Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Eucharist “is the sacrament of memory, reminding us, in a real and tangible way, of the story of God’s love for us. [. . .] In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life’s frantic pace of life,” said Pope Francis today as he celebrated Mass at the Roman Basilica of St John Lateran on the Solemnity of the Corpus Domini (the holy body and blood of Christ).
Traditionally, the Solemnity is celebrated on the second Thursday after Pentecost. However, in Italy and in other countries where it is not a statutory holiday, it is celebrated the Sunday that follows. Hundreds of children who received their First Communion this year took part in the Mass.
The Holy Father cited the theme of remembrance several times in his homily. “[R]emembering all that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own personal history of salvation. Remembrance is essential for faith, as water is for a plant. A plant without water cannot stay alive and bear fruit. Nor can faith, unless it drinks deeply of the memory of all that the Lord has done for us.
“Yet nowadays, this singular ability that the Lord has given us is considerably weakened. Amid so much frantic activity, many people and events seem to pass in a whirl. We quickly turn the page, looking for novelty while unable to retain memories. Leaving our memories behind and living only for the moment, we risk remaining ever on the surface of things, constantly in flux, without going deeper, without the broader vision that reminds us who we are and where we are going. In this way, our life grows fragmented, and dulled within.
“Yet today’s Solemnity reminds us that in our fragmented lives, the Lord comes to meet us with a loving ‘fragility’, which is the Eucharist. In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life’s frantic pace of life. The Eucharist is the memorial of God’s love. There, “[Christ’s] sufferings are remembered” (II Vespers, antiphon for the Magnificat) and we recall God’s love for us, which gives us strength and support on our journey.
“This is why the Eucharistic commemoration does us so much good: it is not an abstract, cold and superficial memory, but a living remembrance that comforts us with God’s love. The Eucharist is flavoured with Jesus’ words and deeds, the taste of his Passion, the fragrance of his Spirit. When we receive it, our hearts are overcome with the certainty of Jesus’ love. In saying this, I think in particular of you boys and girls, who recently received First Holy Communion, and are here today in great numbers.
“The Eucharist gives us a grateful memory, because it makes us see that we are the Father’s children, whom he loves and nourishes. It gives us a free memory, because Jesus’ love and forgiveness heal the wounds of the past, soothe our remembrance of wrongs experienced and inflicted. It gives us a patient memory, because amid all our troubles we know that the Spirit of Jesus remains in us. The Eucharist encourages us: even on the roughest road, we are not alone; the Lord does not forget us and whenever we turn to him, he restores us with his love. “
Finally, “The Eucharist also reminds us that we are not isolated individuals, but one body. As the people in the desert gathered the manna that fell from heaven and shared it in their families (cf. Ex 16), so Jesus, the Bread come down from Heaven, calls us together to receive him and to share him with one another. The Eucharist is not a sacrament ‘for me’; it is the sacrament of the many, who form one body. Saint Paul reminded us of this: ‘Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread’ (1 Cor 10:17). The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. Whoever receives it cannot fail to be a builder of unity, because building unity has become part of his or her ‘spiritual DNA’.
“May this Bread of unity heal our ambition to lord it over others, to greedily hoard things for ourselves, to foment discord and criticism. May it awaken in us the joy of living in love, without rivalry, jealousy or mean-spirited gossip.
After the final prayer of the Mass, a long procession made its way to Saint Mary Major. Representatives of the Roman confraternities led the way carrying coloured banners, followed by the members of the clergy and seminarians, canons and cardinals, then the canopy with the ostensory placed on a golden aedicule surrounded by flowers, carried by eight gentlemen. The pope referred to the faithful who followed as “the holy people of God.” Along the path people chanted traditional songs and some guides read passages from the gospel or from saints devoted of the Eucharist.
When the procession with the canopy reached the parvis of Saint Mary Major, Pope Francis – who did not take part in the procession but was driven because of mobility problems – blessed all those present with the ostensory in three different directions.
At the end, in front of the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani, everyone sang Salve Regina.