The Eucharist and its relation to our life, as Church and as Christians, was the theme of Pope Francis’ catechesis during Wednesday’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
“How do we live the Eucharist … when we go to Mass on a Sunday? What is it for us? Is it just an opportunity to celebrate, a consolidated tradition, a way of getting one’s bearings and feeling better, or is it something more?” asked the Holy Father, who then went on to indicate three signs for understanding how we experience this relation.
The first is our way of living with others. “In the Eucharist Christ renews the gift of Himself that He made on the Cross”, he explained. “His entire life is an act of the fullest sharing of Himself for love. This is why He loved to stay with the disciples and with those He met. For Him, this meant sharing their yearnings, their problems, that which stirred their soul and their life. Now, when we participate in the Holy Mass, we find ourselves with many people … but the Eucharist that I celebrate, does it lead me to consider them as brothers and sisters? Does it inspire me to go towards the poor, the sick, the marginalized? Does it help me to recognize Christ’s face in them?”
The grace of being forgiven and willing to forgive is a second sign. “In reality, those who celebrate the Eucharist do not do so because they believe themselves to be better, or wish to appear better than others, but because they are aware that they are always in need of being accepted and regenerated in God’s mercy, made flesh in Jesus Christ. If anyone among us does not feel in need of God’s mercy, if he does not consider himself to be a sinner, it is better that he not go to Mass! We go to Mass because we are sinners and because we wish to receive God’s forgiveness, to participate in Christ’s redemption, his forgiveness. That ‘I confess’ that we say at the beginning is not merely a ‘pro forma’, it is a true act of penance! … In that bread and that wine we offer and around which we gather, the gift of the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins is renewed every time. This best summarizes the deepest sense of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, and in turn it opens our hearts to the forgiveness of our brothers and to reconciliation”.
The relationship between the Eucharistic celebration and the life of our Christian communities is the third sign. “It must always be clear that the Eucharist is not something that we do; it is not our commemoration of what Jesus said and did. No. It is an act of Christ! It is a gift from Christ, Who is made present and gathers us around Him, to nourish us with His Word and His life. This means that the mission and the very identity of the Church spring from this, from the Eucharist, and there they assume their form. … a celebration may prove to be impeccable, beautiful, from an external point of view, but if it does not lead to an encounter with Jesus, the risk is that it does not lead to the nourishment of our hearts and lives. Through the Eucharist, instead, Christ wishes to enter into our existence and then permeate it with his grace, so that in every Christian community there is coherence between liturgy and life”.
The Pope concluded by encouraging us to “live the Eucharist with a spirit of faith and prayer, of forgiveness, of care for the needs of many of our brothers and sisters, in the certainty that the Lord will grant that which he has promised – eternal life”.