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Eucharist in contemporary Asia

Fr. James H. Kroeger, MM

Living Mission  

“Year of Eucharist and Family” Reflection


THE local Churches throughout all of Asia regularly come together to share their commitment to missionary evangelization through an assembly known as the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).  Asia’s bishops assert that witnessing and preaching the Gospel today demands that the Church enter into a “triple dialogue” with Asia’s people, especially the poor, Asia’s rich cultures, and Asia’s diverse religions.  Following this valid and helpful paradigm, we can reflect on how the Eucharist is related to this “three-fold dialogue” of FABC.

Feeding the Hungers of the Poor.  Asia, including the Philippines, is a continent rich in cultures and traditions; its peoples are rich in human and religious values.  However, large numbers of people live in situations of poverty, powerlessness, marginalization, victimization, and suffering.

These people are not poor in human values and potential; they are poor only in that they are deprived of access to material goods and resources which they need to live with dignity.  They cannot ensure stable living conditions for themselves and their families.  Often, oppressive social, economic, and political structures keep them from enjoying a dignified life.

The Church is called to help feed the many hungers of the poor, following the example of Christ who voluntarily became poor to enrich us through his poverty (2Cor 8:9).  A Christian realizes that whatever is done to one’s neighbor is actually done to Christ (Mt 25:40).

A truly Eucharistic Christian community will try to live a simple life-style; it will also engage in active social intervention, seeking to be a prophetic community—addressing the diverse hungers of the poor.

Eucharist and Asian Cultures.  To fulfill its mission of evangelization in Asia, the Church must engage a wide variety of cultures.  A profound vision underlies this endeavor: the emergence of genuine communities of faith in Asia.  These Christian communities must be, according to the FABC, “Asian in their way of thinking, praying, living, and in communicating their own Christian experience to others.”

This “incarnational” approach does not jeopardize the Church; rather, it fosters genuine catholicity.  As Pope Francis notes: “When properly understood, cultural diversity is not a threat to Church unity” (EG 117). Thus, liturgy and sacraments take on cultural expressions of the local people.  In this way, the enfleshment of the Body of Christ is realized in the life of particular peoples.

Inculturated liturgy, the Eucharist in particular, will contribute significantly to a richly developed and authentic spirituality for Asian Christians.  Undoubtedly, in this growth and evolution, the Holy Spirit is leading the Churches of Asia to integrate culture and faith.  Such inculturated faith will be Asia’s special gift to the universal Church.

Eucharist as Source of Dialogue.  The theological-pastoral reflections used at the Cebu Eucharistic Congress contain rich insights into the Eucharist and its relation to dialogue in Asia.  Through our active participation in the Eucharistic celebration, “we enter into a communion of life with the triune God because we are inserted into the dialogue of life and salvation” that God has initiated with all peoples to accomplish his design of salvation.  Thus, the Eucharist shines forth as “a unique experience of God’s dialogue with us and our response to God: a dialogue of life, a dialogue of love.”

Already at their first Plenary Assembly in 1974, the Bishops of Asia (FABC) noted that the Church needs to be in “continuous, humble and loving dialogue with the living traditions, the cultures, the religions” of the Asian continent.  As noted earlier, this “triple dialogue” approach to evangelization retains its validity today—over four decades later!

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