| By Father Andy Laframboise

Of fragments and fragmentation

These past several articles, I have reflected on various aspects of the Eucharist as we celebrate the Eucharistic Revival. Today I will conclude this series by reflecting on the Concluding Rites.

The priest blesses the community; then he or a deacon dismisses the people by saying, for example, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” I think of it as a kind of push from a parent to a child who is learning how to ride a bike. Behind that push is encouragement: “You can do this! I am right behind you.” Behind every blessing is something similar. The Lord, through the priest, sends us forth saying, “You can do this! I am with you always.”

As we are leaving Mass, I find it helpful to remember the “fragments.” When Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish, there were fragments left over— 12 wicker baskets full. (Mt. 14:20) What a beautiful symbol of the love of God. It satisfies and is never exhausted. The presence of our Lord in the tabernacle reminds us of this very truth. The one whom we received continues to be with us in the “fragments.” The fragments remind me of the enduring presence of Jesus in my life. We are present to him in a privileged way in the Mass, but he is always near. One of the most important things we can do is to remember him always at our side and to gaze upon his face often throughout the day.

The Eucharist may be about fragments, but it is not about fragmentation. Pope Benedict XVI said in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis that the Eucharist is a mystery to be believed, celebrated and lived. We are called not only to receive the Eucharist, but to live a Eucharistic life. The blessing sends us forth to do just that.

In his very first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), Pope Benedict said that worship, that is “Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.” (Deus Caritas Est 14) Union with Jesus moves us to be in union with those in union with him. It moves us to love. The pope is very strong here. “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”

The Eucharist is a gift that is received, and what a gift it is! But it is also a gift that is meant to transform us— make us like Christ.

Does the Eucharist pass over into the concrete practice of love in your life? Or is your life fragmented? Is there a disconnect between daily life and the “amen” in the communion line? This is something that challenges us all, sometimes as early as the gathering area or the parking lot! But with the help of God’s grace, that can change.

The Eucharist changes us to live like Christ. We can choose patience, gentleness, courage, kindness, perseverance when it is so much easier to choose another path. The Lord wishes our “amen” to the Body and Blood of Christ to also be an “amen” to the will of God in our lives. This is an “amen” to loving our neighbor. An “amen” to following the Lamb wherever he goes. (Rev. 14:4)

The fragments prevent us from being fragmented. The enduring presence of Jesus calls us outside of ourselves to concretely love our neighbor and surrender to the will of God. The next time you receive that final blessing and dismissal, know that the Lord sends you forth with a smile, “You can do this! I am with you always.”

Father Andy Laframboise is pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Reese and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Vassar and director of priestly vocations. He holds a licentiate in Sacred Theology in Marriage and Family Studies from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.