“Through the Eucharist, Christ wants to enter into our existence and permeate it with His grace,”
VATICAN CITY, February 12, 2014 – Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catechesis on the Sacrament of the Eucharist to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly General Audience.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In the last catechesis I highlighted that the Eucharist introduces us to real communion with Jesus and His mystery. Now we can ask ourselves some questions regarding the relation between the Eucharist we celebrate and our life, as Church and as individual Christians. We ask ourselves: how do we live the Eucharist? When we go to Mass on Sunday, how do we live it? Is it only a moment of celebration, a consolidated tradition, an occasion to meet with one another and feel well, or is it something more?
There are very concrete signs to understand how we live all this, how we live the Eucharist; signs that tell us if we live the Eucharist well or if we don’t live it too well. The first indication is our way of looking at and of considering others. In the Eucharist Christ always acts anew the gift of Himself that he made on the Cross. His whole life was an act of total sharing of Himself out of love; that is why He loved to be with the disciples and with the people He was able to meet. For Him this meant sharing their desires, their problems, what agitated their soul and their life. Now we, when we participate in the Holy Mass, we meet with men and women of all kinds: young people, elderly people, children, poor people and the well-off, native to the place and foreigners, accompanies by relatives or alone … However, does the Eucharist I celebrate lead me to truly regard them all as brothers and sisters? Does it make my capacity grow to rejoice with the joyful and to weep with those who weep? Does it push me to go to the poor, the sick, the marginalized? Does it help me to recognize Jesus’ face in them? We all go to Mass because we love Jesus and we want to share in the Eucharist his Passion and Resurrection. But do we love, as Jesus wants, those brothers and sisters that are most in need? For example, in Rome in these days we have seen so many social hardships or because of the rain, which has done so much damage to entire neighborhoods, or for the lack of work, consequences of the economic crisis in the whole world. I ask myself, and each one us should ask themselves: I, who go to Mass, how do I live this? Do I make sure to help, to come close to, to pray for those who have this problem? Or am I a little indifferent? Or maybe I’m concerned with gossip: Have you seen how that woman is dressed, or how that man is dressed? Sometimes this is done, after Mass, and it shouldn’t be done! We should worry about our brothers and our sister that are in need because of a sickness, a problem. Today, it would do us well to think of these our brothers and sisters that have these problems here in Rome: problems caused by the tragedy provoked by the rain, social problems and work. Let us ask Jesus, who we received in the Eucharist, to help us to help them.
A second, very important indication is the grace of feeling oneself forgiven and ready to forgive. Sometimes there are those who ask: “”Why should we go to church given that those who habitually take part in the Holy Mass are sinners like others?” How many times have we heard that! In reality, one who celebrates the Eucharist doesn’t do so because he believes, or wants to appear better than others, but precisely because he sees himself always in need of being received and regenerated by the mercy of God, made flesh in Jesus Christ. If each one of us does not feel in need of the mercy of God, does not feel like a sinner, it is better that they do not go to Mass! We go to Mass because we are sinners and we want to receive the forgiveness of God, to participate in the redemption of Jesus, in his forgiveness. That “I confess” which we say at the beginning is not a “pro forma,” it is a true act of penance! I am a sinner and I confess it that is how the Mass begins! We must never forget that Jesus’ Last Supper took place “on the night He was betrayed” (1 Corinthians 11:23). Renewed every time in that bread and wine that we offer and around which we gather, is the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ for the remission of our sins. We should go to Mass humbly, as sinners and the Lord reconciles us.
A last precious indication is offered to us by the relation between the Eucharistic celebration and the life of our Christian communities. We must always keep present that the Eucharist is not something we do; it is not our commemoration of what Jesus said and did. No. It is in fact an action of Christ! It is Christ who acts there, that is on the altar. It is a gift of Christ, who makes Himself present and gathers us around Himself to feed us with His Word and with His very life. This means that the mission and very identity of the Church flow from there, from the Eucharist, and they always take shape there. A celebration could even be impeccable, from the external point of view, but if it doesn’t lead us to an encounter with Jesus, it risks not bringing any nourishment to our heart and to our life. Through the Eucharist, instead, Christ wants to enter into our existence and permeate it with His grace, so that in every Christian community there is coherence between the liturgy and life.
Our heart is filled with confidence and hope thinking of Jesus’ words reported in John’s Gospel: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (6:54). Let us live the Eucharist with a spirit of faith, of prayer, of penance, of communitary joy, of concern for the needy and the needs of so many brothers and sisters, in the certainty that the Lord will fulfill what He has promised us: eternal life. May it be so!