In the Last Supper, Jesus gives His Body and his Blood by means of the bread and the wine, to leave us the memorial of His sacrifice of infinite love. With this viaticum full to overflowing with grace, the disciples have everything they need for their long journey through history, to extend the kingdom of God to everyone. Light and strength will be for them the gift that Jesus made of Himself, sacrificing Himself voluntarily on the Cross. This Bread of Life has come down to us! The Church is in unending awe before this reality – an awe that endlessly nourishes contemplation, adoration, memory. This is seen in a beautiful text of today’s Liturgy, the Responsory of the second reading of the Office of Readings, which says: “See in this bread the body of Christ which hung upon the cross, and in this cup the blood which flowed from His side. Take His body, then, and eat it; take His blood and drink it, and you will become His members. The body of Christ is the bond which unites you to him: eat it, or you will have no part in him. The blood is the price he paid for your redemption: drink it, lest you despair of your sinfulness.”
We ask ourselves what it means today, to be torn from Him, to despair – as cowards – of our sinfulness [what is this cowardliness – svilirci – of which Christ speaks to us through the Church at prayer]?
We are torn from Him when we are not obedient to the Word of the Lord, when we do not live brotherhood between us, when we race to occupy the first places, when we find the courage to witness to charity, when we are unable to offer hope. The Eucharist allows us to be not torn from Him, for it is the bond of communion, is the fulfillment of the Covenant, a living sign of the love of Christ who humbled and annihilated Himself for us, that we might remain united. By participating in the Eucharist and by feeding on it, we are inserted into a way that does not admit divisions. The Christ present in our midst, in the signs of bread and wine, requires that the power of love exceed every laceration, and at the same time that it become communion with the poor, support for the weak, fraternal attention to those who are struggling to carry the weight of everyday life.
And what it means for us today “svilirci” – to be cowardly, to despair of our sinfulness, that is, to let our Christian dignity be watered down, [or to adulterate it ourselves]? It means to let ourselves be affected by the idolatries of our time: appearance, consumption, the self at the center of everything; but also being competitive, arrogance as the winning attitude, the idea that one never need admit to a mistake or to find oneself in need. All this demeans us, makes us mediocre, lukewarm, insipid Christians.
Jesus shed his blood as a ransom and as a lavacrum – a cleansing agent, that we might be purified of all sins: in order that we fall not into cowardice, despair of sinfulness, that we not become weak, let us look to him, let us drink deep draughts from His source, that we might be preserved from the risk of corruption. Then shall we experience the grace of a transformation: we will remain always poor sinners, but the Blood of Christ will deliver us from our sins and give us back our dignity. Without merit of our own, with sincere humility, we can bring to our brethren the love of our Lord and Savior. We will be His eyes that go in search of Zacchaeus and of the Magdalene; we will be His hand who helps the sick in body and spirit; we will be His heart that loves those in need of reconciliation and understanding.
Thus does the Eucharist make present the Covenant that sanctifies us, purifies us and unites us in marvelous communion with God.
Today, the feast of Corpus Domini, we have the joy not only of celebrating this mystery, but also of praising Him and singing in the streets of our city. May the procession we will make at the end of the Mass, express our gratitude for all the journey that God has allowed us to make through the desert of our poverty, to take us out of slavery, by nourishing us with His love through the Sacrament of his Body and the Blood.
In a little while we shall walk along the way, let us perceive ourselves in communion with our many brothers and sisters who do not have the freedom to express their faith in the Lord Jesus. Let us feel ourselves united with them, let us sing with them, praise with them, adore with them. And we venerate in our hearts those brothers and sisters from whom the sacrifice of their lives has been required for fidelity to Christ: let their blood, united to that of the Lord, be a pledge of peace and reconciliation for the whole world.[Original Text: Italian] [Translation provided by Vatican Radio]