Solemnity Corpus Christi
Jerusalem, Holy Sepulcher, June 16th, 2022
Gen 14:18-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11-17
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Excellencies and priests,
May the Lord give you peace!
The celebration of this Solemnity, which takes place every year here at the Holy Sepulcher, brings us back to the heart of the Church's mission and the priestly life of each of us.
This year, the Gospel passage, rich in many insights for reflection and prayer, helps us again to understand the meaning of the Eucharist, this Mystery of Faith, and its relation to our lives.
I take one point as a reference: "Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here" (Lk. 9:12). A crowd of more than five thousand has been following Jesus all day, in a desert area, under the scorching heat of this Land we all know. Night is about to fall, and they are tired and hungry. The disciples, legitimately concerned, invite Jesus to call it a day.
The people, though hungry, hot and tired from a long day, do not leave, however, do not return to their homes. They remain there, close to Jesus, eager to continue listening to His word. This stands to signify that those people are not just physically hungry. They feel another kind of hunger, far deeper. The discomfort of heat and hunger is nothing compared to what they are receiving from Jesus. They are hungry for words of life. Jesus' presence and word fill their hearts with something far greater than ordinary hunger. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life" (Jn. 6:68). Jesus' words are words of eternal life; they give meaning to human existence, they touch the heart – often laden with worries and questions – and they bring relief. For man is created for Heaven; his destination is eternal life with God, and so only words of eternal life can answer the deep desire that dwells within the heart of each of us. Only His words can answer the deep questions of every man.
The world today is not so different from back then. Even today we are witnessing continuous international crises, fratricidal struggles that run the risk of concretely starving entire populations all over the world. Even today, in many parts of the world, hunger is a painful reality, and it is often the result of selfishness, short sighted policies or, worse, indifference. There are still many hungry people in the world and among us, like the crowd in today's Gospel. But there is above all an even greater hunger; the hunger for words of life, words that bring comfort and relief to the many weary hearts. Even among us in the Holy Land, for example, it is always so difficult to be credible when we speak of hope, of trust, of the future. Our hearts are often deeply weighed down by sorrow and loneliness.
With today's Solemnity, the Church reminds us of a great truth, which we must never forget and which is the heart of our mission: without Jesus, the world will always be hungry, for He is the true and only source of refreshment.
In the Eucharist, we celebrate this ineffable gift. We celebrate His presence among us, the gift of His very life, His death and resurrection. In the Eucharist, we have the irruption of eternal life into our own. We have the answer to man's true and deep hunger. And only that answer will be able to sustain, with strength, constancy and courage, our action for justice, for peace, for the right of every man to a worthy life that lives up to his vocation as a person created in the image and likeness of God.
Celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus here at the Holy Sepulcher also reminds our Church that, just as the crowd in the Gospel was attached to Jesus' words of life, so must it be for us today: from here, from the Holy Sepulcher, all our initiatives must start. Here we must always return, and around this Place and mystery we must build our projects. The life of our Church must always be centered on the Eucharistic mystery, both in the celebration of the mystery itself and in everyday life, making herself close to every person. It must continually become a gift of self for the life of the world.
But there is no Eucharist without priesthood.
It is priests who break bread for us, who bring Christ's presence into the life of the world every day. Priests are called to be an encounter between the life of Christ and the life of the world. Their lives must be nothing but this, a gift of themselves to the life of their community. It was once said that priests celebrate "in persona Christi." But that "in persona Christi" concerns their whole lives, not just the moment of celebration. Every priest is called to become broken bread himself and make a gift of his life; to proclaim words of eternal life, that is, the Word of God; and to live it.
The Christian community will continue to subsist, with all its limitations and pains, as long as there are priests who, in life and celebration, break the Heavenly Bread.
We thank, then, all our priests, those present here and those who for various reasons cannot be here among us, and are celebrating their jubilee here. We thank them for being faithful, first of all. In times of joy and sorrow, sharing and loneliness, they have continued to give their lives to Christ and the Church and, in so doing, have brought life to their communities.
The various communities that they serve thank them, because through them they experienced Christ's presence, His consolation, and His forgiveness.
Our Mother Church in Jerusalem thanks them: may their example, their testimony and their joy stir others to follow their example and bring words of eternal life into the life of our community.
May the Mother of Jesus, our Mother, intercedes for all of us, and may she accompany us with her protection in the life of our Church.