Q — What is the connection, if any, between Eucharistic adoration (outside of the actual celebration of the Eucharist) and service to the poor and needy?
A — This question could be approached in a variety of ways. The approach I am going to adopt is one that goes back to the very beginning of the Christian tradition in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 11.
In that letter/chapter we find the earliest account in Christian literature of Last Supper/Eucharist. It may go back to the early 50s of the first century, ante-dating the Gospels by perhaps as much as 15 years. In 1 Cor. 11:29 we read these words: “For all who eat and drink (the body and blood of the Lord) without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” That phrase — “without discerning the body” — is central to St. Paul’s meaning. The Greek word for “body” here is the word (in English letters) soma. Always St. Paul uses this word to refer to the body of Christ that is the church. And so in our context his point is this, but by way of paraphrase: “I may not have a private relationship with the Eucharistic Christ without a genuine concern for his body the church.” Having a relationship with Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist, then extended in times of Eucharistic adoration, is an excellent and foundational commitment for a Catholic. But since there is no private “I” and “I” only exist as a member of Christ’s holy body, I must have regard to the needs of that body of which I am a member. The neediest members of the whole body that is the church are the poor and the disadvantaged. Thus, my time of adoration will flow over into practical concerns for the poor, into what Alfred Lord Tennyson called “the little unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”
When adoration overflows into service then I am truly “discerning the body.”