Sunday, June 26, 2011

Corpus Christi: Assimilating Us into Him to Transform the World

Pope Benedict is, of course, the master teacher, making the complex simple and easy to understand. But also in his teaching, he not infrequently uses the words of a poet. His homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi this year is no exception, "Without illusions, without ideological utopias, we walk the streets of the world, bringing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation."

Corpus Christi is, of course, the feast day for the parish of Blessed Sacrament, and on this Sunday, at 3 p.m., parishioners are invited to join the outdoor procession of the Holy Eucharist around the neighborhood and grounds of Blessed Sacrament Church. All children who received Holy Communion for the first time this year are especially invited to participate in the procession.

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano
June 23, 2011
Dear brothers and sisters!

The feast of Corpus Domini is inseparable from the Holy Thursday Mass of Caena Domini, in which the institution of the Eucharist is also celebrated.

While on the evening of Holy Thursday we relive the mystery of Christ who offers Himself to us in the bread broken and wine poured out, today, in celebration of Corpus Domini, this same mystery is proposed for the adoration and meditation of God's people, and the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the streets of towns and villages, to show that the risen Christ walks among us and guides us toward the kingdom of heaven. Today, we openly manifest what Jesus has given us in the intimacy of the Last Supper, because the love of Christ is not confined to the few, but is intended for all.

This year during the Mass of Our Lord's Last Supper on Holy Thursday, I pointed out that the Eucharist is the transformation of the gifts of this land -- the bread and wine -- intended to transform our lives and usher in the transformation of the world. This evening, I would like to return to this point of view.

Everything starts, you might say, from the heart of Christ, who at the Last Supper on the eve of His Passion, thanked and praised God and, in doing so, with the power of His love, transformed the meaning of death, which He was about to encounter. The fact that the sacrament of the altar has taken on the name "Eucharist," "thanksgiving," expresses this: that the change in the substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of Himself, a gift of a love stronger than death, the divine love that resurrected Him from the dead. That is why the Eucharist is the food of eternal life, the Bread of life.

From the heart of Christ, from His "Eucharistic Prayer" on the eve of His Passion, flows the dynamism that transforms reality in its cosmic, human and historical dimensions. Everything proceeds from God, from the omnipotence of His love One and Triune, incarnate in Jesus. The heart of Christ is immersed in this love; because of this He knows how to thank and praise God even in the face of betrayal and violence, and thus changes things, people, and the world.

This transformation is possible thanks to a communion stronger than division, the communion of God Himself. The word "communion," which we use to designate the Eucharist, sums up the vertical and horizontal dimension of the gift of Christ. The beautiful and eloquent expression "receive Communion" refers to the act of eating the bread of the Eucharist. In fact, when we carry out this act, we enter into communion with the life of Jesus Himself, in the dynamism of this life that is given to us and for us.

From God, through Jesus, to us: a unique communion is transmitted in the Holy Eucharist. We have heard as much, in the second reading, from the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth:
"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
St. Augustine helps us to understand the dynamics of Holy Communion when referring to a kind of vision he had, in which Jesus said to him:
"I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me." (Confessions, VII, 10, 18)
Therefore, while the bodily food is assimilated into the body and contributes to its sustenance, the Eucharist is a different bread: It is not we who assimilate it, but it assimilates us, so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ, members of His body, one with Him.

This passage is decisive. Indeed, precisely because it is Christ who, in Eucharistic communion, transforms us into Him, our individuality in this encounter is opened up, freed from its self-centeredness and placed in the Person of Jesus, who in turn is immersed in the Trinitarian communion. Thus, while the Eucharist unites us to Christ, we open ourselves to others making us members of one another: We are no longer divided, but one entity in Him. Eucharistic communion unites me to the person next to me, and with whom perhaps I might not even have good relations, and even to distant brothers and sisters in every part of the world.

Thus, the deep sense of social presence of the Church is derived from the Eucharist, as evidenced by the great social saints, who have always been great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament recognize their brother who suffers, who is hungry and thirsty, who is a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, and they are attentive to every person, committing themselves, in a concrete way, to those who are in need.

So from the gift of Christ's love comes our special responsibility as Christians in building a cohesive, just, and fraternal society. Especially in our time when globalization makes us increasingly dependent upon each other, Christianity can and must ensure that this unity will not be built without God, without true Love. This would give way to confusion and individualism, the oppression of some against others. The Gospel has always aimed at the unity of the human family, a unity not imposed from above, or by ideological or economic interests, but from a sense of responsibility toward each other, because we identify ourselves as members of the same body, the body of Christ, because we have learned and continually learn from the Sacrament of the Altar that sharing love is the path of true justice.

Let us return to Jesus' act in the Last Supper. What happened at that moment? When He said: This is my body which is given to you, this is my blood shed for you and for the many, what happened?

In that act, Jesus anticipates the event of Calvary. Out of love, He accepts all of the Passion, with its travails and its violence, even to death on the Cross; by accepting it in this way He transforms it into an act of giving. This is the transformation that the world needs because it redeems it from within, opens it to the dimensions of the Kingdom of heaven. But God always wishes to realize this renewal of the world through the same way that Christ followed, that is, the way which is Himself.

There is nothing magic about Christianity. There are no shortcuts, but everything passes through the patient and humble logic of the grain of wheat that is broken to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God.

This is why God wants to continue to renew humanity, history, and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament. Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which His Body and Blood is truly present, Christ transforms us, assimilating us in Him: He involves us in His redeeming work, enabling us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live according to His same logic of gift, like grains of wheat united with Him and in Him. Thus unity and peace, which are the goal for which we strive, are sown and mature in the furrows of history, according to God's plan.

Without illusions, without ideological utopias, we walk the streets of the world, bringing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation.

With the humble awareness that we are simple grains of wheat, we cherish the firm conviction that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence, and death. We know that God is preparing for all people new heavens and new earth where peace and justice prevail -- and by faith we glimpse the new world, that is our true home.

Also this evening as the sun sets on our beloved city of Rome, we set out again on this path: With us is Jesus in the Eucharist, the Risen One, who said, "I am with you always, until the end of world" (Mt 28:20). Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you for your fidelity, which sustains our hope. Stay with us, because the evening comes.

"Jesus, good shepherd and true bread, have mercy on us; feed us and guard us. Grant that we find happiness in the land of the living." Amen.

Following the Mass, the Holy Father led a Eucharistic Procession from the Basilica of St. John Lateran to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.


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