S. John Paul II Homil. 734
735 1. “This is my body which is for you.... This cup is the new covenant in my blood.... Do this ... in remembrance of me” (1Co 11,24-25).
Today’s liturgy commemorates the great mystery of the Eucharist with a clear reference to Holy Thursday. Last Holy Thursday we were here at the Lateran Basilica, as we are every year, to commemorate the Lord's Supper. At the end of the Mass in “Caena Domini”, the short procession accompanied the Blessed Sacrament to the chapel of reposition, where it remained until the solemn Easter Vigil. Today we are preparing for a far more solemn procession which will take us through the streets of the city.
In today’s feast, the words Jesus spoke in the Upper Room help us to relive the same feelings as those of Holy Thursday: “Take; this is my body”; “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mc 14,22-24). These words, just proclaimed, bring us even further into the mystery of the incarnate Word of God who, under the appearances of bread and wine, gives himself to every person as the food and drink of salvation.
2. In the Gospel acclamation, John offers us a significant key to interpreting the divine Master’s words, by stating what he said of himself near Capernaum: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever” (Jn 6,51).
Thus we find in today’s readings the full meaning of the mystery of salvation. If the first reading taken from Exodus (cf. Ex Ex 24,3-8) refers us to the Old Covenant made between God and Moses through the blood of sacrificial animals, in the Letter to the Hebrews it is recalled that Christ “entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood” (9:11-15).
Today’s solemnity therefore helps us to give Christ the centrality which is his due in the divine plan for humanity, and spurs us to configure our lives more and more to him, the Eternal High Priest.
3. Mystery of faith! Today’s solemnity has been, down the centuries, an object of particular attention in various popular Christian traditions. How many public devotions have developed around the worship of the Eucharist. Theologians and pastors have striven to make the ineffable mystery of divine Love understood in human language.
The great doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas, has a special place among these authoritative voices. In his poetic compositions, he sings with inspired transport the believer’s sentiments of adoration and love before the mystery of the Lord's Body and Blood. One need only think of the famous “Pange, lingua”, which is a profound meditation on the Eucharistic mystery, the mystery of the Lord's Body and Blood — “gloriosi Corporis mysterium, Sanguinisque pretiosi”.
And again, the hymn “Adoro te, devote”, which is an invitation to adore the God hidden under the Eucharistic species: Latens Deitas, quae sub his figuris vere latitas: Tibi se cor meum totum subiicit! Yes, our whole heart is abandoned to you, O Christ, because whoever accepts your word discovers the full meaning of life and finds true peace ... quia te contemplans totum deficit.
4. Gratitude for such an extraordinary gift springs spontaneously from the heart. “What shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me? Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus, quae retribuit mihi?” (Ps 116 :12). The psalmist’s words can be recited by each one of us, with the awareness of the inestimable gift the Lord has given us in the Eucharistic sacrament. “I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord”: this attitude of praise and adoration resounds today in the prayers and hymns of the Church in every corner of the earth.
It resounds this evening, here in Rome, where the spritual heritage of the Apostles Peter and Paul lives on. In a little while we will once again intone this ancient hymn of adoration and praise, as we walk through the streets of the city, going from this basilica to that of St Mary Major. We will repeat with devotion:
736 Pange, lingua, gloriosi ...
Sing, my tongue, the Saviour's glory,
Of his flesh the mystery sing!
Nobis datus, nobis natus
Ex intacta virgine....
Of a pure and spotless Virgin,
Born for us on earth below....
In supremae nocte caenae
Recumbens cum fratribus....
On the night of that last supper
737 Seated with his chosen band....
Cibus turbae duodenae
Se dat suis manibus.
Then as food to all his brethren
Gives himself with his own hand.
5. Sacrament of the gift, sacrament of Christ’s love pushed to the extreme: “in finem dilexit” (Jn 13,1), the Son of God gives himself. Under the appearances of bread and wine, he gives his Body and Blood, taken from Mary, his Virgin Mother. He gives his divinity and his humanity, to enrich us indescribably.
Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Let us adore the Sacrament that the Father gave us.
Cathedral of Wroclaw
31 May 1997
738 1. "I am the bread of life" (Jn 6,35).
As a pilgrim to the 46th International Eucharistic Congress, I turn my steps first to the ancient Cathedral of Wroclaw in order to kneel with faith before the Blessed Sacrament — the "Bread of Life". I do so with deep emotion and heartfelt gratitude to Divine Providence for the gift of this Congress and the fact that it is taking place here, in Wroclaw, in Poland — in my homeland.
After the miraculous multiplication of the loaves, Christ says to the crowds who were seeking him: "Truly, truly I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you" (Jn 6,26-27). How difficult it was for Jesus' hearers to make this passage from the sign to the mystery indicated by that sign, from daily bread to the bread "which endures to eternal life"! Nor is it easy for us, the people of the twentieth century. Eucharistic Congresses are celebrated precisely for this reason, to remind the whole world of this truth: "Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life".
Jesus' hearers, continuing the dialogue, rightly ask, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" (Jn 6,28). And Christ answers: "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent" (Jn 6,29). It is an exhortation to have faith in the Son of man, in the Giver of the food which does not perish. Without faith in him whom the Father has sent, it is not possible to recognize and accept this Gift which does not pass away. This is the very reason why we are here — here in Wroclaw, at the 46th International Eucharistic Congress. We are here in order to profess, together with the whole Church, our faith in Christ the Eucharist, in Christ — the living bread and the bread of life. With Saint Peter we say: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16,16) and again: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6,68).
2. "Lord, give us this bread always" (Jn 6,34).
The miraculous multiplication of the loaves had not evoked the expected response of faith in those who had been eyewitnesses of that event. They wanted a new sign: "Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat'" (Jn 6,30-31). The disciples gathered around Jesus thus expect a sign like the manna which their ancestors had eaten in the desert. But Jesus exhorts them to expect something more than a mere repetition of the miracle of the manna, to expect a different kind of food. Christ says: "It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (Jn 6,32-33).
Along with physical hunger man has within him another hunger, a more basic hunger, which cannot be satisfied by ordinary food. It is a hunger for life, a hunger for eternity. The sign of the manna was the proclamation of the coming of Christ who was to satisfy man's hunger for eternity by himself becoming the "living bread" which "gives life to the world". And see: those who heard Jesus ask him to fulfil what had been proclaimed by the sign of the manna, perhaps without being conscious of how far their request would go: "Lord, give us this bread always" (Jn 6,34). How eloquent is this request! How generous and how amazing is its fulfilment. "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst... 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 6,35). "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day' (Jn 6,54).
What a great dignity has been bestowed on us! The Son of God gives himself to us in the Most Holy Sacrament of his Body and Blood. How infinitely great is God's generosity! He responds to our deepest desires, which are not only desires for earthly bread, but extend to the horizons of life eternal. This is the great mystery of faith!
3. "Rabbi, when did you come here?" (Jn 6,54).
This was the question put to Jesus by those who sought him after the miraculous multiplication of the loaves. We too ask this same question today, in Wroclaw. It is the question asked by everyone taking part in the International Eucharistic Congress. And Christ answers us: I came when your ancestors received Baptism, at the time of Mieszko I and of Boleslas the Brave, when Bishops and priests began to celebrate in this land the "mystery of faith" which brought together all those who hungered for the bread which gives eternal life.
This was how Christ came to Wroclaw over a thousand years ago, when the Church was born here and Wroclaw became an episcopal see, one of the first in the territories of the Piast. In the course of the centuries Christ came to all the places on the earth from which those taking part in this Eucharistic Congress have come. And from that time on he has continued to be present in the Eucharist, always equally silent, humble and generous. Truly, "having loved those who were his own in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn 13,1).
739 Now, on the threshold of the Third Millennium, we wish to give a particular expression to our gratitude. This Eucharistic Congress in Wroclaw has an international dimension. Taking part in it are not only the faithful of Poland, but faithful from throughout the world. Together we all want to express our deep faith in the Eucharist and our fervent gratitude for the Eucharistic food which for almost two thousand years has nourished whole generations of believers in Christ. How inexhaustible and available to all is the treasury of God's love! How enormous is our debt to Christ the Eucharist! We realize this and we cry out with Saint Thomas Aquinas: "Quantum potes, tantum aude: quia maior omni laude, nec laudare sufficis", "Dare all thou canst, thou hast no song, worthy his praises to prolong, so far surpassing powers like thine" (Lauda Sion).
These words express very well the attitude of all taking part in this Eucharistic Congress. In these days we seek to give the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist the honour and glory which he deserves. Let us strive to thank him for his presence, because for nearly two thousand years he has remained in our midst.
"We give you thanks, our Father...
You have graciously given us
spiritual food and drink
and life eternal
through Jesus your servant.
To you be glory for ever!" (cf. Didache).
31 May 1997
Praised be Jesus Christ!
1. I cordially greet all here present at our joint Ecumenical Prayer Service.
740 I thank the Cardinal Metropolitan of Wroclaw for his words of welcome. I greet Monsignor Jan Szarek, President of the Polish Ecumenical Council, and in his person all the Representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities which are members of the Polish Ecumenical Council. With a sense of communion in Christ, I greet the Sisters and Brothers of other Orthodox Churches which have been invited, the Representatives of Churches and Protestant Communities from abroad, and also the Representatives of other Christian Churches and Communities. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, has gathered us together here. May his Name be praised in this meeting, and may the Holy Spirit enable the word of God, which we have heard with the obedience of faith, to bear fruit.
2. The principal theme of this Liturgy of the Word is contained in what Jesus included in his priestly prayer, the day before his Passion and Death on the Cross. It is the prayer for the unity of his disciples: Father, "I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17,20-21). This prayer includes not only the Apostles, but also all the generations of those who will receive the same faith from the Apostles. We constantly make reference to these words of Christ in the Upper Room in ecumenical prayer and action: Ut unum sint. Here it is a matter of unity in the likeness of Trinitarian unity. "As you, Father, are in me, and I in you" (Jn 17,21). The mutual relation of the Persons in the unity of the Blessed Trinity is the highest form of unity, its supreme model.
While Christ prays for the unity of his disciples, he shows at the same time that this unity is a gift, as well as an obligation. It is a gift which we receive from the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is also an obligation, since it is has been given as a task. It has been given as a task to all Christian generations, beginning with the Apostles; to everyone, in the first and second millennia.
Christ twice returns to this essential thought. For he prays thus: "The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me" (Jn 17,22-23). Here Christ crosses, so to speak, the boundaries of the divine unity of the Trinity and passes to that unity which is the task of Christians. He says: "that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (Jn 17,23). Christ's disciples must come together in perfect unity, also visible, so that the world may see in them a visible sign for itself. The unity of Christians therefore has this essential meaning: to bear witness to the credibility of Christ's mission, to reveal the Father's love for him and for his disciples. Precisely for this reason, this unity, the supreme gift of the Most Holy Trinity, is at the same time the loftiest obligation of all who profess Christ.
3. When they listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, the Churches and Ecclesial Communties feel called irrevocably to the search for an ever more profound unity, not only interior but also visible. A unity that becomes a sign for the world, so that the world may recognize this and so that the world may believe. There is no turning back on the ecumenical path!
Christians who live in societies, where many experience in a tragic way external and internal divisions, constantly need to deepen their awareness of the magnificent gift of reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ. Only in this way can they themselves become messengers of reconciliation between those who yearn to be reconciled with God, and thus contribute to the reconciliation between Churches and Ecclesial Communities as a path and stimulus to reconciliation between Nations. This exhortation to reconciliation will also be the topic of the Second European Ecumenical Assembly, which from 23 to 29 June of this year will take place at Graz in Austria. The effects of many events which have taken place in the history of the world and of Europe in fact call for reconciliation.
My thoughts willingly return to our last meeting in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Warsaw, in 1991. At that time I said that we need tolerance, but that among Churches tolerance alone is certainly not enough. What kind of brothers and sisters are people who only tolerate one another? We also need to accept one another. Today I recall these words and resolutely confirm them. But we cannot be content even with mutual acceptance. For the Lord of history is bringing us to the Third Millennium of Christianity. A great hour is striking. Our reply should be equal to the great moment of this special kairos of God. Here, in this place, I wish to say: Tolerance is not enough! Mutual acceptance is not enough. Jesus Christ, he who is and who is to come, expects from us a visible sign of unity, a joint witness.
Sisters and Brothers, I come to you with this message. I ask for a joint witness borne to Christ before the world. I ask this in the name of Christ! I address myself first to all the faithful of the Catholic Church, especially my Brothers in the episcopal ministry, and also the clergy, consecrated persons and all the lay faithful. I also dare to ask this of you, beloved Sisters and Brothers of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. In the name of Christ, I ask for a joint Christian witness. The West so much needs our deep and living faith at the historic stage of the building of a new system with many different points of reference. The East, spiritually devastated by years of a programmed doing without God, needs a strong sign of trust in Christ. Europe needs all of us solidly united round the Cross and the Gospel. We must read the signs of the times carefully. Jesus Christ expects from all of us the witness of faith. The future of evangelization is linked to the witness of unity given by the Church. A sign of this joint witness is fraternal cooperation in the ecumenical sphere in Poland. I am thinking here of the special group which has worked on the Sacrament of Baptism as the foundation of the Christian unity which already exists. It has already succeeded in publishing the results of its work. You are also preparing an ecumenical translation of Sacred Scripture. A private initiative of certain people has been transformed into official inter-Church cooperation. The result of this cooperation is the ecumenical translation of the Gospel of Saint Matthew, published by the Biblical Society on 17 February this year. We hope that an ecumenical translation of the whole Bible will be published for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. At present you intend to establish a new inter-Church ecumenical structure endowed with greater dynamism. This initiative, necessary from every point of view, is being sponsored by the Polish Ecumenical Council. I hope that this idea will be transformed into an effective forum for meetings, dialogue, understanding and practical joint actions, and therefore also for witness. I wish to thank cordially the initiators of this project and to express my sincere appreciation for these noble efforts.
4. The difficult path of reconciliation leads to joint witness, without which unity is impossible. Our Churches and Ecclesial Communities need reconciliation. Can we be fully reconciled with Christ without being fully reconciled among ourselves? Can we bear joint and effective witness to Christ if we are not reconciled with one another? Can we be reconciled with one another without forgiving one another? Forgiveness is the condition for reconciliation. But this cannot take place without interior transformation and conversion, which is the work of grace. "The commitment to ecumenism must be based upon the conversion of hearts and upon prayer" (Ut unum sint UUS 2).
The reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel points out the need for conversion when it refers to the scattering of Israel: "For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land ... A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ez 36,24). To set out on the ecumenical path to unity requires a change of heart and renewal of the mind. We should therefore implore from the Holy Spirit the grace of humility, an attitude of fraternal generosity to others. In the Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul encourages his readers to lead a life in a manner worthy of their calling, to cultivate in themselves the virtues of humility, meekness and patience, and to bear with one another in love (cf. Eph Ep 4,1-3). This human cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit manifests the joint hope of all Christ's disciples to come to full unity.
With sincere prayer let us support our ecumenical commitment. In this our second millennium, in which the unity of Christ's disciples has suffered tragic divisions in the East and in the West, prayer for the rediscovery of full unity is a special obligation of ours. We must yearn for the restoration of the unity willed by Christ, and we must pray for this unity: for it is a gift of the Most Holy Trinity. The stronger the link which unites us to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the easier it will be for us to deepen our mutual brotherhood.
741 5. Today's meeting is taking place in the context of the International Eucharistic Congress which is going on right here in Wroclaw . It is an expression of our faith and our devotion, but it is also a great act of worship, which preserves in the Church the memory of Christ. The Eucharist, by making present the mystery of the Redemption, the Sacrifice of Christ offered on the Cross, brings about union with him, awakens the desire and hope of our resurrection in the fullness of his life. This great mystery of faith strengthens our inner conviction of personal union with Christ and reawakens the need for reconciliation with others.
Christians, belonging to the various Churches, and united by the same Baptism, jointly recognize the great role which, in man's reconciliation with God and neighbour, is played by the Eucharist, although "due to disagreements in matters of faith, it is not yet possible to celebrate together the same Eucharistic Liturgy. And yet we do have a burning desire to join in celebrating the one Eucharist of the Lord, and this desire itself is already a common prayer of praise, a single supplication. Together we speak to the Father and increasingly we do so ?with one heart'. At times it seems that we are closer to being able finally to seal this ?real though not yet full' communion" (Ut unum sint UUS 45).
In this great event, which we are celebrating here in Wroclaw with the participation not only of Catholics but also of the brothers and sisters from other Churches from Poland and abroad, can be seen the beginning of ecumenical conversion and the hoped-for reconciliation of the Christian Churches and Communities. That unity will be perfect when it becomes possible for everyone to join in the celebration around the same chalice. It will be the expression of the unity of every community at the local and universal level, the expression of our perfect union with the Lord and among ourselves. For "almost everyone, though in different ways, longs that there may be one visible Church of God, a Church truly universal and sent forth to the whole world, that the world may be converted to the Gospel and so be saved, to the glory of God" (Ut unum sint UUS 7).
In recent years the distance which separates the Churches and Ecclesial Communities from one another has diminished significantly. Even so it is still too great! Too great! Christ did not will it so! We must do everything possible to restore the fullness of communion. We cannot stop along this path. Let us turn once again to Jesus' priestly prayer, in which he says: "that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you ... so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17,21). May these words of Christ be for us all an exhortation to make an effort on behalf of the great work of unity, on the threshold of the Year 2000 which is drawing to a close.
In today's liturgy we sing the Psalm of the Good Shepherd: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want ... He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me" (Ps 23,1-4). This is a great encouragement to trust and ecumenical hope. If the divisions among Christians correspond to that "valley of the shadow of death" through which all our Communities are passing, there is still the Lord, there is Christ, the Good Shepherd. It is he who guides and it is he who will bring the separated Christian Communities to that unity for which he prayed so fervently the day before his Passion on the Cross.
During this joint ecumenical prayer service let us ask God, who is the Father of us all, to gather together all his scattered children, to lead them effectively on the paths of forgiveness and reconciliation, so that they will bear joint witness to Jesus Christ, his Son, who is Lord and Saviour, the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb He 13,21).
Father, may they "all be one" - ut unum sint! (Jn 17,21).
Sunday, 1 June 1997
1. Statio Orbis.
The 46th International Eucharistic Congress now reaches its high point: the Statio Orbis! Spiritually gathered around this altar today is the Church in every continent of the globe. She wishes, before the whole world, to make once more the solemn profession of faith in the Eucharist and to sing the hymn of thanksgiving for this ineffable gift of divine love. Truly, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13,1). The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church’s life (cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 10). The Church lives by the Eucharist, she draws from it the spiritual energy to carry out her mission. It is the Eucharist that gives her the strength to grow and to be united. The Eucharist is the heart of the Church!
This Congress is part and parcel of the context of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. In the programme of spiritual preparation for the Jubilee, this year is dedicated to special contemplation of the Person of Jesus Christ: “Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and for ever” (cf. Heb He 13,8). So could this year have lacked this Eucharistic profession of faith by the whole Church?
742 In the series of Eucharistic Congresses which crosses every continent it is now the turn of Wroclaw — Poland and East Central Europe. The changes that have taken place here have begun a new era in the history of the modern world. The Church in this way wishes to give thanks to Christ for the gift of freedom regained by all those nations that have suffered so much in the years of totalitarian oppression. The Congress is taking place in Wroclaw , a city rich in history, tradition and Christian life. The Archdiocese of Wroclaw is getting ready to celebrate its millennium. Wroclaw is a city situated practically at the meeting point of three lands which through their history are very closely united to one another. It is, as it were, a city of encounter, a city that unites. Here there meet in a certain way the spiritual traditions of East and West. All of this gives a particular eloquence to this Eucharistic Congress, and especially to this Statio Orbis.
My eyes and heart embrace the whole of our great Eucharistic community, the character of which is authentically international, worldwide. Through her representatives the universal Church is present today at Wroclaw . I extend a special greeting to all the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops who are here, beginning with my Legate to the Congress, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, my Secretary of State. I greet the Polish Episcopal Conference under the Presidency of the Cardinal Primate. I greet Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz, Archbishop of the Church in Wroclaw , which has taken on with such generosity of spirit the task of hosting the great event that is this Congress. This generosity is very clearly shown today when the Statio Orbis has to be celebrated in the rain.
The joy of this celebration is made even greater by the participation of our other Christian brethren. I thank them for having come to take part in our praise and supplication. I thank the Orthodox Churches which have arranged to send their representatives, and among them I thank in a special way dear Metropolitan Damaskinos, who is representing my beloved Brother, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. This presence is a witness to our faith and affirms our hope to see the dawn of that day when we shall be able, in full fidelity to the will of our one Lord, to communicate together from the same chalice. I thank Metropolitan Theophane, who is representing the dear Patriarch of Moscow, Alexei II.
I greet with a warm welcome the priests and the families of men and women religious. I greet you, dear pilgrims, some of whom have come from very far away. I greet you, dear fellow countrymen from the whole of Poland. I also greet all those who at this moment are spiritually united with us by radio and television throughout the world. Truly this is a genuine Statio Orbis! In the presence of this Eucharistic assembly of worldwide dimensions which at this moment is gathered round the altar it is difficult not to be deeply moved.
2. “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 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” (1Co 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!
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 and 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.
3. “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 at the culmination of the International Eucharistic Congress at Wroclaw . 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 any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; 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 transform man’s life and open 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).
4. “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season” (Ps 145,15).
743 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 was 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). 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.
During this Statio Orbis we need to recall the whole “geography of hunger”, which includes many areas of the world. At this moment millions of our brothers and sisters are suffering from hunger, and many are dying of it — especially children! In an age of unprecedented development, of advanced systems and technology, the tragedy of hunger is a great challenge and a great indictment! The earth is capable of feeding everyone. Why then today, at the end of the 20th century, are thousands of people dying of hunger? There is needed here a serious and worldwide examination of conscience — an examination of conscience regarding social justice, elementary solidarity among human beings.
We do well to recall here the fundamental truth that the earth belongs to God, and all the riches which it contains have been placed by God in man’s hands, to use them in the right way, so that they can serve the good of all. This is the purpose of created goods. The very law of nature bears testimony to this. During this Eucharistic Congress there cannot fail to be a joint invocation for bread in the name of all who are suffering from hunger. We address it first of all to God, who is Father of all: “Give us this day our daily bread”! But we make it also to the politicians and economists, upon whom rests responsibility for a just distribution of goods, on both the worldwide and the national levels: we must finally put an end to the scourge of hunger! May solidarity prevail over the unrestrained desire for profit and ways of applying trade laws which do not take into account inalienable human rights.
Upon each one of us there rests a small part of responsibility for this injustice. Each of us in some way has firsthand experience of the hunger and poverty of others. Let us learn to share our bread with those who have none, or who have less than we do! Let us learn how to open our hearts to the needs of our brothers and sisters who are suffering because of poverty and neglect! Sometimes they are ashamed to admit it and hide their need. We should discreetly offer them a friendly hand. This is also the lesson taught to us by the Eucharist — the bread of life. It was eloquently put by Brother St Albert, the poor man of Kraków, who dedicated his life to the service of the most needy. He would often say: “We must be good like bread, which is on the table for everyone and from which each can cut a slice and eat, if he is hungry”.
5. “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Ga 5,1).
The theme of this 46th International Eucharistic Congress at Wroclaw is freedom.Freedom has a flavour all its own, especially here in this part of Europe, which for many long years was sorely tried by being deprived of freedom under Nazi and communist totalitarianism. The very word “freedom” now makes the heart beat faster. And this is certainly the case because during the past decades a high price had to be paid for freedom. Deep are the wounds that remain in the human spirit from that period. Much time must yet pass before they will be completely healed.
The Congress exhorts us to look at human freedom from a Eucharistic perspective. In the Congress hymn we sing: “You have left us the gift of the Eucharist to re-order inner freedom”. This is a most essential affirmation. We speak here of the “order of freedom”. Yes, true freedom demands order. But what kind of order are we talking about here? We are talking first of all about the moral order, order in the sphere of values, the order of truth and goodness. When there is a void in the area of values — when chaos and confusion reign in the moral sphere — freedom dies, man is reduced from freedom to slavery, becoming a slave to instincts, passions and pseudo-values.
It is true that building the order of freedom demands hard work. True freedom always costs dear! We each have to keep making this effort. And here there arises the following question: can man build the order of freedom by himself, without Christ, or even against Christ? This is an exceedingly important question, but how relevant it is in a social context permeated by ideas of democracy inspired by liberal ideology! In fact, attempts are being made to convince man and whole societies that God is an obstacle on the path to full freedom, that the Church is the enemy of freedom, that she does not understand freedom, that she is afraid of it. In this there is an incredible confusion of ideas! The Church never ceases to be in the world the proclaimer of the gospel of freedom! This is her mission. “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Ga 5,1). For this reason a Christian is not afraid of freedom, nor does he flee from it! He takes it up in a creative and responsible way as the task of his life. Freedom, in fact, is not just a gift of God; it is also given to us as a task! It is our vocation: “For you were called to freedom, brethren” (Ga 5,13), the Apostle reminds us. The assertion that the Church is the enemy of freedom is particularly absurd here, in this country, in this land, among this people, where the Church has often demonstrated that she is the true champion of freedom! Not only in the last century, but in this century and in the last 50 years. She is the champion of freedom, because she believes that Christ has freed us for freedom.
“You have left us the gift of the Eucharist to re-order inner freedom”. Modeled on the Eucharist, what does this order of freedom consist in? In the Eucharist Christ is present as the one who gives himself to man, as the one who serves man: “having loved his own ... he loved them to the end” (Jn 13,1). True freedom is measured by readiness to serve and by the gift of self. Only when it is understood in this way is freedom truly creative, only then does it build up our humanity and create interhuman bonds. It builds and does not divide! How much the world, Europe and Poland need this freedom that unites!
The Eucharistic Christ will ever remain an unattainable model of the “pro-existence” attitude, that is to say the attitude of the person who lives for others. He lived completely for his heavenly Father, and in the Father he lived for every individual person. The Second Vatican Council explains that man finds himself, and therefore also the full meaning of his freedom, precisely “through a sincere gift of self” (cf. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes GS 24). Today, during this Statio Orbis, the Church invites us to enter this Eucharistic school of freedom, so that gazing at the Eucharist with the eyes of faith we will become builders of a new, evangelical order of freedom — deep within ourselves and within the societies in which we live and work.
6. “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps 8,4).
744 As we contemplate the Eucharist we are filled with wondering faith not only concerning the mystery of God and his boundless love but also concerning the mystery of man. In the presence of the Eucharist the words of the Psalmist come spontaneously to our lips: “What is man that you care so much for him?!...”. What great value man has in the eyes of God, if God himself feeds him with his Body! What vast spaces the human heart conceals within itself, if they can be filled only by God! “You have made us for yourself, O God”, we confess with St Augustine, “and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (cf. Confessions, I.1.1).
Statio Orbis of the 46th International Eucharistic Congress ... The whole Church today gives special honour and glory to you, O Christ, Redeemer of man, hidden in the Eucharist. She publicly confesses her faith in you, who have become for us the Bread of Life. And she gives you thanks because you are God-with-us, because you are Emmanuel!
“Yours are the praise and the glory”. To you be honour and glory, our eternal Lord, forever. To you, together with your people, we offer our veneration and our songs, we, your servants. We thank you for your generosity in this great gift of your omnipotence. In this sacrament you have given yourself to us, present here and unworthy Amen!
S. John Paul II Homil. 734