The Upper Room, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles, opened up new horizons from where the Church went forth, impelled by the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit.
This was one of Pope Francis’ reflections on the meaning of this sacred location during his homily at Mass in the Upper Room this evening with Ordinaries of the Holy Land.
The Upper Room, also known as the Cenacle, is located in a historic building on Mount Zion that is also sacred to both Jews and Muslims. The reputed burial place of King David is on the ground floor of the Cenacle, and a mosque is situated on the roof.
The Pope said it was “a great gift” to celebrate the Eucharist there, where “Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples.”
“Here the Church was born, and was born to go forth,” he said. “From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.”
Remembering how Jesus sent forth the apostles to “renew the face of the earth”, he stressed that to set out does not mean to forget. “The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here,” he explained. “The Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning.”
The Upper Room, he said, “speaks to us of service,” and Jesus’ washing of the apostles’ feet symbolizes “welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another” and “serving the poor, the sick and the outcast.”
Through the Eucharist, the Upper Room also points to sacrifice and it reminds us of friendship. “The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self,” the Pope said. “This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially, of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus.”
It tells us of Jesus’ farewell but also his promise of return, and reminds us “of pettiness, of curiosity – “Who is the traitor?” – and of betrayal.”
“We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus,” the Pope said.
“The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves,” the Pope added. “How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent.”
Noting that all the saints drew from this source, the Pope said the Upper Room “reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church, established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary.
“Christian families belong to this great family,” he said, “and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life.”
“All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven,” the Pope said.
He closed by saying the Upper Room opens up “new horizons of the Risen Lord and his Church” from where the Church “goes forth, impelled by the life-giving breath of the Spirit.”
“Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus, the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth!,” the Pope said.