Calls for Christian Unity at Mass of the Lord’s Supper
ROME, APRIL 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI said at this evening’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper that, as Christ told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,” today “we are once more painfully aware that Satan has been permitted to sift the disciples before the whole world.”
In the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope gave a homily in which he pleaded for Christian unity and confessed that the faithful’s prayer for his petrine ministry is essential in his life.
The Holy Father began his reflection quoting Our Lord: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
“Jesus approached that hour with eager desire,” the Pontiff said. “In his heart he awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world. […]
“Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things?”
The Holy Father alluded to the countries of the West, saying that Jesus “knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness.”
“For us,” he said, “the empty places at the table of the Lord’s wedding feast, whether excusable or not, are no longer a parable but a reality, in those very countries to which he had revealed his closeness in a special way.”
Awaken in us
The Bishop of Rome spoke of Christ’s prayer — repeated four times — for unity. “How deeply it must have concerned him!” he said. “It remains his constant prayer to the Father on our behalf.”
And the Pope reflected on the Eucharist as the sacrament of unity.
“The Eucharist is the mystery of the profound closeness and communion of each individual with the Lord and, at the same time, of visible union between all,” he said. “The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. It reaches the very mystery of the Trinity and thus creates visible unity. Let me say it again: it is an extremely personal encounter with the Lord and yet never simply an act of individual piety. Of necessity, we celebrate it together.”
In the Eucharistic prayer, he noted, “we mention the Pope and the Bishop by name: unity is something utterly concrete, it has names. In this way unity becomes visible; it becomes a sign for the world and a concrete criterion for ourselves.”
“We too, all of us, need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be,” the Pope added. “We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers. We too do not want to accept that he is powerless in this world. We too find excuses when being his disciples starts becoming too costly, too dangerous.
“All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master. Tonight we want to ask Jesus to look to us, as with kindly eyes he looked to Peter when the time was right, and to convert us.”
The Holy Father concluded his homily by voicing his own prayer: “‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.’ Lord, you desire us, you desire me. You eagerly desire to share yourself with us in the Holy Eucharist, to be one with us. Lord, awaken in us the desire for you. Strengthen us in unity with you and with one another. Grant unity to your Church, so that the world may believe.”