The Real Meaning of Christmas: Eucharist and Evangelization

Excerpt from Parish Bulletin, Immaculate Heart Catholic Church, Portland, Oregon

Christmas is truly the genesis of Christian evangelization in the world precisely because Jesus’ birth is the inaugural Eucharistic event of our faith. The same Jesus Christ–God’s Living Word who was incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was born in a stable in Bethlehem–gives himself to us Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. As we gaze upon the child Jesus in the manger and as we receive him in Holy Communion, let us be ever mindful of our mission to be witnesses to God’s life-giving love in the world.

Evangelization, in the vision of Vatican II, must engender “constant conversion and renewal in order to evangelize the world with credibility” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, no.15). This means that the three pillars upon which the Church rests, namely, Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium, together with a deep and abiding love for the Eucharist, must be the catalysts for evangelization efforts since it is through obedience to revealed truth that we experience authentic conversion and through the reception of the Eucharistic Christ that we have life in him (cf. John 6:53-58).

“Priority must be given to continued and renewed formation in the faith as the basis of our deepening personal relationship with Jesus” (Disciples in Mission, 7). Therefore, personal transformation, which is the fruit of full evangelization, “requires instruction in sound doctrine, participation in sacramental worship, and the acquisition of a mature ethical and social conscience” (John Paul II & The New Evangelization, 32). The assimilation of Catholic truth, enlivened by the power of the Holy Spirit and engendered by the Eucharist, kindles the fires of love in our hearts and inspires us to share the truth of Jesus Christ with others.

This comprehensive approach to evangelization, rooted in the Eucharist–which is the definitive sign of our unity in Christ–“will penetrate deeply into the social, cultural, economic and political order,” and in our parish communities as well, where “total evangelization will naturally have its highest point an intense liturgical life that will make parishes living ecclesial communities” (John Paul II & The New Evangelization, 32).

A comprehensive approach to evangelization must also be subjectively appropriated and enthusiastically implemented by the faithful who must be staunchly devoted to the truths of the faith. The dissemination of truth to the world must not be reduced to merely trite sentimentality. On the contrary, as followers of Christ who are nourished and strengthened by his Body and Blood, we are called by him to become living witnesses to, and true examples of, the Christian faith in our everyday lives.

Christmas is a time for giving and receiving gifts. As faithful followers of Jesus, let us strive to share the gift of our Catholic faith with others. In the spirit of the season, let us pray that God will give us the desire, enthusiasm, and strength to respond to the gift of grace we have received in our Baptism so that we can “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18).

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