Below is an unofficial translation of Pope Francis’ homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (“Corpus Christi”) which took place Thursday evening in the square in front of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.
“The Lord, your God … fed you with manna, which you did not know” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
These words of Deuteronomy refer to the history of Israel, that God made to go forth from Egypt, from the condition of slavery, and guided for forty years in the desert to the Promised Land. Once established in the land, the Chosen People attained a certain autonomy, a certain wellbeing, and ran the risk of forgetting the sad events of the past, surmounted thanks to the intervention of God and his infinite goodness. Then the Scriptures exhort to recall, to remember the whole journey in the desert, in the time of want and discomfort. The invitation is that of returning to the essential, to the experience of their total dependence on God, when their survival was entrusted to his hand, so that man would understand that “he does not live by bread alone, but … by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Beyond physical hunger, man bears in himself another hunger, a hunger that cannot be satiated with ordinary food. It is hunger for life, hunger for love, and hunger for eternity. And the sign of the manna – as the whole experience of the Exodus – contained this dimension also in itself: it was the figure of a food that satisfies this profound hunger that man has. Jesus gives us this food, in fact, He himself is the living bread that gives life to the world (cf. John 6:51). His Body is real food under the species of bread; His Blood is real drink under the species of wine. It is not simple nourishment with which to satiate our bodies, as manna; the Body of Christ is the bread of the end times, capable of giving life, and eternal life, because the essence of this bread is Love.
Communicated in the Eucharist is the Lord’s love for us: such a great love that He nourishes us with himself; a gratuitous love, always at the disposition of every hungry person and needy of regenerating his strength. To live the experience of faith means to let oneself be nourished by the Lord and to build one’s existence not on material goods, but on the reality that does not perish: the gifts of God, His Word and His Body.
If we look around us, we realize that there are so many offers of food that do not come from the Lord and which seem to satisfy more. Some nourish themselves with money, others with success and vanity, others with power and pride. However, the food that really nourishes us and satiates us is only that which the Lord gives us! The food the Lord offers us is different from the others, and perhaps it does not seem as tasty as certain foods which the world offers us. Then we dream of other meals, as the Jews did in the desert, who mourned for the meat and the onions they ate in Egypt, but they forgot that they ate these meals at the table of slavery. In that moment of temptation, they remembered, but their memory was sick, it was a selective memory – a slave memory, not free.
Today, each one of us can ask himself: and I? Where do I want to eat? At what table do I want to nourish myself? At the Lord’s table? Or do I dream of easting tasty foods, but in slavery? Moreover, each one of us can ask himself: what is my memory? That of the Lord who saves me, or that of the garlic and onions of slavery? With what memory do I satiate my soul?
The Father says to us: “I fed you with manna that you did not know.” We must recover the memory. This is the task, to recover the memory, to learn to recognize the false bread that deludes and corrupts, because it is the fruit of egoism, of self-sufficiency and of sin.
Shortly, in the procession, we will follow Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. The Host is our manna, through which the Lord gives us Himself. We turn to Him with trust: Jesus, defend us from the temptations of worldly goods that render us slaves, poisoned food; purify our memory, so that it will not remain enslaved in egoistic and worldly selectivity, but will be a lively memory of your presence throughout the history of your people, memory that becomes “memorial” of your gesture of redemptive love. Amen.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]