Recently I planted some bedding plants in the garden ably assisted by my two children. A few days later after the copious amounts of sun, and rain, that we have enjoyed recently the plants had bloomed. Upon witnessing this, the joyful cry went up ‘THE PLANTS ARE GROWING!!!’
It’s great to see growth! It brings us joy and a sense of fulfilment.
When we see growth in the lives of neophytes we have been journeying with, and in our own lives, it too can give us a real sense that the God is truly with us. We can know once more that while we have done our best to be faithful ’planters’ and ‘waterers’ of the seed of God’s Word, it has been God alone who has given the growth.
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)
In the period of Mystagogy that many of us are now experiencing, as well as celebrating the growth that has taken place we can also look ahead with hope for the growth that is still to come. Our hope is that we will see growth in our own lives, in the lives of the neophytes and in the Christian communities to which we all belong. But how can we encourage this growth?
How does the Church grow?
This question was asked by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. In response they stated that “as often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which Christ our Passover was sacrificed is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on.” In short they were affirming that the celebration of the Eucharist is at the centre of the process of the Church’s growth (Lumen Gentium 3, Ecclesia de Eucharistia 21).
Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia remarks that “the Apostles, by accepting in the Upper Room Jesus’ invitation: ‘Take, eat’, ‘Drink of it, all of you’, entered for the first time into sacramental communion with him. From that time forward, until the end of the age, the Church is built up through sacramental communion with the Son of God who was sacrificed for our sake.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 21). He adds that “incorporation into Christ, which is brought about by Baptism, is constantly renewed and consolidated by sharing in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, especially by that full sharing which takes place in sacramental communion.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 22)
As we look back to the joys of our Easter celebrations, it is heartening to know that the grace of those baptisms are ‘constantly renewed and consolidated by sharing in the Eucharistic Sacrifice’.
So the Eucharist constantly renews and consolidates the gift of new life given at baptism, builds us up and enables us to continue to grow in our Christian life. This is captured in the Rite itself where the instruction for the Liturgy of the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil states:
“Before saying ‘This is the Lamb of God’, the celebrant may briefly remind the neophytes of the pre-eminence of the Eucharist, which is the climax of their initiation and the centre of the whole Christian life.” (RCIA 233).
So right at the outset, in the Rite, and in the Easter liturgy itself, the Church is encouraging us to find the source of our life and of our future growth in the Eucharist. These can be deeply encouraging truths and timely for us as prepare for and celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
As we look ahead, to future ministry opportunities and new groups of catechumens and candidates we can also receive consolation and support by knowing that “from the perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross and her communion with the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the Church draws the spiritual power needed to carry out her mission.” The truth is that “the Eucharist… appears as both the source and the summit of all evangelisation…” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 22)
So the Eucharist renews and strengthens us, it is the centre of our Christian lives and also gives us the spiritual power we need to witness and share the Good News in many and various ways. Truly we can grow strong and bloom if we can remain true to this great Sacrament.
To end here is a song that I heard some children singing at our local Catholic School, the words are set to the traditional tune Frère Jacques. As we continue to be a Eucharistic people we pray that the truth of these simple and childlike words can become our own as we see the growth that God’s grace will bring in our lives as we share the one bread and the one cup.
“I am growing, I am growing big and tall, big and tall. Growing up for Jesus, growing up for Jesus, big and strong, big and strong!”