VATICAN CITY, APRIL 26, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Eucharist and the Church’s mission to evangelize “have a profound, essential relationship,” says a Vatican consultor.
Spanish-born Monsignor Joan Esquerda Bifet, consultor for the Vatican congregations for Clergy since 1977 and for the Evangelization of Peoples since 2003, explains in this interview with ZENIT the importance of the Year of the Eucharist and its relationship with the mission.
The Eucharist and the mission have been two key themes of Benedict XVI’s addresses during his first week as Pope.
Monsignor Esquerda is a retired professor of missiology of Rome’s Urbanian University, where he now lives and works as a spiritual director.
Q: Why was a Year of the Eucharist necessary?
Monsignor Esquerda: In fact, we Christians are always learning, Christianity is always learning; therefore, in face of new situations it is important to reflect further, above all on aspects related with the paschal mystery; and the Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church, as the [Second Vatican] Council stated.
A Church that wishes to follow the path of holiness and evangelization needs to reflect deeply on the subject of the Word of God and, especially, on the Eucharist. In this connection, it was a necessity at the beginning of the third millennium.
Q: What is the relationship between the Eucharist and the mission?
Monsignor Esquerda: If the word mission is omitted, what is important is the reality of the mission; every day when we celebrate the Eucharist we hear “for you and for all.” Jesus died for all. We must remember that he is the bread of life for the life of the world.
The relationship is essential, the celebration of the Eucharist is for the whole of humanity, and those who do not know it have a right to know it as God has made this gift.
The Eucharist and mission have a profound, essential relationship. One of the last documents signed by John Paul II was, precisely, the message for World Mission Sunday of this year: “Mission, Bread Broken for the Life of the World.”
Q: Do you perceive differences between the Eucharist in mission countries and in those that traditionally are not?
Monsignor Esquerda: It is essentially the same; what exists are cultural-ritual manifestations, the way of singing, of participating … there is always a certain difference, but basically it is always the same.
We would have to broach the topic of inculturation: The liturgy is universal but it is made concrete and inculturated in each place respecting what is essential for the whole Church.
Q: Can mission be confused with proselytism?
Monsignor Esquerda: Words, which are conventional signs, must always be understood, and it depends on the meaning that is given to them.
Today the word “proselytism” has a pejorative meaning, implying a sort of imposition or abuse; instead, the mission is not proselytism.
If we have received a gift that is for the whole of humanity, we are called to proclaim and communicate it. We cannot impose it but we can present it with words and testimony. Then there is no proselytism in the negative sense of the word but in the sense that all have the right to know that God became man to save the whole of humanity.