Christians, Pope Benedict XVI tells us, “are called to offer true worship to God” in all of their actions. Sacramentum caritatis (SacCar) ¶ 71. Therefore, Christian life is intrinsically eucharistic. Id. Consequently, the Eucharist itself leads us to work for social justice. Our worship of God is no private affair.
[T]he worship of God in our lives cannot be relegated to something private and individual, but tends by its nature to permeate every aspect of our existence. Worship pleasing to God thus becomes a new way of living our whole life, each particular moment of which is lifted up, since it is lived as part of a relationship with Christ and as an offering to God.
SacCar ¶ 71. As a result, we understand that communion has both a vertical and a horizontal sense. “[I]t is communion with God and communion with our brothers and sisters.” SacCar ¶ 76. Thus, we need to rediscover that “Jesus Christ is not just a private conviction or an abstract idea”. He is “a real person, whose becoming part of human history is capable of renewing the life of every man and woman.” SacCar ¶ 77.
In the Eucharist, we become bread that is broken for others
Jesus said, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” John 6: 51b. Benedict teaches that these words reveal Jesus’s “deep compassion for every man and woman.” And “[i]n the Eucharist Jesus also makes us witnesses of God’s compassion towards all our brothers and sisters.” SacCar ¶ 88.
Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become “bread that is broken” for others, and to work for the building of a more just and fraternal world. Keeping in mind the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, we need to realize that Christ continues today to exhort his disciples to become personally engaged: “You yourselves, give them something to eat” (Mt 14:16). Each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world.
SacCar ¶ 88.
The Eucharist is offered for all the world
The eucharistic mystery relates directly to a commitment to social justice. And this means we must “transform unjust structures”. We must “restore respect for the dignity of all men and women, created in God’s image and likeness.” SacCar ¶ 89.
Precisely because of the mystery we celebrate, we must denounce situations contrary to human dignity, since Christ shed his blood for all, and at the same time affirm the inestimable value of each individual person.
This is no ethereal justice and peace. Benedict tells us that we must reverse the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. Displaced persons and refugees need us to stand with them in solidarity. We need to eliminate extreme poverty, and overcome the injustice and exploitation that leads to starvation. SacCar ¶ 90. Indeed, “in giving thanks to God through the Eucharist,” we “do so in the name of all creation ….” This “commits us to work[ ] responsibly for the protection of creation.” SacCar ¶ 92.
Our daily bread
Finally, in the Our Father, the prayer given to us by Jesus, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. Benedict says that this request has a social meaning. It “obliges us to do everything possible … to end or at least reduce the scandal of hunger and malnutrition afflicting so many millions of people in our world ….” SacCar ¶ 91.
Sacramentum Caritatis is Benedict’s most important papal document concerning the liturgy. The document’s liturgical implications are a subject of discussion within the Church. But it is significant that he emphasizes the social implications of the Eucharist. It is clear. Our worship of God requires that we work for justice for all.