Communion and social justice
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The Hunger of the World. Communion and social justice. Margaret scott. Author: The Eucharist and Social Justice , Paulist Press, 2009 Former Director: St. Raphaela Retreat Center, Havertown, PA

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Communion and social justice

The Hunger of the World

Communion and social justice

Margaret scott

Margaret scott

  • Author: The Eucharist and Social Justice, Paulist Press, 2009

  • Former Director: St. Raphaela Retreat Center, Havertown, PA

  • Adjunct Faculty: Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA

Sr. Margaret's Web Page




Communion as sign and symbol

  • Sign - points to God’s critique of a world of rich and poor

  • Sign – points to God’s desire for a world that is structured upon the “common good”

  • Symbol - added value, richness of communion language and practice & associations we make

    Image Source:

Communion as sign and symbol

The real presence of christ

  • Roman Catholic (1300) meaning: literal transformation of the bread and wine

  • John Wycliffe (1400): only symbols

  • Martin Luther (1520):

    Christ is fully present

    but no transformation

    What does that mean?

The “Real Presence” of Christ

Christ as really real

  • Christians meet God in the brokenness and limits of the daily world

  • The realities of life’s necessities

  • The realities of poverty

  • The realities of privilege

  • Communion connects us to the

    realities Christ calls us to address in the world

Christ as really real

…in the symbols of


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Communion as food

  • The love of God for the poor is not a feeling. It is action which sustains life and gives hope.

  • God is incarnate – really present – in bread, wine, water, rice, beans, corn for those who are desperately hungry.

  • Current methods of world food production require poorly-paid immigrant labor without legal rights or labor organizing.

  • Current methods of world food production destroy the ability to sustain the planet. Giant factory farms require massive use of pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation and produce huge amounts of waste and run-off, as well as unnecessary animal suffering.

Communion as Food

Start here communion as dangerous memory

  • Anamnesis (remembering)

  • Remembering Jesus’ prophetic and healing ministry

  • Remembering Jesus’ execution by an occupying power and its collaborators

  • Remembering the resurrection of Jesus as the God’s overcoming of his death

    • Delores Williams: The Resurrection Is God’s ‘Yes!’ to the world’s “No.

  • Remembering all who suffer

  • Remembering the Jewish Passover as a political liberation

  • Such memories as “dangerous” for oppressive practices because they reveal the suffering beneath the surface.

StART HERE: Communion as Dangerous Memory

Johann Baptist


Metz image source:

Communion as anticipatory hope

  • Early Xn prayer: Maranatha! (Aramaic) “Come, Lord Jesus!”

  • Anticipation of reunion in heaven with the Living Christ

  • Symbols of anticipation:

    • The heavenly banquet

    • The peaceable realm (kingdom)

  • Hope for a changed world

  • Hope for one’s own trans-

    formation as a participant and

    follower of Christ

  • Living “as if” – out of the coming kingdom

    • James Cone – Refusing to be resigned to the world as it is

Communion as anticipatory Hope

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Eucharist as community

  • The locally shared meal

    • Origins as shared dinner, followed

      by ritual meal (I Corin.10-11)

    • Becomes celebration at worship

      in local congregations

  • The globally shared meal

    • Food and care for all

  • Themes

    • Intimacy and learning about

      each other and the other

    • Solidarity

      • The unity of the community –

        global and local

      • Relinquishing privilege

        on behalf of the poor

eucharist as community

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Communion as participation

  • Participation in the body of Christ

    • The body of Christ as the global community

    • Solidarity as unity for justice

    • Solidarity as relinquishing privilege on behalf of “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40)

      • The poor

      • The politically oppressed

      • The socially marginalized

    • Solidarity with the earth

      and its non-human


Communion as participation

March during the “solidarity” trade union

strike in Communist-controlled Poland, 1970’s1

Communion as participation1

Communion as Participation

  • Participation in the blood of Christ

On December 2nd, 1980, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, lay missionary Jean Donovan and Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford were brutally raped and murdered while serving the poor in El Salvador, by that country's national guard. Archbishop Oscar Romero had been assassinated the previous March.

  • Working for justice and peace is neither easy nor safe.

  • Serving the poor is always a political act. Identifying with the marginalized means that you may be marginalized as well.

  • Solidarity requires recognizing the real risk to oneself: one’s reputation, health, and life and to those one cares about.

  • The “cost of discipleship” versus “cheap grace” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor and resister, hanged by the Nazis in April, 1945

Communion and social justice

Some connections

and questions

  • Communion

    • What emphasis (table fellowship, sacrificial representation, memorial meal, etc.) do you think is the most important?

    • How do you understand “real presence”? Do you think this language is problematic or revelatory?

    • What are some ways of understanding or connections that can be made with the language of:

      • The body of Christ

      • The blood of Christ

    • Give a contemporary example of :

      • Christian participation in the “body of Christ”

      • Christian participation in the “blood of Christ”

      • Explain your examples.

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