Below is a translation of Pope Francis’ address before and after the recitation of the Angelus prayer today at noon to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square:
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In these Sundays, the Liturgy proposes to us, from the Gospel of John, Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life, that is He Himself and that is also the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Today’s passage (Jn. 6, 51-58) presents the last part of that discourse, and refers to some of those among the people who are scandalized because Jesus said: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn. 6,54).
The astonishment of those listening is understandable; in fact, Jesus uses the typical style of the prophets to provoke in the people – and also in us – questions and, in the end, to make a decision. The first of the questions is: What does “eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood” mean? Is it only an image, a way of saying, a symbol, or does it indicate something real? To answer this, one needs to guess what is happening in Jesus’ heart while he breaks the bread for the hungry crowd. Knowing that He must die on the cross for us, Jesus identifies Himself with that broken and shared bread, and that becomes for Him the “sign” of the Sacrifice that awaits Him. This process culminates in the Last Supper, where the bread and wine truly become His Body and His Blood.
It is the Eucharist where Jesus leaves us a precise purpose: that we can become one with Him. In fact, he says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (v.56). To remain: Jesus in us and us in Him. Communion is assimilation: eating Him, we become Him. But this requires our “yes”, our adherence to the faith.
At times, during the Holy Mass, it may happen to feel this objection: “What is the purpose of the Mass? I go in Church when I feel like it, and I pray better alone.” But the Eucharist is not a private prayer or a beautiful spiritual experience, it is not a simple commemoration of what Jesus has done in the Last Supper: we say, to understand well, that the Eucharist is a “memorial”, that is, an act that actualizes and makes present the event of the death and resurrection of Jesus: the bread is truly His Body given to us; the wine is truly His Blood that has been shed.
The Eucharist is Jesus who gives Himself entirely to us. By nourishing ourselves from Him and remaining in Him through the Eucharistic Communion, if we do it with faith, it transforms our life; it transforms it into a gift to God and a gift to our brothers. To nourish ourselves from that “bread of life” means being in tune with the heart of Christ, to assimilate His choices, His thoughts, His behavior. It means entering into a dynamic of sacrificial love and become a person of peace, of forgiveness, of reconciliation of sharing in solidarity. It is the same as Jesus has done.
Jesus concludes his discourse with these words; “Whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn. 6,58). Yes, living in a concrete, real communion with Jesus on this earth makes us pass from death to life. The heavens begin precisely in this communion with Jesus.
In Heaven, Mary our Mother awaits us – yesterday we celebrated this mystery. May She obtain for us the grace of nourishing ourselves always with faith in Jesus, the Bread of Life.
Following the Angelus, the Pope said the following:
Dear brothers and sisters,
I greet you all with affection, Romans and pilgrims: the families, the parish groups, the associations, the youth.
I greet the folkloric group: “Organization of Mexican Art & Culture”, the youth of Verona who are living an experience of faith in Rome, and the faithful of Beverare.
I give a special greeting to the numerous youth of Salesian Youth Movement, gathered in Turin, in the places of Saint John Bosco to celebrate the bicentenary of his birth; I encourage them to live daily the joy of the Gospel, to generate hope in the world.
To all I wish a good Sunday. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Have a good lunch and goodbye.
[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]