One of the most remarkable Catholics of the 20th Century is a woman who began her life as an atheist, committed to communism, anarchy, and social revolution. But after the birth of her infant daughter by a man who was not her husband, she experienced a profound conversion in her life. She began to feel a deep yearning for Christ and his promise of grace, which led her to embrace the truths of the Catholic faith. She did not forsake her radicalism, but now saw it as an expression of her Catholicism, her belief in Christ who came to bring good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, and human dignity to all victims of oppression. From the time of her conversion in 1933 until her death in 1980, Dorothy Day vigorously promoted a program of radical social change that would lead to justice for rich and poor alike, for equality between people of different colors and ancestries, and peace among the nations of the world. In her love for Jesus, nourished by her devotion to Christ present in the Eucharist, Dorothy Day was determined that her father’s house would indeed be a house of prayer and not a den of thieves where greed, racism, and violence were the established way of life. In the words of the Gospel of John, zeal for her father’s house utterly consumed the founder of the Catholic Worker movement.
Her love for Christ present in the Eucharist led her out of herself. In imitation of Jesus she committed herself to his mission of restoring his father’s house. For Dorothy Day and for each one of us who come to the table of the Lord, the Eucharist we share makes us mindful of the world outside the church door. St Paul tells us that when we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again. If St. Paul is right about this, then our sharing in the Eucharist should lead us to bring our faith in Jesus to our homes, our schools, and our offices so as to transform and shape them according to the values of the Gospel. Our love of Christ present in the Eucharist should lead us to embrace Christ present in the unborn and utterly defenseless fetus, Christ present and neglected in hospitals and nursing homes, Christ present and condemned on death row. Our sharing in the one bread and in the one cup should make us agents of the Gospel, ready to assert the presence of Christ and challenge a world that says we’re number one, and because we’re number one we can buy happiness, pleasure, and even love. In this great mission we have the constant prayers and presence of our sisters to assist us and to give us the strength and courage we need.
Because we come to the table of the Lord, we are made mindful not only of our own hunger but of the hunger of every man, woman, and child. The hunger of those who are without work or without decent housing, the hunger of those who are exploited and preyed upon because they do not speak our language, or are poorly educated, or are here illegally, the hunger of those whose dignity is taken from them because they are black, Hispanic, Middle-Eastern, or women. When he multiplied the loaves and fishes, Jesus looked at the crowds and said to his disciples. “You feed them. You give them bread to eat.” As men and women who come to this table hungry and go away filled, how do we not leave this monastery chapel prepared to satisfy the hungers of our world.
Zeal for his father’s house consumed Jesus as he cleansed the temple of injustice and restored it to a place of prayer and holiness. As we consume the Body and Blood of Christ tonight, may that same zeal consume you and me.