. The freshness of the Eucharistic wellspring evokes today’s feast, Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit, to whom we Disciples have been entrusted since our approbation. I wanted to dwell on some moments in which the Spirit makes himself present in the Mass. We are going to experience them soon.
- The first moment is when the priest extends his hands over the offerings and asks God to sanctify them. «Send down your Spirit,» it is said in the second Eucharistic prayer, «like the dewfall!» In the Old Testament, dew is the miracle of a water that comes after nightfall and whose arrival no one can explain. Dew is God’s freshness and his gift, and that is why manna, God’s food, is compared to dew. We could also call the Eucharist «the dew of concord».
The Spirit is called the gift of God. He is the gift of gifts, because thanks to the Spirit we recognize the God’s other gifts. The Spirit is the gift that helps us to accept all the gifts God has given us. For it is also a gift to acknowledge the gift, not to take it for granted, to be open to gratitude.
In the film The Lives of Others, a communist spy in Soviet times, in charge of controlling a dissident writer, ends up saving his life, impressed by his victim’s humanity. The writer, once the wall has fallen, comes to know that someone was spying on him, discovers the agent’s code, and understands that it is thanks to him that he is still alive. So he dedicates his new book to the agent, writing his code. When the spy, now just another citizen, goes to buy the book, he sees the dedication with surprise. And when the clerk asks him if he wants it gift-wrapped, he replies: «no, it’s for me». In that «for me» is the recognition of a gift. It is not «for me» because I alone will enjoy it, but the opposite: for me because someone has given it to me, and then it is possible to establish a relationship, even if it is at a distance. When we recognize God’s gifts, we better understand the love He has for us and what He has wanted to give us. And this is the work of the Spirit.
When you ever offer us disciples your help, you ask us: what do you want from us? The answer is: we want you to live in fullness the gifts that God has entrusted to you, we want to put ourselves at your service so that these gifts do not end up sterile, so that they give a hundredfold. We want to illumine your gifts with the light of eternal life, revealing what they are destined to and what their magnitude is.
The hands of the priest, which are Christ’s hands, cover the offerings and invoke the Holy Spirit. Upon seeing this gesture, you could feel covered by these hands, covered and blessed, for they are hands that transmit the gift of God. Feel these hands, which are placed on the offerings, as hands that cover you, hands that confirm the gift of your baptism, of your marriage, of your children, of your work, of your mission…
- The second moment in which the Spirit is present occurs at the consecration of the chalice. For there is a very strong link between the Spirit and the blood. Ancient peoples saw in blood the life that comes from God. Blood is full of the breath of life, because the blood transmits this breath to the whole body. And furthermore: blood is not only the life received, but the life that can communicate, that can generate, that gives birth to children and educates them, that gives itself for the good of others in society. And this blood of Christ is given to us to drink: «we are all given to drink of one Spirit» (1 Cor 12:13), says today’s second reading.
There is here a new gift of the Spirit. That is, Christ not only receives the gifts of the Father as the dew, but now he pours them out, he gives them to his children by giving his blood. Therefore, as he took the cup, he again gave thanks. Whoever knows how to receive God’s gifts understands that these gifts are not only for him, but that they call for a new fruitfulness. Christ tells us that He has the power «to lay down his life and to take it up again». His power, that can «to recover life» is impressive, but let us not lose sight of the first power: «power to give life», for it takes great power to give oneself and for that life to grow in others, so that it «gives life». Only he who exercises his power to give life (a power that is a gift of the Spirit), will then have the power to recover it.
We speak of the enemies of the soul, which are the devil, the world and the flesh. But these three enemies are not the Christian’s greatest challenge. The greatest challenge is not in the enemies, because Christ has conquered them all. The challenge lies in not diminishing the gift of God, in not forgetting it, in not flinching before the greatness he asks of us. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says that, in receiving the Eucharist, we become consanguine of Christ. This means: able to have his blood, blood that is given for the covenant. Let us be enlivened by this transfusion of the generous blood of Jesus.
At the beginning of the Mass it is said thus: «The Lord be with you…» And the response is: «And with your Spirit». By this is meant, not only «with you», but with the power of the Spirit that dwells in the priest, so that this Spirit enables him to exercise his fatherhood in Christ. For the Spirit is a force for relationships, for communion. Thus, «with your spirit» means: may he enliven you as a brother, as a father, as a spouse of the Church… And the priest could answer: «and with your spirit», because now you too are called to offer yourselves, as parents, spouses, in your work, in society, as educators…The Lord be with your spirit!
- The third symbol of the Spirit, after the dew and blood, is fire. And this appears after the transubstantiation, when we ask the Spirit to make us one body. In the first prayer, which we will pray later, the priests bow and ask that the offering, which is ourselves, be taken to the altar in heaven. In other words, we are asked to become one body with Christ.
This image of the fire is the image of the furnace, as it is reflected in the Eucharistic tower[†] of this Stella Maris College, a tower that is the work of Fr. Marko Rupnik. St. Augustine says it this way, speaking to the catechumens: «When the exorcisms were applied to you, you were as if ground; when you were immersed in water, as if kneaded; when you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, as if baked. Be what you see and receive what you are» (Sermon 272,1).
The Spirit is not only a gift that is received and given, but also has the name of communion. That is to say, the gift is received and given within a friendship, to edify it, so that it overflows in others. And so the Spirit creates an environment, the environment where the gift can be received and where one can give oneself. The gift that we have received as Disciples, thirty-five years ago, cannot be lived alone; it is a gift that can only be possessed when it is possessed together, starting from the source which is God himself. And it happens as in Dante’s Paradise, where the saints, every time they see a new person arrive, cry out: «here comes one who will increase our love», because the more they love together, the more love each one has.
It happens that in uniting by ourselves we are like the dough of bread, a dough in which everything is heaped together. The Spirit is the fire that transforms the dough. The processes that heat brings to bread are the most varied: fermentation, gelatinization, caramelization, coagulation. This may seem strange if we apply it to our communities and families: fermented, gelatinized, caramelized, coagulated families….
In reality, what the image expresses is, first of all, that the bread, with the fire, takes on texture, differentiates its grains well, becomes spongy. With the Spirit we are no longer a shapeless mass, but each one is a protagonist and gains from being together with the others. Moreover, the bread brings out the best of each one on top, of each leaven, because separated from the rest we count for nothing. Finally, there is the flavor. The Spirit gives us flavor, gives us a taste for life, so that it is not just a utilitarian pursuit, but a matter of beauty and greatness.
So the Spirit, in the Eucharist, is dew, is blood, is fire. And in this way it is made clear to us that the Spirit has to do with the heart. For the heart is the center of the person insofar as it is open to receive the gifts of the Father, and insofar as it gives itself to live in communion and generate communion. This is especially so for the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The Eucharist is the place where Jesus, in giving thanks to the Father and in giving us his body and blood, gives us his heart: «take, my heart, enter into my heart.» And also: «Take my mother, have my mother’s heart».
Our name is: Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Sometimes, when we are named, people unintentionally lengthen the name, adding adjectives, such as «Disciples of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary…» It is understood, but in our name is not «sacred» because it is redundant, and makes it too long. Even without wanting to change it, it is not inappropriate to shorten it: «Disciples of the Heart of Jesus and Mary». Because the heart of Mary is Jesus’ first heart and because, without ceasing to be two, these hearts are one, as is proper to the heart, the place of communion and of “us.” We thank the Lord for these thirty-five years of being disciples of the Heart of Jesus and Mary, asking them that we might be with Christ and his Mother, as the Acts of the Apostles say, «one heart».
[*] Discipulada: a yearly celebration hosted by the Disciples in Madrid, Spain to celebrate the anniversary of their approbation as a Religious Institute.
[†] In the chapel of Stella Maris school in Madrid, Spain, the tabernacle is a stand-alone tower adorned with a mosaic by Fr. Marko Rupnik. The mosaic depicts fire rising, and above, at the door, loaves of bread composed artistically of human faces.