Arts and Culture

Eucharist, Resurrection And Gratitude

Ninth and last in a series

Reflecting on the great feast of the Resurrection, I think back on the theology I studied for four years in the 1950s at the major seminary. Of course, my mind may be playing tricks on me, but I am fairly certain that the Resurrection of Jesus was not emphasized in the theology that I studied.

My memory is that in our dogmatic theology class, which I loved – and which was taught by Father Martin Healy, who was one of my idols – we studied two pages that dealt with the Resurrection in the textbook we were using in class.

Shortly after I finished studying theology, there was an enormous change. A theologian, Bernard Cooke, whom I greatly admired and whose theology I also studied when I was studying philosophy in graduate school, claimed that the start of the change could be traced to a book by Father Francis X.
Durrwell, C.Ss.R., “The Resurrection: A Biblical Study” (New York: Sheed and Ward, Translated by Rosemary Sheed with an Introduction by Charles Davis, 1960). Cooke claimed that it was rare in theology that one book could be cited for such a dramatic change, but he believed that Father Durrwell’s book was that important and influential.

The enormous shift that took place in the study of Christ’s Resurrection helped me to see – and understand better – that theology is done by human beings reflecting on God’s revelation. Therefore, there can be historical periods in which theologians are doing a marvelous job, and also historical periods in which theologians may not be doing such a wonderful job.

I have noticed recently that without consciously planning to do so, I often end my Sunday homilies with some comment linking the homily topic to the presence of the Risen Christ in the Eucharist. One reason for this is probably my re-reading of Ronald Rolheiser’s “Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist.” His insights into the mystery of the Eucharist are wonderful. I especially like his comments on a Eucharistic spirituality. He writes the following:

“A spirituality of the Eucharist invites us to have this kind of attitude of receptivity toward all of life: Receive. This word which describes our posture in approaching the Eucharist, is also meant to mandate an entire way of living, wherein we are asked to acknowledge always, by the very way we receive everything, that everything is gift, and that nothing comes to us as owed” (p. 102).

This reminds me of a mistake that I think we unfortunately can make in our relationship with God. In mentioning this, I intend to judge no one, only an attitude. I have often heard people say something like: “My mother was the best person I ever knew. She was dying from cancer and I prayed and still she died. I no longer pray.”

Such a statement reveals a conditional faith in God who we think will not allow our mothers to suffer and die. There is no such a God. To believe in such a God is to believe conditionally. In other words, the person will only believe in a God who does what the person wishes. I think our faith in God should be unconditional. We believe in God’s love for us when everything is going the way we wish, and we should believe in God’s love for us when nothing is going the way we wish.

Rolheiser writes the following:

“To give thanks, to be properly grateful, is the most primary of all religious attitudes. Proper gratitude is the ultimate virtue. It defines sanctity. Saints, holy persons, are people who are grateful, people who see and receive everything as gift. The converse is also true. Anyone who takes life and love for granted should not ever be confused with a saint. …

“The failure to be properly grateful, and to take as owed what is offered as a gift lies at the root of many of our deepest resentments toward others and their resentments toward us. … This goes against the very contours of love, the original sin. The Eucharist invites us in the opposite direction. Everything we receive in life is a gift and must be received as gift.

“Moreover, one of the ways that we thank the giver of a gift is by thoroughly enjoying the gift. Proper enjoyment is a Eucharistic virtue” (pp. 104-105).

Father Lauder is a philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica, and author of “Pope Francis’ Profound Personalism and Poverty” (Resurrection Press).