by Tonia Borsellino
“The Church lives on the Eucharist,” said Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras and a close advisor to Pope Francis.
Cardinal Maradiaga explained that it is important to understand what the Eucharist is before we can embody it, be renewed by it, and change the world from it.
With this, he began his keynote address at the 5th Annual Eucharistic Congress of the Diocese of St. Augustine on March 11-12.
After Bishop Felipe J. Estévez welcomed everyone to the second day of the Congress, he introduced the multi-lingual, talented prelate from the Honduras and invited him to play his saxophone for the more than 5,000 people at the Prime F. Osborne III Convention Center in Jacksonville, Fla.
Cardinal Maradiaga smiled, played for the large audience, and began his talk with thanking the bishop who once served in the Honduras as a young priest.
“Now, we have to meditate on the purpose of this Eucharistic Congress,” the cardinal said, “We’re going to talk about, ‘Make the Eucharist Today.’”
As the source and summit of the life and mission of the church, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the Eucharistic celebration is at the center of the growth process of the Church,” Cardinal Maradiaga said.
Catholics believe the Eucharist is the mystery of the church. It is in the Eucharist where bread and wine transforms into Christ’s body and blood.
“But at that point, the transformation must not stop; rather, it is here where this transformation most fully begins,” Cardinal Maradiaga continued. “The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we, too, might be transformed.”
He acknowledged that the concept of consuming Jesus’ body is difficult to understand and even, “tests our ability to listen to Him.”
But the cardinal said it was not enough for Jesus’ disciples to just follow him. God works through him by way of the Eucharistic celebration and that is how we are renewed.
“The disciple must feed on his Word and his Body,” he said.
God pours out his love every day in the Eucharist, and that is how the church continues to grow. Without it, he explained, there is no apostolic life.
The disciples and saints offer a great example of this, according to the cardinal, because their lives were “touched by the Eucharist; that is why they are saints.”
All their acts of service, including Jesus’ washing of the disciple’s feet, are done in and through love. So is Jesus’ giving of himself in the Eucharist, Cardinal Maradiaga noted.
“Service is an effective way to commemorate Christ. And this act, if done daily, renews our hearts,” Cardinal Maradiaga said, “there is no more effective way to commemorate Christ than through the Eucharist: it alone makes Christ remembered.”
So in turn, he explained, the Eucharist renews hearts, mirroring the theme of the Eucharistic Congress: “Renew Your Heart.” Cardinal Maradiaga said there is no other substitute that will make one “feel good” than the Eucharist.
Today, he said, “there is a naïve joy in the search for spirituality which ‘transcends’ churches and religions.”
But Cardinal Maradiaga argues that the search does not transcend because it is isolated in one’s own heart.
“Therefore it is not solely about ‘feeling,’” he said, “but about living.”
Cardinal Maradiaga explained that is why there is an importance to the Sunday obligation for all the faithful, “as a source of true freedom, in order to live each day as that which they have celebrated on the ‘day of the Lord.”
One can also find renewal through adoration, where the Eucharist is exposed in a monstrance.
This mutual love is necessary, he explained and, “is the basic criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged.”
For Catholics who can receive the Eucharist, “this is what the Lord wants us to do every Sunday,” Cardinal Maradiaga said.
He ended with one final thought on entrusting oneself to the Virgin Mary, saying, “she was the teacher of Eucharistic spirituality,” because she bore Christ within her.
Cardinal Maradiaga followed his address with the celebration of Mass, in which the prayers of the faithful were recited in multiple languages, and the Gospel and homily were proclaimed in English and Spanish.
To read Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga’s approved text of his keynote address, click here.
You may also watch the Cardinal’s keynote address from our recorded livestream footage by clicking here.