Pentecost Sunday with Henri Nouwen
On the Eucharistic Life
This is Pentecost Sunday, and today we conclude our series of reflections on his book, With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life.
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That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
• Luke 24:33-35
Pentecost marks the end of a wondrous, mysterious season (Eastertide) and the beginning of a new one. Jesus has risen, appeared, and ascended. Today he sends the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower us as we are sent into the world to proclaim the good news of the reigning Christ. This transformation and this sending are portrayed in the story of the two Emmaus disciples.
What a difference between their “going home” and their return. It is the difference between doubt and faith, despair and hope, fear and love. It is the difference between two dispirited human beings dragging themselves along the road and two friends walking fast, running even at times, all excited about the news they have for their friends.
…The Eucharist concludes with a mission. “Go now and tell!” The Latin words “Ite Missa est,” with which the priest used to conclude the Mass, literally mean: “Go, this is your mission.” (p. 80f)
Henri Nouwen reminds us in this final chapter that it is not just the Eucharist but the Eucharistic life that ultimately matters. In our Lutheran congregation, after communion we pray:
O God, we give you thanks that you have set before us this feast, the body and blood of your Son. By your Spirit strengthen us to serve all in need and to give ourselves away as bread for the hungry, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
And so we eat and drink at the Lord’s Table not merely for our own satisfaction, but for the strength to provide the Bread of Life to others in days to come.
Forming a community with family and friends, building a body of love, shaping a new people of the resurrection: all of this is not just so that we can live a life protected from the dark forces that dominate our world; it is, rather, to enable us to proclaim together to all people, young and old, white and black, poor and rich, that death does not have the last word, that hope is real and God is alive.
The Eucharist is always mission. The Eucharist has freed us from our paralyzing sense of loss and revealed to us that the Spirit of Jesus lives within us and empowers us to go out into the world and to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, liberty to the captives, and to proclaim that God has shown again his favor to all people. But we are not sent out alone; we are sent with our brothers and sisters who also know that Jesus lives within them.
The movement flowing from the Eucharist is the movement from communion to community to ministry.
• p. 86f
Photo by Saint Joseph at Flickr. Creative Commons License