An excerpt in a book on the early Church reveals the testimony of a prominent Roman citizen named Emeritus who was arrested with a priest named Saturnius and a group of Christians who came to his home. They were placed on trial for “getting caught” celebrating the Eucharist. The proconsul at the time interrogated Emeritus by accusing him that he knew full well the imperial prohibition of the people to participate in the “new way,” as it was called then. Celebrating the Eucharist was strictly forbidden!
“Why did you let them into your home knowing it was against the law?” the proconsul demanded.
To which Emeritus replied, “I had to.”
“But, why?” shouted the proconsul.
Emeritus then responded with the words that most likely sent him to his death: “I had to, because I can’t live without the Eucharist!”
Our commitment to live the stewardship way of life is to be committed to what is most fundamental to our Catholic life of the Church, and that is the Eucharist. How willing would we be to respond like Emeritus: “We just can’t live without the Eucharist”?
At my parish, St. John the Apostle in Minot, N.D., we once conducted an exercise with our Confirmation program students. We role-played the story of Emeritus. A volunteer student named Cole agreed to play Emeritus, I was the proconsul, and others stood in for the priest and Christians. As Cole and I read the script, it was easy to follow Emeritus’ lead. But then we ran out of the script, and I, as proconsul, continued the interrogation of Emeritus. Cole continued to defend his faith, and a dialogue continued as I attempted to prosecute the Christian, while Cole continued to defend his desire to live or even die for the Eucharist. The dialogue took on a life of its own, and Cole demonstrated a sincere defense.
Shouldn’t or wouldn’t we all? As the one who initiated the exercise, it was more than I could have hoped for.
Perhaps it was only an exercise to see what we would do. I think it is an exercise we all should do now and then to appreciate the great gift we have in the Eucharist. Is it at the center of our lives? How committed are we to participating in the Mass and receiving the Eucharist with committed hearts like those of the early Christian communities? We shouldn’t mind “getting caught” celebrating the Eucharist.
Making a commitment to attend Mass and celebrate the Eucharist is one of the most important ways of living the stewardship way of life. As disciples of Christ, when he invited us to “do this in memory of me” He invited us to His table where we are privileged guests each time we come to Mass. Celebrate the Eucharist with respect, awe and devotion. Make a commitment to be a part of what Christians for centuries have craved, celebrated, lived and died for.
Like Emeritus, Saturnius (the priest), the community of believers, and even our Confirmation student Cole, let’s stand in defense of what is most important to our faith. To be good stewards is to be committed. Let’s pray and hope we would be committed enough to stand up for what we believe and say with courage and dedication, those all important words…“I just can’t live without the Eucharist.”