THE EUCHARIST IS THE HEART OF
Excerpt from the the Homily given by our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II at the
Eucharistic Congress in Wroclaw on June 4, 1997.
"Mystery of Faith!"
In order to examine in depth the mystery of the Eucharist, we must continually
return to the Upper Room where in the evening of Holy Thursday the Last Supper
took place. In today's liturgy St. Paul speaks precisely of the institution of
the Eucharist. This text seems to be the most ancient one concerning the
Eucharist, preceding the account itself given by the Evangelists. In his
Letter to the Corinthians Paul writes: "The Lord Jesus on the night when He
was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, he broke it, and said
"This is My Body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same
way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My
Blood. Do this, as often as you drink of it, in remembrance of Me." For as
often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death
until He comes." (1 Cor 11:23-26) Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ
will come again in glory. These words contain the very essence of the
Eucharistic mystery. In them we find what we bear witness to and share in
every day as we celebrate and receive the Eucharist. In the Upper Room Jesus
effects the consecration. By virtue of His words, the bread - while keeping
the external appearance of bread - becomes His Body, and the wine - while
maintaining the external appearance of wine - becomes His Blood. This is the
great mystery of faith!
This is the Living Bread which
came down from heaven.
Celebrating this mystery, we not only renew what Christ did in the Upper Room,
but we also enter into the mystery of His death! "We proclaim Your death!"-
redeeming death. "Christ is risen!" We are sharers in the Sacred Triduum and
the night of Easter. We are sharers in the saving mystery of Christ as we
await His coming in glory. Through the institution of The Eucharist we have
entered the end times, the time of awaiting Christ's second and definitive
coming, when the world will be judged and at the same time the work of
redemption will be brought to completion. The Eucharist does not merely speak
of all this. In The Eucharist - all this is celebrated - in It all this is fulfilled.
Truly The Eucharist is the Great Sacrament of The Church. The Church celebrates The
Eucharist, and at the same time The Eucharist makes the Church."
"I Am the Living Bread" (Jn 6:51).
The message of John's Gospel completes the
liturgical picture of this great Eucharistic mystery that we are celebrating
today... The words of John's Gospel are the great proclamation of The
Eucharist, after the miraculous multiplication of bread near Capernaum.
Anticipating as it were the time even before the Eucharist was instituted,
Christ revealed what it was. He spoke thus: "I Am the Living Bread which came
down from heaven; if anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever; and the
Bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My Flesh" (Jn 6:51). And
when these words brought protests from many who were listening Jesus added:
"Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and
drink His Blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My Flesh and drinks My
Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh
is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. He who eats My Flesh and drinks
My Blood abides in me, and I in him." (Jn 6:53-56).
These are words which concern
the very essence of the Eucharist. Behold, Christ came into the world
to bestow upon man divine life. He not only proclaimed
the Good News but He also instituted the Eucharist which is to make present
until the end of time His redeeming mystery. And as the means of expressing
this He chose the elements of nature - the bread and wine, the food and
drink that man must consume to maintain his life. The Eucharist is
precisely this food and drink. This food contains in itself all the power of
the Redemption wrought by Christ. In order to live man needs food and drink. In order to gain eternal life man needs the Eucharist. This is the food and drink that transforms man's life and opens before him the way to eternal life. By consuming the Body and Blood of
Christ, man bears within himself, already on this earth, the seed of eternal
life, for the Eucharist is the sacrament of life in God. Christ says: "As the
living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me
will live because of me." (Jn 6:57).
"The eyes of all look to You,
and You give them their food in due season (Ps 145.15)In the first
reading of today's liturgy Moses speaks to us of God who feeds His people
on their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land:
"Remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in
the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what is in your
heart... (He) fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not
know, that He might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end." (Dt.
8:2, 16) The image of a pilgrim people in the wilderness, which emerges from
these words, speaks also to us who are approaching the end of the second
millennium after Christ's birth. In this image all the peoples and nations of
the whole earth find a place, and especially those who suffer from hunger."