YAP FU LAN
Yap Fu Lan is a lay woman, rector lecturer at Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jkarta. She conmpleted M.A. in Contextual Theology at Sanata Dharma Catholic University in Yogyakarta, and the Doctorate in Ministry in Education for Witness, at the Caholic Theological Union in Chicago. She published her first book in Indonesian: Pembinaan Iman Remaja dalan Atmosfir Dialog Antar Agama (Religious Education for Youth in the Atmosphere of Interreligious Dialogue), 2005.
The 9th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), held in 2009 in Manila, reflected on the theme Living the Eucharist in Asia. Through its Final Statement and reflection on “life-believe-celebrate-life,”1 the bishops hope that an abundant eucharistic life will be experienced by the people in Asia. Examining the Final Statement of this Assembly, we may conclude that the eucharist, at its very heart, is the feast of discipleship. The eucharist is celebrated by us as disciples of Jesus. It is a feast that provides nutritious food that is vital for our growth as disciples.
The Indonesian Catholic Church, in its General Assembly of 2005, came to a deeper meaning of discipleship in its reflection on a new habitus.2 This reflection is bound to the earlier message about developing basic Christian communities (Indonesian Catholic Church General Assembly 2000) and the upcoming topic of the narrative approach in mission (November 2010).
This short paper is an effort to observe the links between these three pastoral messages with the address of the Asian Bishops on living the eucharist in Asia.
Let me begin by affirming that the eucharist gathers us as a eucharistic community that lives a eucharistic life and engages us in a eucharistic mission. In simpler words, living the eucharist is about strengthening our identity, our way of life, and our duty as disciples in our world.
Reflecting on this in the Indonesian pastoral context, I asume that the Indonesian Church shares a basic understanding of eucharis-tic life with other Asian churches and the Churches of the world.
Eucharistic Community: A Community of Memory
Memory That Builds Christian Identity
Before he was given up to death, a death he freely accepted, he took bread and gave you thanks, he broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:
Take this, all of you, and eat it;
this is my body which will be given up for you.
When the supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it;
this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.
(Eucharistic Prayer II)
In this Eucharistic Prayer, we invoke Jesus’ words and action at the Last Supper (see Mk 14:22-24; par.). This is often mentioned as the reason for our act of celebrating the eucharist. Catholics believe that the Liturgy of the Eucharist is more important than the rest of the celebration.
Attentive to this issue, the Asian bishops convince us that “the Eucharistic memorial is not confined to the narrative of the Supper. The Liturgy of the Word is keeping memory as well.”3 By this statement, we are reminded that our memory of Jesus must comprehend the whole story of Jesus, including his life, death, and resurrection. Moreover, we need to grasp it within the broader memory of God’s salvific enterprise for us and for all of God’s creation.
Memory, says William James Booth, is constitutive of our identity.4 Identity itself is the stories which we narrate to others so they may understand who we are and who we are not.5 We Christians strengthen our Christian identity when we listen to the storytelling of God’s salvation in the Liturgy of the Word. The stories unite us with ”the communities of the past who remembered before us and transmitted their memory to us…withEucharistic communities all over the world…[and] with the future generations of Christians” (FABC IX, C.2). By this ritual of storytelling, we become a community of memory.
Memory That Is Forgotten
At the core of our eucharistic memory is the sacred memory of God who reconciles the world to the godself. It is the memory of God’s involvement in and promise to human life. This memory includes the stories of suffering, injustice, dehumanization, and the destruction of God’s creation.6 Thus, the eucharist also unites us with those who are suffering, dehumanized, treated unjustly in our community and in our society, and also with the suffering nature. As we listen to the Word of the Lord, we too open our hearts to listen to the words of “the muted people of Asia,” (FABC IX, B.6) because God also “communicates [God’s] word through…their stories” (FABC IX, B.6).
Memory That Bears Witness
This is the point where we face the active present dimension of memory. We, the community of salvificmemory, must bear witness, i.e., to do what Jesus has shown us to do for the sake of the restoration of human life. Our Christian identity is not merely about remembering what God did and how the faithful responded to God somewhere in the past. The storytelling of the Word of God invites us “to respond to the God who has loved and saved us” (FABC IX, C.2) here and now.
Our response is firstly performed through our presence in the eucharistic celebration. But as the celebration is over, we commit ourselves to witness to God’s love primarily through our presence as a eucharisticcommunity in this world. We renew this commitment every time we celebrate the eucharist, in particular in our “amen” at the rite of communion and at the closing ritual. The bishops spotlight the closing ritual as more than “just a declaration that the liturgy is over, neither is it simply a dismissal of a group.” Instead, it is “a missionary moment” for every eucharistic community (FABC IX, E.3).
Thus, something that looks like a simple ritual has become an imperative moment for us, as a community of memory, to realize our apostolic vocation, i.e., “to go to [the poor, the neglected, and the lost] for the Kingdom of God is promised to them” (FABC IX, E.3). This is “the apostolic activity of the people of God” that comprises the reju-venation of human life, the redemption of the people who live in the world of modern heresy, immorality, and injustice.7 This good news of humanity must be preached “by words and deeds,”8 as it was accomplished by Jesus.
Living the eucharistic life, we have no other way to witness to God’s words and deeds than through our encounter with human beings and their elementary needs. The eucharistic life is beyond the feeding of the hungry and other charitable activities. This vocation is about “[infusing] a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws, and structures of the community.”9 The Indonesian Catholic Church has comprehended this vocation as the building of a new habitus.
Eucharistic Life: A New Habitus
The Emergence of a New Habitus
In its pastoral message of 2004, the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference pointed out the most serious elements of social pathology which causes the breakdown of public civility in Indonesia, i.e., corruption, violence, and environmental injury. Corruption is not about money. It has evolved into “political corruption and corruptivepolitics.”10 Family-ism is suspected as the root of corruptive behaviors. Violence has been identified with the military, which is institutionalized as militarism. Triggered by collectivism or communalism, violence embraces ethnocentrism and xenophobia, and contaminates other civil institutions, including religious communities.
Meanwhile, the environmental injury which is primarily caused by fire, toxic waste, and exploitation, has arrived at a stage that en-dangers nature and human life.11
Furthermore, the bishops believe that the only way to correct this dreadful situation is by strengthening the three sectors in the social sphere: the governmental sector, business sector, and public sector. The state has legislative power to organize the communal life through its governmental institutions. The market is supposed to guarantee fair transactions which are beneficial for the producer, the consumer, and the society. Meanwhile, the public sector should be a space where people interact in trust and accepted social behavior. These three sectors are fundamental and critical. It is imperative to harmonize and to control them as the condition of public civility. Unfortunately, the value of harmony in these three sectors has been abandoned.12
As a community of disciples, the Indonesian Catholic Church has a duty to bring hope to society that the harmony of the powers of the three segments is possible. This hope is founded on faith in the promise of God’s salvation.13 To accomplish this mission, the Church should first and foremost humbly confess that in some way it has participated in causing the breakdown of the public civility (cf. FABC IX, B.2). Therefore, the Church has to persistently instigate a spiritual reformation within itself. By doing this continual conversion, the Church has the power to reform the negative values and the disordered political system in society.14
The further effort is to creatively develop a new way of life as a counterculture against the culture of corruption and violence which attacks human beings and nature.15 This new way of life must be founded and practiced in the reality of the brokenness of society. The disciples are “sent to the broken world to disclose its nobility by restoring public civility [by taking care of] the destiny of the victims on behalf of the Kingdom of God and its liberating power.”16 This voca-tion that requires an incessant conversion is what the Indonesian Catholic Church means by new habitus.17
Understanding the New Habitus
The word habitus (Latin: habitūdo) refers to a “manner of being or existing,” or mode of life that contains moral structure and consists in relationship with others.18 The concept of habitus was used by Aristotle in his metaphysical notion, and by the Scholastics in the Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas, for example, articulatedhabitus as an (at once) active and passive form of the operative potencies, which “represents an increase in the power of intellect and will.”19 In the modern era, the notion of habitus was developed by Marcel Mauss, and further explored by Pierre Bourdieu.
Explaining habitus, Pierre Bordieu contends that “human action is not an instantaneous reaction to immediate stimuli, and the slightest ‘reaction’ of an individual to another is pregnant with the whole history of these persons and of their relationship.”20 Habitus, then, is built through the practice of “interaction and mutual adjustment”21 amongst people (the social agents) in society. Within this learning process, people creatively produce “thoughts, perceptions, expressions, [and] actions” as their response to their historical and socialsituation.22
The Indonesian Bishops explain habitus as the constellation of instincts, both individual and collective, which shape the ways of feeling, thinking, observing, understanding, approaching, acting, and relating amongstpeople.23 In the General Assembly of the Indonesian Catholic Church 2005, habitus has been affirmed as the sign of spiritual reformation which is grasped through daily life practices followed by persistent reflections.24
A new habitus includes the change of our paradigm of dualisms that separate our life of faith from our daily life, the growth of our openness to others and otherness, the renewal of our commitment to be the models and to contribute good virtues and spirit to fight for social justice. Building a new habitus, the Indonesian Church is becoming “a communion of the communities of hope in the midst of society’s struggle to grasp its truefreedom.”25
New Habitus, the Way of Eucharistic Life
This concept of a new habitus correlates with the way of eucharistic life urged by the Asian bishops. As aeucharistic community we are called to build a new human family within our own Church as well as within our society. Revisiting the Asian family’s tradition of feast/meal, the Asian bishops notice that the very challenge for us the faithful in realizing a new human family is to move beyond the boundaries of our races or ethnicities or clans or classes or families. Living the eucharist, we counter but also must denounce family-ism, ethnocentrism, racism, and classism within ourselves, our community, and our society. We embrace others, neighbors and strangers, and are attentive to their presence and their needs. The others, urge the bishops, are particularly “migrant workers, refugees, and multitudes of displaced peoples” (FABC IX, B.1).
I would like to look at another dimension of feast in the Asian tradition as examined by Choan Seng Song. Explaining the parable of the Great Banquet (Lk 14:16-24; par.), Song gives two important notes. First, inviting the oppressed, the outcasts, and the strangers to the feast, God gives them back their dignity as human beings. God restores their humanity. Second, the invitation itself simultaneously gives God a name and a face, two essential manifestations of honor in Asian culture. God’s true name “is the name of strangers, and God’s face is the face of the outcasts.”26 God is the loving and compassionate One who chooses to be with those who are not considered as human beings. The feast signifies warmth and genuine solidarity offered by God to them so they may be relieved from their pains, fears, and anxie-ties.27
Celebrating the eucharist, we are invited by God to offer genuine friendship and solidarity to one another in our daily lives. Only genuine friendship and solidarity can transform the broken human relationships caused by betrayal, manipulation, exploitation, and violence generated from human selfish ambitions. In his life, Jesus has shown us that such transformations are possible and not only through his resurrection. In the table fellowship Jesus had with Zacchaeus, for example, his genuine friendship changed Zacchaeus’ relationship with the people from whom he collected the taxes (Lk 19:1-10). Also, at the Last Supper, Jesus showed us that there is a cost of genuine friendship and solidarity, i.e., life-giving love. Our “Eucha-ristic faith affirms that the way to life is not to sacrifice others…but to freely and lovingly offer [our lives] as living sacrifice[s] to God and the good of others” (FABC IX, D.1). This is the very heart of a new habitus.
The previous paragraphs provide us a profound message that eucharistic mission is about bringing this life-giving love into our daily lives. As we have experienced the life-giving love of God, we are obliged by the love itself to witness to God’s love. Once again, for the Indonesian Catholic Church, to witness to God’s life-giving love is an enterprise with two manifestations: conversion and creative works. These two, I believe, are inseparable. Nonetheless, in my observation, the call to develop a new habitus is more focused on our conversion for we are “a community of sinners” (FABC IX, B.2). It is a call to leave behind our tendencies: to be not critical in recognizing social realities and to be reluctant to respond to them; to take as our priority private safety, instant solution, and individual pleasure; to maintain our inferiority as a minority in society; to live separately the sacred and the profane, the secular and the religious; to perform our arrogance and pride as Christians instead of being humble disciples; to fight with each other in the name of religions as institutions, thus devaluing our faith as the living and loving faith.28
Today, the Indonesian Catholic Church is seeking a creative way for doing mission. The narrative approach has been chosen as the focus of the General Assembly in November 2010. This focus is inspired by the First Asian Mission Congress in Chiang Mai, Thailand, October 18-22, 2006, which had the theme Telling the Stories of Jesus in Asia. In this Congress, the Asian Church acknowledged the narrative approach as the spirit of Asian culture and pedagogy.29
Our reflection so far contains some ideas about developing this theme. I would like to highlight them for the Indonesian Catholic Church and for other Asian churches to ponder. I organize them into four parts: communion, celebration, engagement, and education. By these four ideas, a eucharistic narrative approach, the name I propose here, leads the faithful to the building of a eucharistic community and the living celebration of the eucharist, engagement in public arena, and the formation of faith.
The Building of Eucharistic Community
As observed earlier, the story of God’s salvific action establishes our Christian identity, thus gathers us as one community of sacred memory. The Asian bishops pledge that it is “a living memory that is passed on with the Holy Spirit” (FABC IX, C.2). We also have been conscious that the story of God’s action in human salvation history is not only about the last moment of Jesus’ life. Neither is the story of Jesus the only part of the memory of God’s salvific enterprise. God tells God’s story through the stories of human beings and of allcrea-tion.
The Asian bishops remind us about the suppression of many stories in Asia because of the fear of people to listen to the truth of God (FABC IX, C.4). Consequently, there are lots of untold stories in Asia, including in Indonesia. They are the stories of people who experience rejection, discrimination, impoverishment, injustice, and many facets of violence. Therefore, employing a eucharistic narrative approach in mission, we must listen to these stories, as God listens to the people (e.g., Ex 3:7; Ps 10:17). As the Asian bishops contend, “before [we] could be the voice of the voiceless, [we] should be a good listener to them” (FABC IX, C.6). The Indonesian Catholic Church has also affirmed its intention to be the Church that listens.30
One thing that is spotlighted by both the Asian Bishops and the Indonesian Catholic Church, but is not discussed here, is the basic ecclesial community. For the Indonesian Catholic Church, the term “basic community” signals the nature of Christian community as a community that has rooted its life in the faith tradition of the Church and the very life of society. Basic community is not merely about the quantity of people who gather, nor is it “a form or a space for Catho-lics.”31 Basic community “is the living Church that dynamically wrestles with its faith within its engagement in this world … [and fashions] a new face for the compassionate Church.”32
Basic communities, I contend, are the places and also the actors of living eucharistic life. They are inclusive communities that welcome “people from different economic, social, political, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds” (FABC IX, B.1). They are the homes for the faithful where hostility is discharged by hospitality; exclusion and alienation are replaced by embrace; prejudice is dismissed by dialogue; ethnocentrism, classism, and discrimination are substituted by genuine solidarity; judgment is relieved by storytelling. Basic communities are the locus where the new family of God’s children is delivered and raised. These communities are also the agents of dialogue who have the potential to expand the networking with others at the grassroot level of society.
The communities celebrate the eucharistic feast where they eat the food for their faith. In the celebration, they also share the story of God’s salvific action that unites them as one community of memory. Their presence and stories are the essence of the living eucharistic celebration.
The Living Eucharistic Celebration
In my parish in Jakarta, the service of every Mass is provided by territorial basic communities that we calllingkungan or kring. We, the parishioners who come to the Mass, recognize most of the men and women, adults and youth who provide hospitality, sing in the choir, act as lectors, bring the offerings, and so forth. We do not just recognize them, but we know who they are because we meet them every time we gather in our houses for on going catechesis, Bible study, rosary prayer, and other faith activities. We can find similar pictures in other parishes in Indonesia, and probably in most of the Asian churches.
Coming to such a Mass, we feel like we are coming to a family gathering. This brings to our mind the Church’s assurance that “liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the ‘sacrament of unity’.”33 The Asian bishops also summon “the community-forming aspect” of the eucharist that rises above a “narrow individualistic view of participation in the Eucha-rist” (FABC IX, B.1). This communal dimension is at the heart of a living eucharistic celebration. It embraces the virtues of basic ecclesialcommunity that we have pointed out earlier. It also necessitates social-political involvement of Christians in public.
Engagement in Public
Building a new community that listens to the unspoken stories, we often face the systemic evil in our society that causes death. Listening to the Word of the Lord and living the eucharist, we are encouraged by God to conquer death by the power of the Holy Spirit. Here, the life and death of Jesus becomes the model for us to follow. His life-giving sacrifice on the table of his body and blood challenges us to be involved in “a joyful but risky act” among our contemporaries.
In the storytelling of Jesus, it is important to comprehend Jesus’ mystical-prophetic spirituality. Many Christians nowadays consider Jesus merely as a gentle spiritual leader who comforts them in the midst of the catastrophes of this time. This picture, says Obery M. Hendricks, could trap Christians in a political docetismthat “distorts and even denies important realities of the life of Jesus.” This denial leads to two subsequent disavowals: of “the victims of oppression and exploitation for whom Jesus felt such compassion and concern,” and of “the empowering example of radical response to the social and political realities” which Jesus gave to the victims.34 Accordingly, such denials are a refusal of the Kingdom of God and of the story of God’s salvificaction in human history.
The Asian bishops affirm that “Jesus is our peace.” I believe that the bishops do not mean by this to picture Jesus as a meek and mild model. Nor do they hold our presence in the eucharist (and any other form of adoration and worship) as a break away from our realities. Because, the bishops also contend, “in Eucharisticspirituality, adoration goes hand in hand with mission. Genuine mission leads to adoration. Authentic adoration leads to mission” (FABC IX, E.5). Implying the sign of peace to be in the eucharistic celebration, the bishops advocate that the Asian Church “lends its resources to peace building in Asia, urged [by] the love of [God] who seeks to reconcile humanity to [God] and to each other” (FABC IX, E.1). Similarly, this articulates the Indonesian Church’s call to Catholics to enter the public arena. Being consistent with its own message, the Indonesian Catholic Church should develop a narrative approach that assists the faithful to confidently assert their vocation to restore public civility and humanity.
This vocation must include our responsibility to revitalize the earth. The earth is the most voiceless victim that really needs our hearts to compassionately listen to her stories of abandonment, exploitation, and violence. She desperately needs our voices to truthfully tell her stories. In the General Assembly 2005, the Indonesian Catholic Church itself was attentive to the issues of agriculture and environment, both forestry and non-forestry. These issues have been established as the entry points for Catholics to start exercising a newhabitus for the transformation of public civility.35 So, we may hope that the Indonesian Catholic Church’s General Assembly 2010 will also listen to the unspoken stories of the earth. I contend that the very task of aeucharistic narrative approach is to encourage people to listen to the earth as “God’s partner” in salvificenterprise (FABC IX, C.7), and to embrace her as collaborator to witness to that salvation.
The Formation of Faith
Finally, developing this eucharistic narrative approach, the Indonesian Church will be in touch with a need for faith education or formation. Looking at what has been explored so far, I name it the school of discipleship for that is what it is. This means that the formation is more than explaining the order of the eucharistic celebra-tion (cf. FABC IX, G.1.1.1). It is a process that takes place within the eucharistic community for the engagement of its members in the public arena. Included in this effort is what the General Directory forCatechesis points to as the encouragement “to assume responsibility for the Church’s mission and to be able to give Christian witness in society.”36 It also includes what Gregory Baum calls “a socio-political commitment toward the reconstruction of society in terms of greater justice.”37
The Asian bishops explicitly mention the urgency of faith formation for living the eucharist in Asia. They point out two characteristics of this formation. First, it “inculcate[s] the spirituality of listening to God’s word that leads to acts of justice and goodness.” Second, it functions as “a school for discerning the life-giving Word from words that deal death” (FABC IX, C.1). These two, I contend, must also be the qualities of a eucharisticnarrative approach.
We learn about listening and discerning from the greatest teacher who was also a good storyteller, Jesus from Nazareth. For Jesus, listening to the Word of God is the main requirement of being disciples and of obtaining salvation. We find Jesus’ strong message of this, for example, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 12-13. Following the requirement of listening to (or hearing) is the necessity of seeing and of acting accordingly (e.g., Mt 13:16; 7:26). Together they are the constitutive elements of obedience to God, the pathway that led Jesus through his life-giving mission. Obedience only to God is not blind for it rests in a personal discernment of the truth of God’s word. Jesus showed a bold example of this in his very own self and life, and challenged his disciples to do likewise, in particular through his storytelling.
We know from the gospels that Jesus loved to use parables for teaching his disciples about the Reign of God. Employing parables, Jesus was breaking what Paolo Freire calls the banking approach of education.38 Jesus’ narrative approach did not function as “a delivery system for an idea,” but it built “a house in which the reader/listener is invited to take up residence ... then that person is urged by the parable[s] to look on the world through the windows of that resi-dence.”39 In other words, Jesus’ narrative approach worked as an invitation to his listener to create meanings “through [their] responses to the good gifts and the suffering that life brings to everyone.”40 It challenged them to respond to their reality in ways that were different from those of their contemporaries.
The early Christian community continued Jesus’ storytelling and drew their faith from parables.41 But later on, stories/parables became a source for Christian ethics but not for faith. The employment of a eucharisticnarrative approach in faith formation, then, is supposed to bring back the status of parables (and other forms of narrative) “as [the] source[s] of the Christian faith.”42 Faith formation that employs a eucharistic narrative approach does not only teach us to be good persons. More than this, it enables our encounters with the story of Jesus as “the unique thread [that] weaves all [of our] life experiences into one grand narrative”43 of human salvation. It immerses us into the most intimate relationships with God, ourselves, others, and the rest of God’s creation that are the wellspring of our faith and life.
The message of FABC IX, “Living the Eucharist in Asia,” has been pondered by the Indonesian Catholic Church through its prior reflections on the building of a new habitus and basic Christian communities. Particularly, “Living the Eucharist in Asia” refreshes the Indonesian Catholics’ spirit to exercise a new habitusas disciples in the public arena. Also, it is pregnant with virtues and values that are essential for developing aeucharistic narrative approach for mis-sion.
Communion, celebration, social engagement, and faith formation are four focal points for developing this narrative approach as well as for living the eucharistic life itself, in Indonesia particularly and in Asia generally.