Pope Francis looks at three images from the Gospel to help us live the Eucharistic love of Christ.
On the evening of Corpus Christi, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Here is the full text of the Vatican translation of his sermon.
Jesus sends his disciples to prepare the place where they will celebrate the Passover meal. They themselves asked, “Where should we go and prepare for the Passover?” (Mk 14:12). As we contemplate and worship the Lord’s presence in the Eucharistic Bread, we too should ask ourselves where, in what “place” we want to prepare the Lord’s Passover. What are the “places” in our own lives that God asks to be our guest? I want to answer these questions by pondering three gospel images that we have just heard (Mk 14.12-16, 22-26).
The first is that of the man carrying a jug of water (cf. v. 13). This may seem like a redundant detail. But this nameless man became the guide who took the disciples to what later became known as the Upper Room. The water jug is the sign by which you can recognize it. It is a sign that makes us think of our human family who are thirsty and constantly looking for a source of water to quench their thirst and bring refreshment. We all go through life with mug in hand: We all thirst for love, for joy, for a fulfilled life in a more humane world. In order to quench this thirst, the water is of no use to worldly things. Because ours is a deeper thirst, a thirst that only God can quench.
… the Passover meal can be taken wherever a man with a jug of water leads it. To celebrate the Eucharist, we must first recognize our thirst for God …
Let’s briefly consider this image and what it symbolizes. Jesus tells his disciples that the Passover meal can be eaten wherever a man with a jug of water leads them. To celebrate the Eucharist, we must first recognize our thirst for God, feel our need for him, long for his presence and love, to see that we cannot do it alone, but the food and drink of eternal life need to celebrate the Eucharist us on our journey. The tragedy of the present – we can say – is that this thirst is less and less noticeable. Questions about God are no longer asked, the longing for God has faded, seekers of God are becoming increasingly rare. God no longer attracts us because we no longer acknowledge our deep thirst for him. But wherever there is a man or a woman with a jug of water – like the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4: 5-30) – the Lord can reveal himself as the one who gives new life, our dreams and longings nourish certain hope, one loving presence to give meaning and direction to our earthly pilgrimage. The man carrying a jug of water led the disciples into the room where Jesus instituted the Eucharist. Our thirst for God leads us to the altar. Where this thirst is absent, our celebrations become dry and lifeless. As a church, it is not enough for the usual small group to meet to celebrate the Eucharist; We need to go into town, meet people and learn to recognize and revive their thirst for God and their longing for the gospel.
The second picture from the Gospel is that of the Upper Room (cf. v. 15). This room, where Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover meal, was in the home of someone who was entertaining them. Father Primo Mazzolari said of this person: “Here is a nameless man, the owner of a house, who lent Jesus his most beautiful room … He gave Jesus the best that he had, because everything that surrounds the great sacrament should be great : a big room and a big heart, big words and big deeds ”(La Pasqua, La Locusta 1964, 46-48).
A large space for a small piece of bread. God makes himself small like a piece of bread. That is precisely why we need a big heart in order to be able to recognize, worship and receive him. God’s presence is so humble, hidden, and often invisible that to recognize His presence we need a ready, alert, and welcoming heart. But when our heart is more like a closet where we longingly keep things from the past, or an attic where we kept our dreams and enthusiasm a long time ago, or a dreary chamber that is only with us, our problems and our disappointments, then it will be impossible to see God’s quiet and humble presence. We need a big room. We need to enlarge our hearts. We have to break out of our tiny locked room and enter the great room, the vast expanse of wonder and adoration. We really need that! It is missing in the many movements that we create to meet and reflect together on our pastoral work. But when wonder and adoration are lacking, there is no way that leads to the Lord. There will be no synod either, nothing. Adoration: this is the attitude we need in the presence of the Eucharist. The church must also be a large space. Not a small and closed circle, but a community with open arms that welcomes everyone. Let’s ask ourselves this question: when someone approaches who is hurt, who has made a mistake, who is lost in life, the church, this church, is a space big enough to receive this person and him or her to lead them to the joy of an encounter with Christ? Let us not forget that the Eucharist is designed to nourish those who are tired and hungry along the way. A church of the pure and perfect is a space with no room for anyone. On the other hand, a church with open doors that gathers and celebrates around Christ is a large space that anyone can enter – everyone, the righteous and the sinner.
The Lord who breaks no one and yet lets himself be broken. The Lord who does not ask for sacrifices, but who sacrifices himself. The Lord who asks nothing but gives everything. In the celebration and experience of the Eucharist we too are called to share in this love.
A third Gospel image is that of Jesus breaking bread. This is the Eucharistic gesture par excellence. It is the unmistakable sign of our faith and the place where we meet the Lord who offers himself so that we can be born again to new life. This gesture also challenges us. Up until then, lambs had been sacrificed and offered to God. Now Jesus becomes the Lamb who offers himself as a sacrifice to give us life. In the Eucharist we contemplate and venerate the God of love. The Lord who breaks no one and yet lets himself be broken. The Lord who does not ask for sacrifices, but who sacrifices himself. The Lord who asks nothing but gives everything. In the celebration and experience of the Eucharist we too are called to share in this love. Because we cannot break bread on Sunday when our hearts are closed to our brothers and sisters. We cannot eat this bread if we do not give bread to the hungry. We cannot share this bread unless we share the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in need. At the end, and also at the end of our solemn Eucharistic liturgies, only love remains. Our Eucharistic celebration is already changing the world to the extent that we transform ourselves and allow bread to be broken for others.
… he will always satisfy us until we look at his face at the heavenly banquet and get to know the joy that never ends.
Brothers and sisters, where should we go today “to prepare the Lord’s Supper”? The procession of the Blessed Sacrament – a hallmark of the Feast of Corpus Christi but which we cannot celebrate at the moment – reminds us that we are called to go out and bring Jesus to others. Go out with enthusiasm and bring Christ to those we meet in our daily lives. May we become a church with a jug in hand, a church that arouses thirst and brings water. Let us open our hearts wide in love so that we may become the great and welcoming space where everyone can enter and meet the Lord. Let us break the bread of our lives in mercy and solidarity, so that through us the world may see the greatness of God’s love. Then the Lord will come, he will surprise us once more, he will once again be food for the life of the world. And he will always satisfy us until the day when we contemplate his face at the heavenly supper and get to know the joy that never ends.