Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, we contemplate with special intensity this Sunday is one of the three central mysteries of our beautiful Catholic faith. The other two are the Most Holy Trinity, the very nature of God, and the Incarnation.
This sacrament of love which is the source and summit of life in the Church, because it is Christ himself. I thought it would help build up our faith and deepen our understanding of it if I shared with you an exposition of the Trinitarian dimension of the Eucharist by Benedict XVI. In it, he quotes again St. Augustine, when he says: “If you see love, you see the Trinity.” It is precisely Love incarnate whom we meet in the consecrated host, because we come face to face with Jesus Christ, truly and substantially present with all of his humanity and all of his divinity.
“”The mystery of faith!” With these words, spoken immediately after the words of consecration, the priest proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding. The Eucharist is a “mystery of faith” par excellence: “the sum and summary of our faith.” The Church’s faith is essentially a eucharistic faith, and it is especially nourished at the table of the Eucharist. Faith and the sacraments are two complementary aspects of ecclesial life. Awakened by the preaching of God’s word, faith is nourished and grows in the grace-filled encounter with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments: “faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith.” For this reason, the Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of the Church’s life: “thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!” The more lively the eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples. The Church’s very history bears witness to this. Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord’s eucharistic presence among his people.
The first element of eucharistic faith is the mystery of God himself, trinitarian love. In Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus, we find an illuminating expression in this regard: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him”. These words show the deepest source of God’s gift. In the Eucharist Jesus does not give us a “thing,” but himself; he offers his own body and pours out his own blood. He thus gives us the totality of his life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love. He is the eternal Son, given to us by the Father. In the Gospel we hear how Jesus, after feeding the crowds by multiplying the loaves and fishes, says to those who had followed him to the synagogue of Capernaum: “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven; for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world”, and even identifies himself, his own flesh and blood, with that bread: “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”. Jesus thus shows that he is the bread of life which the eternal Father gives to mankind.
The Eucharist reveals the loving plan that guides all of salvation history. There the Deus Trinitas, who is essentially love, becomes fully a part of our human condition. In the bread and wine under whose appearances Christ gives himself to us in the paschal meal, God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us. God is a perfect communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At creation itself, man was called to have some share in God’s breath of life. But it is in Christ, dead and risen, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given without measure, that we have become sharers of God’s inmost life. Jesus Christ, who “through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God”, makes us, in the gift of the Eucharist, sharers in God’s own life. This is an absolutely free gift, the superabundant fulfilment of God’s promises. The Church receives, celebrates and adores this gift in faithful obedience. The “mystery of faith” is thus a mystery of trinitarian love, a mystery in which we are called by grace to participate. We too should therefore exclaim with Saint Augustine: “If you see love, you see the Trinity.”
The mission for which Jesus came among us was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery. On the Cross from which he draws all people to himself, just before “giving up the Spirit,” he utters the words: “it is finished”. In the mystery of Christ’s obedience unto death, even death on a Cross, the new and eternal covenant was brought about. In his crucified flesh, God’s freedom and our human freedom met definitively in an inviolable, eternally valid pact. Human sin was also redeemed once for all by God’s Son. As I have said elsewhere, “Christ’s death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form.” In the Paschal Mystery, our deliverance from evil and death has taken place. In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus had spoken of the “new and eternal covenant” in the shedding of his blood. This, the ultimate purpose of his mission, was clear from the very beginning of his public life. Indeed, when, on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he cried out: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. It is significant that these same words are repeated at every celebration of Holy Mass, when the priest invites us to approach the altar: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” Jesus is the true paschal lamb who freely gave himself in sacrifice for us, and thus brought about the new and eternal covenant. The Eucharist contains this radical newness, which is offered to us again at every celebration.”
Fr. Roberto M. Cid