Excerpt from the the Homily given by our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II at the Eucharistic Congress in Wroclaw on June 4, 1997.
"Mystery of Faith!"
In order to examine in depth the mystery of the Eucharist, we must continually return to the Upper Room where in the evening of Holy Thursday the Last Supper took place. In today's liturgy St. Paul speaks precisely of the institution of the Eucharist. This text seems to be the most ancient one concerning the Eucharist, preceding the account itself given by the Evangelists. In his Letter to the Corinthians Paul writes: "The Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, he broke it, and said "This is My Body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My Blood. Do this, as often as you drink of it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." (1 Cor 11:23-26) Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again in glory. These words contain the very essence of the Eucharistic mystery. In them we find what we bear witness to and share in every day as we celebrate and receive the Eucharist. In the Upper Room Jesus effects the consecration. By virtue of His words, the bread - while keeping the external appearance of bread - becomes His Body, and the wine - while maintaining the external appearance of wine - becomes His Blood. This is the great mystery of faith!
This is the Living Bread which came down from heaven.
Celebrating this mystery, we not only renew what Christ did in the Upper Room, but we also enter into the mystery of His death! "We proclaim Your death!"- redeeming death. "Christ is risen!" We are sharers in the Sacred Triduum and the night of Easter. We are sharers in the saving mystery of Christ as we await His coming in glory. Through the institution of The Eucharist we have entered the end times, the time of awaiting Christ's second and definitive coming, when the world will be judged and at the same time the work of redemption will be brought to completion. The Eucharist does not merely speak of all this. In The Eucharist - all this is celebrated - in It all this is fulfilled. Truly The Eucharist is the Great Sacrament of The Church. The Church celebrates The Eucharist, and at the same time The Eucharist makes the Church."
"I Am the Living Bread" (Jn 6:51). The message of John's Gospel completes the liturgical picture of this great Eucharistic mystery that we are celebrating today... The words of John's Gospel are the great proclamation of The Eucharist, after the miraculous multiplication of bread near Capernaum. Anticipating as it were the time even before the Eucharist was instituted, Christ revealed what it was. He spoke thus: "I Am the Living Bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever; and the Bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My Flesh" (Jn 6:51). And when these words brought protests from many who were listening Jesus added: "Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in me, and I in him." (Jn 6:53-56).
These are words which concern the very essence of the Eucharist. Behold, Christ came into the world to bestow upon man divine life. He not only proclaimed the Good News but He also instituted the Eucharist which is to make present until the end of time His redeeming mystery. And as the means of expressing this He chose the elements of nature - the bread and wine, the food and drink that man must consume to maintain his life. The Eucharist is precisely this food and drink. This food contains in itself all the power of the Redemption wrought by Christ. In order to live man needs food and drink. In order to gain eternal life man needs the Eucharist. This is the food and drink that transforms man's life and opens before him the way to eternal life. By consuming the Body and Blood of Christ, man bears within himself, already on this earth, the seed of eternal life, for the Eucharist is the sacrament of life in God. Christ says: "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me." (Jn 6:57).
"The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season (Ps 145.15)In the first reading of today's liturgy Moses speaks to us of God who feeds His people on their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land: "Remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what is in your heart... (He) fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end." (Dt. 8:2, 16) The image of a pilgrim people in the wilderness, which emerges from these words, speaks also to us who are approaching the end of the second millennium after Christ's birth. In this image all the peoples and nations of the whole earth find a place, and especially those who suffer from hunger."
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