Gerard O’ConnellJune 14, 2020
Pope Francis leads Benediction at the conclusion of the Mass marking the feast of Corpus Christi in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican June 14, 2020. (CNS photo/Tiziana Fabi, Reuters pool) 

Pope Francis spoke about the importance of the Eucharist for the life of the church community and the individual believer when he celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, attended by some 50 people and a greater global audience following on television and the social media on Sunday, June 14.

He spoke about it again, from the study window of the papal apartment, when he greeted hundreds of Romans, wearing masks and respecting social-distancing norms, in St. Peter’s Square when he recited the Angelus with them at noon. He reminded them that “today in Italy and in other nations, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, is celebrated.” He emphasized the “mystical” and “communal” effects of the Eucharist on the life of the Christian and said that “one cannot participate in the Eucharist without committing oneself to sincere mutual fraternity.”

In his homily, Pope Francis offered a profound reflection on the Eucharist as “God’s memorial.”

“Scripture has been given to us that we might overcome our forgetfulness of God,” he told his global audience. He emphasized the importance of remembering in our prayer “the deeds of the Lord” and “those wonders that the Lord has worked in our own lives.” Indeed, he said, “if we do not remember it, we become strangers to ourselves, ‘passers-by’ of existence. Without memory, we uproot ourselves from the soil that nourishes us and allow ourselves to be carried away like leaves in the wind.”

In his homily, Pope Francis offered a profound reflection on the Eucharist as “God’s memorial.”

On the other hand, Francis said, “if we do remember, we bind ourselves afresh to the strongest of ties; we feel part of a living history, the living experience of a people.” He explained that “memory is not something private; it is the path that unites us to God and to others.... This is why in the Bible the memory of the Lord must be passed on from generation to generation.”

Aware that in many places today the faith is not being passed on, Francis raised the question, “What if the chain of transmission of memories is interrupted?” His answer: “God knows how difficult it is, he knows how weak our memory is, and he has done something remarkable: He left us a memorial. He did not just leave us words, for it is easy to forget what we hear. He did not just leave us the Scriptures, for it is easy to forget what we read. He did not just leave us signs, for we can forget even what we see. He gave us food, for it is not easy to forget something we have actually tasted.”

He reminded believers that “Jesus left us bread in which he is truly present, alive and true, with all the flavor of his love. Receiving him we can say: ‘He is the Lord; he remembers me!’” He recalled that Jesus instructed us “Do this in remembrance of me” and said that “the Eucharist is not simply an act of remembrance; it is a fact, it is the Lord’s Passover made present once again for us. In Mass, the death and resurrection of Jesus are set before us.”

Pope Francis told Christians worldwide, “We cannot do without the Eucharist, for it is God’s memorial. And it heals our wounded memory.”

Pope Francis told Christians worldwide, “We cannot do without the Eucharist, for it is God’s memorial. And it heals our wounded memory.” He gave three examples of how the Eucharist heals our memory.

First, he said, “the Eucharist heals orphaned memory.” He recalled that “so many people have memories marked by a lack of affection and bitter disappointments caused by those who should have given them love and instead orphaned their hearts. We would like to go back and change the past, but we cannot.”

“God can heal these wounds by placing within our memory a greater love: his own love,” the pope said. “The Eucharist brings us the Father’s faithful love, which heals our sense of being orphans.”

Next, Francis said, “through the Eucharist, the Lord also heals our negative memory, that negativity that seeps so often into our hearts.” He told believers:

The Lord heals this negative memory, which drags to the surface things that have gone wrong and leaves us with the sorry notion that we are useless, that we only make mistakes, that we are ourselves a mistake. Jesus comes to tell us that this is not so. He wants to be close to us. Every time we receive him, he reminds us that we are precious, that we are guests he has invited to his banquet, friends with whom he wants to dine...because he is truly in love with us. He sees and loves the beauty and goodness that we are.”

“The Lord knows that evil and sins do not define us; they are diseases, infections,” Pope Francis said. “And he comes to heal them with the Eucharist, which contains the antibodies to our negative memory. With Jesus, we can become immune to sadness.” He acknowledged that “we will always remember our failures, troubles, problems at home and at work, our unrealized dreams,” but assured believers that “their weight will not crush us because Jesus is present even more deeply, encouraging us with his love. This is the strength of the Eucharist, which transforms us into bringers of God, bringers of joy, not negativity.”

“Jesus approaches us gently, in the disarming simplicity of the host. He comes as bread broken in order to break open the shells of our selfishness.”

Finally, Francis said:

The Eucharist heals our closed memory. The wounds we keep inside create problems not only for us but also for others. They make us fearful and suspicious. We start with being closed and end up cynical and indifferent. Our wounds can lead us to react to others with detachment and arrogance, in the illusion that in this way we can control situations. Yet that is indeed an illusion, for only love can heal fear at its root and free us from the self-centredness that imprisons us. And that is what Jesus does.

He reminded believers that “Jesus approaches us gently, in the disarming simplicity of the host. He comes as bread broken in order to break open the shells of our selfishness. He gives of himself in order to teach us that only by opening our hearts can we be set free from our interior barriers, from the paralysis of the heart.”

Pope Francis concluded, “Jesus, the Lord, offering himself to us in the simplicity of bread, also invites us not to waste our lives in chasing the myriad illusions that we think we cannot do without, yet that leave us empty within.”

Pope Francis: “In the Eucharist, Jesus draws close to us: Let us not turn away from those around us!”

“The Eucharist satisfies our hunger for material things and kindles our desire to serve,” he said. “It raises us from our comfortable and lazy lifestyle and reminds us that we are not only mouths to be fed but also his hands to be used to help feed others.”

Alluding to this time of pandemic, Francis told his global audience: “It is especially urgent now to take care of those who hunger for food and for dignity, of those without work and those who struggle to carry on. And this we must do in a real way, as real as the bread that Jesus gives us. Genuine closeness is needed, as are true bonds of solidarity. In the Eucharist, Jesus draws close to us: Let us not turn away from those around us!”

At the end of Mass, he presided at the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and then went to the papal apartment, where after reciting the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, he issued the following passionate appeal for peace in Libya.

Pope Francis said, “I am following the dramatic situation in Libya with great apprehension and sorrow. It has been present in my prayer in recent days. Please, I urge international bodies and those who have political and military responsibilities to recommence with conviction and resolve the search for a path towards an end to the violence, leading to peace, stability and unity in the country.”

He said he also prays for “for the thousands of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in Libya” and called on “the international community to please take their plight to heart, identifying pathways and providing means to provide them with the protection they need, a dignified condition and a hopeful future.”

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