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Book review: Author proves Eucharist is a gift

By Jean Peerenboom

Precious Gifts: Biblical Reflections on the Eucharist by John F. Craghan (Liguori, $10.99)

John Craghan has given us a precious gift in “Precious Gifts: Biblical Reflections on the Eucharist.”

The Scripture scholar, who lives in the Fox Valley, offers a meaningful resource that combines top-notch biblical study and inspirational reflection on the Eucharist.

In this short book, he focuses on 10 themes: repentance, remission, redemption, reconciliation, resurrection, recognition, remembrance, re-creation, revelation and relatives.

Craghan has tremendous credentials in biblical scholarship. He is a professor emeritus of religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere. He has lectured extensively about biblical studies throughout the United States and Latin America. He has a doctorate in theology from the University of Munich; a licentiate in sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome/Jerusalem; and a master’s degree in Semitics from Columbia University, New York.

But, don’t let that scare you. His writing is down-to-earth and easy-to-digest. He says while writing the book, he thought “especially of those Catholics who completed their formal religious education at the end of high school. Many such people seek to reconnect with their Catholic heritage. … It is my hope that this book will help them discover a new world by focusing on different dimensions of the treasure of faith.”

I think he helps everyone on their faith journey – wherever they may be in that journey. He brings out a passion for Eucharist that is a core of our Catholic tradition.

Each of the 10 chapters opens with some initial thoughts – an introduction, followed by biblical background citing Scripture passages relevant to the theme, and finally an explanation of how it fits in with Eucharist. There also are review and discussion questions if you want to do some faith sharing or private meditation.
In addition to living our faith, he emphasizes the need for a feeling of community as we celebrate our Eucharistic meal and go forth to live the Gospel values.

When writing about repentance, for example, he talks about community and turning away from God. The next step is the journey back to God. “The Eucharist,” he writes, “is an event that profoundly expresses Jesus’ call to conversion … To celebrate this meal with Jesus means, among other things, to renew one’s intent to reorient one’s life by accepting Gospel values.”

Some other gems in the book are:

• “To celebrate the Eucharist is to proclaim the revelation that Jesus is the Father’s definitive expression of genuine life.”

• On communicating the revelation of the Good News: “Essentially, it demands incorporating God’s message into one’s entire person and then demonstrating it, especially through example. Thus, believers who truly care for others reveal that God is indeed love.”

• “Upon gathering for the Eucharist, the Church offers thanks to God in the Spirit for what Jesus has achieved by his death and resurrection.”

• “Emphasis on community must impact one’s notion of liturgy … At worship (believers) come together as member of an extended family who have common goals and needs. Liturgy without community is a contradiction in terms.”

The book takes me back to my own Scripture class at St. Norbert’s. Craghan was the professor. His coursework and lectures were intense, entertaining yet highly informative, fast-paced, exciting and challenging. After reading this book, I feel as though I just had a refresher course on the Gospels.

The book taps into my own passion for the Eucharist and reawakened a love for the Mass that I had started to take for granted. Thank you, Professor Craghan.

Jean Peerenboom is the former religion/books editor from the Green Bay Press Gazette. She writes a monthly book review for the Holy Cross Family Blogspot. To read all of Jean Peerenboom's book reviews, click here.

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