The Eucharist: Mystery Defying Human Understanding

On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on the square in front of Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran, then presided at the Eucharistic procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

In his homily, the Pope recalled how the Solemnity of Corpus Christi "originated in a specific historical and cultural context. It came into being with the precise aim of openly reaffirming the People of God's faith in Jesus Christ, living and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist."

Consequently, "Corpus Christi is a reprise of the mystery of Holy Thursday, almost an act of obedience to Jesus' invitation to 'proclaim from the housetops' what He passed on in secret. The Apostles received the gift of the Eucharist from the Lord in the intimacy of the Last Supper, but the gift was intended for everyone, for the whole world. This is why it is openly proclaimed and exposed, so that everyone has the chance of meeting 'Jesus Who passes.' This is the perpetual and living heritage that Jesus left us in the Sacrament of His Body and His Blood."

"Benedict XVI continued: "This is a mystery that is beyond our understanding, and we should not be surprised if even today many people struggle to accept the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Eucharist remains a 'sign of contradiction,' and it cannot be otherwise, because a God Who becomes flesh and sacrifices Himself for the life of the world throws human wisdom into crisis."

Yet, "for each generation of Christians the Eucharist is the indispensable nourishment that sustains them as they cross the desert of this world, made barren by ideological and economic systems that fail to promote life; a world dominated by the logic of power and possession rather than by the logic of service and of love; a world in which the culture of violence and death often triumph. But Jesus comes out to meet us and gives us assurances: He Himself is 'the bread of life'."

The Holy Father then went on to consider the Gospel of St. Luke and its account of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. "It contains," he said, "an explicit invitation for each individual to make his or her own contribution. The five fish and the two loaves represent our contribution, poor but necessary, which He transforms into a gift of love for everyone. The Eucharist is, then, a call to sanctity and to the giving of self to others, because 'each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world'."

Benedict XVI concluded his homily be recalling that at the end of the Mass he would "symbolically carry the Lord Jesus along the streets and through the neighborhoods of Rome. Thus we will, so to speak, immerse Him in our daily lives, so that He may walk where we walk. We walk the paths of the world knowing He is next to us, supported by the hope of one day seeing Him face to face in the definitive meeting."

Following Mass, the Pope presided at a Eucharistic procession that passed along Rome's Via Merulana to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Along the way, thousands of faithful prayed and sang, accompanying the Blessed Sacrament. An open vehicle transported the Sacrament in a monstrance, before which the Holy Father knelt in prayer.

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